This article is sponsored by PointClickCare. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with PointClickCare Enterprise Consultant Murry Mercier to learn why senior living’s family-oriented model can create technology problems, what the technology industry must do to better connect with senior living and the beauty Mercier saw during a recent sabbatical in a senior living community, returning him to his roots.
Murry, you come from a senior living background, as well as a technology one. Tell us about your journey to PointClickCare: What lessons in your career have been most valuable for what you do now?
I guess you can say I was born into this industry. My grandmother was a nursing home administrator, my father has 30 years in the skilled care industry and my mother is a registered nurse. In my early years roaming the halls of long-term care communities, I was drawn to the human interactions of the environment. Fast forward to college, when I signed up for gerontology electives while focusing on a degree in technology, followed by taking my first role in the industry as an IT intern for what is now Erickson Living.
From there, I moved all around the operations of senior living, eventually opening my first assisted living residence and several other properties thereafter. The number one lesson that I learned early on, which several amazing mentors taught me, was that in senior living, our job is never done. We are here to live life in this community as best we can, day in and day out.
There are several crucial terms that you use when talking about the digital transformation in senior living service delivery, and I just mentioned one of them: “Digital transformation.” Define that term for us as it relates to senior living.
I have learned in my time as a technologist that the term “digital transformation” is defined simply as driving organizational transparency. In this day and age the separation between corporation and client has become less and less. Whether we want it or not, our stories as businesses are out there. Digital transformation is the way to manage our own transparency and reality.
There are two more crucial terms you use a lot in your work: “informatic strategy” and “informatic ecosystem.” Please define those.
Of course. Informatics strategies are the organizational blueprints for digital transformation: they are the “what” for achieving the desired transparency of your organization. This is how you put data in motion to actually help the business and communities.
The informatic ecosystem is the way information moves across a community or organization, and through service partners outside of the business, for sustained transparency, knowledge share, and service coordination.
Ecosystems can thrive and ecosystems can starve depending on how much attention they receive. Think of a garden: There are upstream and downstream impacts to every little detail,
like whether you have the right nutrients in the soil. We can focus on the nutrients in the soil but if we don’t also understand what we are trying to grow, we might miss the mark.
Informatics ecosystems are just the same. If we focus too hard on any specific area and don’t take the goals of the entire garden/community into account, we will almost certainly not do our best. Collecting data with no actions to analyze can be a waste.
Senior living is largely a family-oriented business, and that creates a lot of beautiful elements within the industry. But you also view that as a potential challenge with regards to implementing evolving technology. Why?
For better or worse, we are a family in senior living. That is quite honestly the key to success when building communities of people with the overall goal to live life together as best we can. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to choose our family.
That means there are bound to be several family members who don’t understand technology, don’t care about it or are even afraid of it. You can’t fire your brother or sister just because they have a hard time with technology. I believe this is why health care is behind in technology adoption — we don’t leave family members behind.
The flip side of the family-oriented business is that on the technology side, your industry often only speaks the language of technology and does not adequately translate its work so that senior living understands it. Why does this happen, and what must technology vendors do to correct it?
A very good question that requires a lot of attention from technologists. Technology was born out of complexity, and for a long time a person had to dedicate her or his life toward understanding it in order to use it. Evolution of solutions has made it possible to close the gap of usability so that we can now focus on three key meaningful use objectives related to tech: understand our client’s business, speak our client’s language and make it easier for clients to adopt, use and manage technology into the future.
Ironically, this is not so different for the communities and the residents they serve. They have the same challenges, but different audiences.
In short, the relationship between senior living and technology companies must be a partnership and a two-way street of communication. What is at the heart of that communication now, and what should be at the heart of it?
That is absolutely correct. In order to achieve success, senior living and the tech companies that support providers must initiate transparency. Until recently, the interaction between provider and technology has been focused on feature and function. These two groups must instead have a highly collaborative handshake that clearly outlines the operational goals and outcomes that both sides wish to be achieved.
This is because the two are so highly dependent on one another. I can have a grade A system, but unless the operations are also grade A, the system won’t matter. We cannot be successful unless we work together in an aligned partnership. There should be a seamless experience for staff and residents between the community’s operations and the interaction with technology.
I understand you recently spent three months at a senior community in Denver in a trip that affirmed a lot of what you believe. What did you see there?
I did, and it was amazing. I decided to volunteer in a community that was shaken to the core by COVID-19. It had been seven years since I had taken on any direct community operations responsibility, but coming back was as natural as the day I moved to PointClickCare. I saw residents seeking purpose in life and ways to self-actualize. I saw staff dedicated to supporting those residents in achieving those goals and living a meaningful life, while also seeking assurance and affirmation of their own fears and wants. Nothing had changed — we were there to live life together as best we could, day in and day out.
Most of all, just the same as ever, I saw the community’s desire to get better, to grow and to find the silver lining in a huge storm cloud.
One major difference was the technology. This organization had taken the time to create a strategy and foster the ecosystem. I was able to spend more time interacting with the community because the technology logic was sound and in place. Accessing information on demand was key to peace of mind when I wasn’t present in the community.
Infection control has always been a tedious exercise of documentation, but that’s not what I was experiencing. The irony of a good technology plan is you interact less and less with it to get what you want out of it.
In the most serendipitous way, as I packed my bag on my last day in the community, the community received a call from the Tri-County Health Department. It was officially COVID-19-free.
That is beautiful. With all that said, when you look at what PointClickCare is doing today, and its work moving into 2021, what excites you most?
The thing that most excites me about PointClickCare is that I see a technology company transforming to connect more deeply with the client partners we serve. I experience our senior living client organizations letting down their guard and opening the doors to help them achieve their goals. I see us striving to understand our clients, speak their language, and simplify the end user experience of our systems more than ever before.
I’m proud to work for a technology company that always shows up no matter how difficult the conversation. We do not achieve our goals unless our clients achieve theirs.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
PointClickCare is the leading electronic health record (EHR) technology partner to North America’s long-term post-acute care and senior care industry. To learn more about how PointClickCare can help your business, visit pointclickcare.com.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].