The 21st Century Senior Living Community is a series brought to you by CDW, a provider of technology solutions and services focused exclusively on serving the healthcare marketplace. The series takes a clear-eyed look at how leading providers and their partners are creating the next generation of senior living communities by raising the bar on services, design, and technology.
As senior living providers continue to embrace technology to deliver the most up-to-date care techniques, five areas of tech will be booming in 2018: wearables, Internet of Things, telemedicine, voice activation and security. More important than any one technology, though, is how they work together.
Indeed, while technology in senior living is created to address specific resident needs, senior living providers who fail to integrate their systems are not maximizing the value of their investment. Suffering as a result are residents, staff, family — and the bottom line.
One senior living provider, one technology provider and one industry thought leader recently spoke with Senior Housing News, highlighting three of the most important facts about technology integration in senior living.
1. Integrated technology is more powerful than the sum of is parts
Senior living providers who take a siloed approach to technology are not getting the whole value of the technology, in part because the value of data from any given technology increases when paired with another.
Take wearables, for example. Yes, the data pulled from an activity-tracking wristband is valuable on its own. But when paired with the data pulled from another source, such as room sensors that monitor trips to the bathroom, a provider gains a more complete perspective of a resident’s health.
“A person’s health is not just their blood pressure, or their weight, or their glucose levels — it’s all of these things combined,” says Michael Skaff, chief information officer of San Francisco-based senior living provider Jewish Senior Living Group. Skaff spoke with SHN recently for a white paper on the top senior living tech trends in 2018.
The operational efficiencies also give providers a 360-degree view of residents. A resident’s telehealth wearables produce a steady flow of biometric data, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Integrated technology enables that data to connect directly with a facility’s electronic health records.
“Your clinical staff is looking at the trends of the daily or even hourly biometrics,” says Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology, and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST). “And at the same time they have the background and information that is stored into the electronic health record being part of the full picture.”
2. When technology is integrated, the benefits go to operations, staff, residents — even your bottom line
The more a community is able to integrate its technology devices and systems, the better experience its residents and staff will have. Better experience means higher occupancy rates and less staff turnover. And when providers can track data, they can be more precise with the information they provide to families about residents.
All of these factors combine to create a more prosperous experience for all involved.
To Alwan, the most important technology integration in senior living that is closest to reality is full voice activation. Residents will use voice-activated technology to manage everything from their televisions to telehealth screens that provide insights for physicians.
This will be crucial for both residents and staff. Picture this: a resident with a voice-activated telehealth system is greeted daily by the device and asked questions about her condition — questions that the resident’s physician writes to provide an up-to-the-minute accounting of the resident’s health. These questions might be about the resident’s recent habits in medication, diet, sleep and exercise.
The screen will collect all of the oral responses from the resident and stream the responses to the backend of the system. Based on the responses, the system will then generate a specific alert that recommends a course of action from the telehealth nurse, who would receive the information and then call the resident to verify and discuss next steps.
The nurse in this scenario doesn’t just have an opportunity to provide better care based on better information about the resident. He also gains an overall better work experience.
“The value of technology and automation technology … comes from the ability to enter a piece of data once and have it be available wherever relevant, regardless of the system, making it available to other team members, regardless of the software system that they are currently using,” Alwan says. “So essentially, they would be losing efficiency.”
3. The barriers to technology integration are real, but manageable
In 2018, technology integration in senior living is not merely a differentiator. It’s becoming table stakes.
“Make sure that whatever decision you’re making is going to align with your technology strategy,” says Steve Elder, director of communications for STANLEY Healthcare, which provides a range of technology services to senior living communities. “And at this point, every senior living community has to have a technology strategy.”
Communities with technology that is not integrated face two main risks, Elder says. First, they lose the aforementioned operational efficiencies. Second, they do not get the full view of the data that they need to make the best care decisions.
Elder sees several challenges for these communities on their path to integration:
* Technology that is designed for the consumer space doesn’t necessarily work for either seniors or for living arrangements with a multitude of users
* An understanding of the complexity of integration
* Having the in-house resources or outside partners needed for integration
“My first piece of advice is to do an audit on what you have and understand what you can do,” Elder says. Meaning a provider should not spend money on integration until they know the potential for integration with the existing technology.
Once the provider understands that, he or she must create a roadmap of what they wish to achieve with their integrated system. Are they focused mostly on data collection to paint a bigger picture of resident health? Do they want to create a full telehealth system that will limit resident travel and movement?
Elder recommends that providers interested in pursuing a technology integration do an audit, talk to professionals, craft a full technology strategy and create a working roadmap.
“We feel it’s very important that in every engagement with the customer, they’re taking a wide-lens view,” Elder says.
Written by Jack Silverstein