The assisted living workforce fell 6.7% from just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic through the start of 2022, according to a recent AHCA/NCAL analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data1. As operators continue to face that decline, they are getting more creative and more tech-savvy with their approach to the industry’s staffing challenge.
“Because communities are facing what’s being referred to as ‘The Great Resignation,’ it’s important for operators to find different ways to help retain and recruit staff,” says Karen O’Hara, Director of Product Marketing for Sentrics which offers senior living communities a comprehensive suite of data-driven solutions to transform care from reactive to predictive. “Operators have to move beyond traditional thinking and get creative about managing resources.”
One way operators can quickly address the problem: a strategic approach to technology.
“There’s a tendency now to shy away from technology,” O’Hara, who worked as an executive director for several large senior living communities before joining Sentrics, says about the senior housing industry. “In fact, today’s technology will help, not hurt them.”
Here are five technology secret weapons that operators can use to make staff more efficient and combat the effects of the Great Resignation.
Don’t shy away from tech — your caregivers will notice
Even today in 2022, some senior housing operators are not fully committed to staff and resident technology. They might have a tech-based system yet keep a pen-and-paper backup, or maybe they haven’t embraced technology at all. An operator with a technology void will stand out, and not in a good way, to potential staff members.
“Caregivers expect to use technology today to do their jobs,” O’Hara says. “Manual processes that rely on pagers, pen and paper, and even paper charts, can actually hinder workflow and make the community less attractive to potential employees who expect technology to help them.”
O’Hara recommends that operators embrace technology as the key to empowering and retaining staff.
“The positive impacts of technology far outweigh implementation fears, and are felt very quickly,” she says. “Technology provides fingertip access to valuable information about a resident’s care needs so that staff don’t have to ask permission and confirm every decision, and can administer help more quickly.”
Technology helps operators work with higher-acuity patients
Acuity creep into both independent and assisted living leaves senior housing residents with greater care needs — and senior living staff with more barriers to providing that care. The Sentrics360 suite, for instance, gives operators a 360-degree view of their residents, and help caregivers manage the health and wellness needs of residents.
“The typical resident coming into the community today has more comorbidities and is typically older,” says John Sanfilippo, a registered nurse and VP of Sales for Sentrics. “Technology that assists staff and offers actionable data improves the resident experience and makes the staff more efficient in the delivery of care.”
Sanfilippo notes that while the pandemic led to higher acuity for residents, it also increased restrictions on access to care. Caregivers need quick access to information about everything from allergies and medications to fall risk. Technology can also detect and alert staff to subtle health changes to inform proactive care. Tech-informed care helps deliver the best care outcomes.
Leverage technology systems that work together, not against each other
While communities already leverage EMR and eCall technology, without the right integration, those technologies can actually work against each other.
“Traditionally, communities work with multiple technologies,” Sanfilippo says. “They might have one system for life safety and another for electronic medical records. Traditionally, these systems don’t share information, and communities are not staffed to ‘fetch’ data. This leaves caregivers searching for answers in different systems, or worse, seeing an incomplete picture of a resident’s health.”
To combat this, Sentrics is working with Medtelligent to combine the strength of its Ensure360 life safety solution and the ALIS EHR tools from a single complementary view.
“When technologies fight for footprint, they can have a negative impact on communities,” he says. “What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if these two systems shared data in a safe way? What if a single sign-in gave caregivers access to relevant EMR and resident safety information? It creates a whole new level of empowerment for an overworked, often underpaid workforce. That is what we want: an empowered, informed workforce, especially when trying to overcome the challenge of finding and retaining staff.”
Workflow integration is your friend — and can benefit your bottom line
Integrated technology is a double-win. It removes the net-negative of technologies not communicating and replaces it with a net-positive of technologies delivering more than the sum of their parts.
“When we get EMR and life-safety technologies to work together and talk to each other, we can respond more effectively to an emergency call,” O’Hara says. “As information changes, it is updated automatically to reduce the risk of error.”
With integrated technologies, caregivers can:
- Avoid bringing a resident food or medication that could cause an allergic reaction
- View a resident’s medication list proactively as they enter a unit
- Know a resident’s DNR status if that resident is unconscious upon approach
- Identify a resident as a higher fall risk and anticipate needs proactively
- Print emergency packets for EMS transports from the resident’s location
“Integrated technology provides the entire senior living team with a better view of the residents’ physical, medical, social and behavioral needs,” she says. “This can prevent adverse incidents, decrease response times, and reduce risk and potential revenue loss.”
Technology can reduce onboarding and training needs — essential with today’s turnover
If your community can keep the staff you hire, you’re ahead of the game. With turnover and vacancies at an all-time high, the amount of time spent training and onboarding temporary and permanent staff is unavoidable.
“Front line employees respond to emergencies first, and they can’t be fumbling with multiple technologies to find information,” O’Hara says. “They need instant access to community protocols to follow and document their consistent steps. When they have it, the result is better care for the resident and minimized risk for the community.”
This article is sponsored by Sentrics, which delivers a comprehensive suite of data-driven solutions that provide a 360-degree view of residents to help senior living communities transform their operations from reactive to proactive care. To find out how, visit Sentrics.net.
The Views Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading companies’ news, views, case studies and announcements pertinent to their organization and the industry at large. For more information on Views, please contact [email protected].
1Senior Housing News, April 14, 2022