Your caregivers need their own internet network.
So do your residents.
Your visitors do too, if possible.
And certainly, so does corporate.
For the best health outcomes mixed with overall business success, senior living operators must have strong, reliable and secure networks for all stakeholders to use. The signs of whether they do frequently come from the stakeholders themselves.
“Initially, from a staff and care standpoint, measuring your network means knowing how efficiently and effectively staff are able to document along with mobility when providing care to the residents and the patients on their campuses,” says Liz Cramer, Chief Post-Acute and Senior Care Strategist of CDW. “One measure of that would be if a care provider’s nurses, therapists or physicians are not able to go from room to room and provide point-of-service documentation, you don’t have a robust enough network from a coverage standpoint.”
Network strength does not just determine care capacity today. It is a major driver of what operators can do tomorrow. Here are three ways today’s infrastructure investments power tomorrow’s innovations.
Improved workflows and security for all stakeholders, especially corporate vs. caregiver
A “network” in technology parlance is the infrastructure that powers any and every device that depends on the internet to work — Wi-Fi being the critical component. Separating networks for, at a minimum, the corporate staff and the caregiver staff is essential for a number of reasons, security being a high one. The corporate users are primarily your front office staff: admissions, billing, sales and marketing among them.
There are good reasons to have a network for visitors that is separate from the network for caregiver staff, for instance, or one for staff that is separate from residents. And the main reason to have your corporate network separate from these other stakeholders is probably obvious: security.
“You’re going to want your corporate network to be separate because you don’t want any proprietary data getting out about your organization, or if you’re housing any sort of resident information on that network, you don’t want any of that getting out, either,” says Jessica Longly, Senior Care Strategist at CDW.
Building all of these separate networks takes time and resources. Operators should start by asking about their coverage. Who has coverage on campus and in buildings? Where is it spotty? What physical infrastructure updates need to be made to accommodate Wi-Fi wiring?
“We all know that some of these older buildings are cinder block or concrete, and Wi-Fi doesn’t work well in those situations,” Longly says. Operators should take Wi-Fi and network connectivity under consideration when making physical updates to communities, because those physical updates will help drive something as simple as router placement, which in turn can ensure that nursing staff don’t lose any point-of-service documentation.”
“If a nursing staff or CNA all have devices, or the plan is to go to every caregiver having a device, do you have the ability to support all of those devices so that they can be mobile, on the move, and document whatever you need to be?” Longly says. That is a key question to answer.
Increased resident and visitor engagement
Senior living residents want to live as independently as possible. Technology is what allows that. So while streamlining workflows and separating networks for security purposes is hugely important for staff, obviously that’s merely a fraction of what matters to residents and families.
For those parties, network strength is behind an operator’s ability to provide a differentiated living experience, the sort that helped convince them to make the move in the first place. That would be smart home technologies, voice technologies such as Alexa, and others, all of which depend on Wi-Fi.
“Amazon, Google, down to startups that are focused on AgeTech, are all developing solutions that are not meant to be hard-wired, and are meant to be mobile or Wi-Fi dependent,” Longly says. “Because older adults still want to live independently. They don’t necessarily want everything done for them. They want to be able to check the news, maybe call a friend down the hall, go to the bridge club. If they’re using voice and video technology to do that versus just a telephone, you’re going to need Wi-Fi.”
Once again, this is a physical infrastructure question as much as a network question. To create networks that can be used separately by these different entities, operators need to be able to forecast how much their average user will be on the Wi-Fi network.
“Those things are going to be really important to forecast as you’re building out a really strong infrastructure,” Longly says. “It will take more investment, it will take more time, but at the end of the day, it’s something that could be really enticing.”
Additional benefits: census, staffing and sales and marketing
In today’s senior living environment, everyone needs Wi-Fi and everyone knows immediately if you have it. A prospective staff member who comes in to interview will notice right away, but so will prospective residents, as AARP research showed that 44% of older adults view technology more positively than they did prior to COVID-19, while 80% of adults aged 50 or older now rely on technology to stay connected to friends and family members.
Because of that rise, technology vendors are all operating on the assumption that a senior living community will indeed have powerful Wi-Fi that can accommodate their new tools and devices. Residents are coming from homes where they are able to easily connect multiple devices to a single network. Wi might not be the reason they choose a given community, but the lack of it might be the reason they don’t choose a given community.
And with operators continuing to build census back to pre-pandemic levels, they can’t take the risk of something as simple as Wi-Fi keeping a prospect out of their community.
“As we’re looking into the future, we have to prepare for that,” Cramer says. “It’s not something where you can say, ‘This is what I need today.’ The better question is, ‘What will I need tomorrow?’ You have to plan for what those updates look like not just now, but in two or three years as well.”
This article is sponsored by CDW Healthcare.To learn how CDW Healthcare can help your organization achieve infrastructure success, contact your CDW Healthcare account team at 800.808.4239 or visit cdwg.com/seniorcare.
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