This article is sponsored by CDW Healthcare. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Jessica Longly, Business Development Strategist with CDW Healthcare, to get her take on the next five years for senior living technology — what’s trending among senior living providers’ tech wants and needs, how the pandemic changed the industry’s approach to technology, and how operators can approach the balance between person-centered care and a high-tech, high-touch approach.
You’ve been with CDW for several years. How has your career progressed during your time at CDW, and how did you come to your role there?
I joined CDW as an account manager back in 2007, so I’m coming up on 14 years with the company. Throughout my tenure, I’ve held several roles in the company, including within sales, marketing and our Executive Briefing Program. Regardless of role, my passion has always been focused on helping our customers.
When an opportunity arose to learn more about a Business Development role for CDW Healthcare, it seemed like the perfect next step. Prior to my time at CDW, I was a TV news producer, and I still have that passion for curiosity, finding out information and sharing information with others, which lends itself well to a role where the focus is strategically helping customers and asking questions to understand their pain points. From all angles, the Business Development role at CDW seemed like a natural fit, and I joined the team covering senior care in September 2019.
What are some of your goals for 2021 in terms of helping CDW and your partners with their technology needs?
I want to be their advocate and really understand their pain points and business processes. Transparency is something that needs to be earned, and the goal is to help senior care providers navigate what is a very fractured marketplace with so many different technology solutions. Making the decision of whether to choose a solution that’s specifically senior care-branded or leveraging technologies that are consumer-based that an older adult can easily utilize is also a consideration.
My personal belief is older adults should be able to use any technology. How they learn it and the way they adopt it is going to be different than how other age groups do. I’m passionate about helping technology companies to understand that the process is not necessarily going to be easy, and about being a voice for senior care providers and older adults.
My grandparents have not been in my life for the past decade, but I often think of how they would have been able to utilize technology. It allows me to put myself in the shoes of adult children and grandchildren to understand how they can connect with their grandma and grandpa or their mom and dad effectively. This means making sure that the technology solution is going to meet the needs of the older adult and being there as support every step of the way: from selection of device, to implementation, to effectively using the device.
What are three tech trends that you’re watching this year? A lot has changed due to the pandemic and it has forced tech decisions for many.
Voice technology is huge. As they age, older adults often have vision impairment and other issues that aren’t always optimal for technology usage. Voice technology can help level the playing field in terms of older adults being able to automate their lives, make their lives easier, and most importantly, live their lives with purpose.
Additionally, video technology is another area that is going to only continue to grow. Many of the big tech companies are putting voice and video together; when you can add on video with voice, it’s really impactful to the overall experience.
It’s also really exciting to see large technology corporations taking a more heightened interest in senior living. As the population ages, there is more investigating and exploring what it would take to make their products and solutions easier for an older adult to adopt.
Senior Housing News had the recent opportunity to co-host a series of industry roundtables with CDW, and there was a lot of discussion among industry participants about the theme of high-tech/high-touch. What does that mean and how are you seeing providers enable it?
Pre-COVID, when I would have conversations with customers exploring technology, there seemed to be some concern that bringing in a new technology was taking away person-centered care. When COVID hit and senior living operators quickly realized technology was key to combatting social isolation, to keeping our residents and staff connected with their loved ones, and helping provide touchless care from an infection control perspective, bringing in new technology became a necessity.
High-tech/high-touch means technology is not meant to be a replacement, but rather allows caregivers to provide more person-centered care, to be able to provide high-touch because there are technology solutions out there today that will help them identify and triage requests from residents.
On that same note, how do you encourage customers then to balance their technology needs with the staffing needed to make it run smoothly?
From a staffing perspective, the need for technology in organizations has grown. Will that impact the way they recruit or the skills they look for (e.g., should “comfortable with technology” be included in a job description?)? Will they be looking to add staff that specifically will cover residents’ technology questions? Right now, many of our customers are faced with not only having to take care of the residents’ health and medical needs, but they’re also being asked to figure out what’s wrong with, for example, their phone, or they’re asked to troubleshoot: “Why isn’t my TV working?” or “My thermostat is not operating properly.”
The idea of a tech concierge is a hot topic. Organizations are considering whether they are going to provide the devices to the residents upon arrival, or create a bring-your-own device process. Creating and establishing a role specifically for the community where that person is responsible for handling those tech needs day in and day out gives the caregivers an opportunity to take that off their plate. Then maintenance can handle specific requests as needed.
It’s also good to survey your staff. This provides a great opportunity to identify and stretch their skill sets to be able to empower them, to teach how to triage different types of situations. It also provides another opportunity for career growth and a chance to empower staff.
We also talked in the roundtable about resident engagement technologies. What are some of the most popular categories that you’re seeing right now?
Voice assistance is one; there are a lot of great companies coming up with those solutions where it’s helping to make the caregiver workflow more efficient and more intelligent. Resident engagement video and voice technology is another area: how do you help residents and older adults live their lives independently with purpose whether it’s during COVID or post-pandemic? How can you take those technologies and incorporate them with programming? Can life enrichment add some really unique opportunities that they weren’t able to by tapping into that technology and making it more high-tech/high-touch?
Another opportunity is smart home technologies. There are more conversations happening where operators want to create an automated environment, which is beneficial for the staff as well as residents.
The frustration I hear from senior care is that the rapid nature of technology changes makes it difficult to keep up with. To help think through this, it starts at a baseline of: what are the nice-to-haves and what would that wish list look like? Then we can start looking at what options are available and how would those work in their specific environment, and then make changes as needed if the technology footprint changes.
In terms of the five-year roadmap for technology in senior living, the theme of our recent roundtables, what does that roadmap look like?
For each organization, the definition innovation will look different. Not only are senior living organizations competing with each other, they’re competing with the home. If there is access to Wi-Fi and internet from home, or, for example, from establishments that offer free Wi-Fi, the expectation is that Wi-Fi is available in senior living communities.
With limited budgets, prioritization is key, and that prioritization won’t necessarily be the “flashy” options. Rather, the prioritization will be establishing a core network, the Wi-Fi, and the bandwidth coming into the building. Without a strong technology foundation in place, anything else put on top will crumble.
In five years, I see smart homes becoming more of the norm. We’re seeing trailblazers in that respect where it’s becoming a standard in their new developments. I think we’ll continue to see that moving forward. Again, I think voice technology is a game-changer, and ideally, we’ll have more language capabilities so that it can reach a wider audience in the future. I hope to see the digital divide shrink as well.
Also included as a part of that 5-year roadmap is better bandwidth — for all. The tech concierge role will likely become a staple, whether that’s per community or for a cluster of communities.
Remote patient monitoring will continue to grow as well.
Why are you hopeful about senior housing in the year ahead in 2021 after everything that has gone on in the last year?
This is a resilient industry. Despite funding shortfalls, issues with access to supplies and a number of other challenges, organizations were able to work together and provide positive outcomes. . The progress we’ve seen with technology use in the senior living space is also encouraging, and it’s truly remarkable how – in spite of the challenges – nothing has stopped the desire senior living providers have to innovate.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CDW is a leading multi-brand technology solutions provider to business, government, education and healthcare customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Our broad array of offerings range from hardware and software to integrated IT solutions such as security, cloud, data center and networking. Learn more at https://www.cdw.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 firstname.lastname@example.org