Clark-Lindsey Village is among the latest operators to take the technology plunge, and is now starting to see the payoff from a significant investment.
The nonprofit life plan community in Urbana, Illinois, budgeted $500,000 for the implementation of new technology over a three-year period—and the decision to spend that kind of money was not made lightly, Deb Reardanz, Clark-Lindsey’s president and CEO, said on April 18 at LeadingAge Illinois 2018 Annual Meeting & Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois.
“[The amount] wasn’t great news, but it was the answer, whether I knew it or not,” Reardanz said.
The choice to invest in technology was made, in part, because Clark-Lindsey leadership firmly believed that new technology would help the community better leverage its relationship with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is located a stone’s throw away from the Clark-Lindsey campus. The campus spans 27 acres, and the community has the capacity for approximately 165 residents.
At the same time, it felt impossible to engage residents with technology when frontline staff didn’t even feel comfortable using it.
“We couldn’t begin to get our residents excited about tech if our phone system was 22 years old, or if our employees didn’t know how to use their email correctly,” Reardanz said.
Making the investment
Prior to the start of Clark-Lindsey’s technology initiative, Reardanz would have graded the community’s overall technology use at a “B-.” But when Clark-Lindsey engaged the help of Parasol Alliance, a senior living technology solutions and consulting firm, she changed her assessment to “D+.”
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Reardanz explained.
It’s important to remember that senior living “technology” isn’t always state-of-the-art. A community’s phone system, for instance, is actually valuable technology, and it should be evaluated for glitches and upgraded as necessary, Reardanz learned.
Clark-Lindsey had invested in newer, more expensive technology software and solutions in the past, but after an assessment with Parasol Alliance, company leadership realized that the solutions weren’t being used to their greatest potential.
“We had a lot of systems in place we weren’t using fully,” Reardanz said. The process of fixing this “didn’t cost us anything but time,” she explained.
Clark-Lindsey did implement a new phone system, as well as other new hardware, Reardanz noted.
All of the time and money Clark-Lindsey has put into technology and its implementation has resulted in connections and discussions that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
“The ROI is in our conversations with hospitals, our participation in networks,” she said.
‘The flood gates have opened’
In recent years, numerous not-for-profit senior housing organizations have made hiring C-level technology experts a priority. In fact, chief information officers (CIOs) were the second-most commonly added positions among providers in the 2016 LZ 150, and as of that year, one-third of the largest 150 not-for-profit senior housing providers actively employed a CIO or CTO.
That’s not the route Clark-Lindsey plans to take, according to Reardanz.
“It’s unlikely that we’ll hire a director of IT,” she said. “They’re expensive, they’re hard to find.”
It’s possible to experience the benefits of an IT director, or a CTO or CIO, without hiring one, she suggested, through a working partnership with a company like Parasol Alliance. After all, Parasol opened Clark-Lindsey’s eyes with respect to the importance of technology and IT in senior living.
“IT used to be an afterthought,” Reardanz said. “Now, the flood gates have opened.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson