This article is sponsored by CDW. This article is based on a Senior Housing News discussion with Elizabeth Cramer, Chief Post-Acute & Senior Care Strategist at CDW. The discussion took place on November 9, 2022 during the SHN BUILD Conference in Chicago. The article below has been edited for length and clarity.
Senior Housing News: Liz, you work with a lot of different customers, providing hardware and software solutions for their technology needs in senior living and post-acute care. To start, how would you describe today’s tech investment landscape, particularly, with respect to new development and those that completed a heavy period of tech investment during the pandemic?
Liz Cramer: As far as investment, we’re still seeing, probably as everyone knows, infrastructure. There are still a lot of providers out there that are really looking at that infrastructure investment. That’s probably the biggest one that we’re still seeing. For those that have already invested in that and had that heavy investment during COVID and even after, now it’s figuring out what we need to keep. There’s a number of great solutions out there. Really taking stock of what you purchased, and then, what do we need to keep? What do we maybe need to rip and replace, and move forward with? Or maybe some follow up for some new devices as well.
SHN: What are some of the top trending tech categories that you’re seeing among senior care customers, particularly in new development?
Cramer: Voice is huge. We’re seeing that more and more, voice and video. Also, just from an automation standpoint, we’re starting to see a lot of customers looking at, how do I automate where I can? Not by any means to replace FTEs, but to give staff time back in their day and give that staff time to spend more time with their residents or patients on the campus.
SHN: Data is a major theme today for providers, how are you seeing senior living providers successfully use data to improve operations?
Cramer: I love data. So a couple things with data. As a clinician by background, I think I love the fact that now we can pull data to be able to provide more proactive care when it comes to the care side of things. Really looking at, one, is the data we’re pulling useful? Do we need it? Are we just pulling data to pull data? We are seeing that a lot more now. Looking at falls is a perfect example. Even across that continuum from independent living, to assisted living, to memory care, skilled nursing, falls is always a big discussion point. Being able to be proactive using that data.
If we do have some of the ambient sensors or items that we’re seeing that residents are starting to have a change in their abilities, what are we doing with that? If we start to notice, that’s data. If we start to notice that a resident isn’t up and moving around as early as they normally are, if we’re noticing that those residents aren’t coming to activities like they used to, maybe we need to intervene and start looking at that to make sure they can continue to stay where they are. Really using, and looking at the data you’re pulling and making sure the data is being used for something. You’re not just pulling data to pull data.
SHN: Are you starting to see providers do a good job of that, of actually connecting those outcomes?
Cramer: Some. [laughs] I think some are doing it. We’re starting to see more and more with the falls, I think it is a big one that we’re seeing. We’re finally starting to use that data with regards to the proactive approach, looking at balance assessment, falls risks, and being able to use that data as that resident’s changing. To proactively look at whether it be therapy or wellness programs, things like that to work with that resident. We’re starting to see where they’re using it better. Not everyone, but we’re getting there, and using it from an automated standpoint. Not just pulling manual data from all these different spots.
SHN: Is there technology available that can automate daily resident check-ins that you’re aware of, or communicate resident health information to families without using up staff time?
Cramer: There’s definitely some solutions out there with regards to that passive check-in. On the smart home side, there’s different solutions that allow for that on the dashboard. It can alert you if the resident’s up. There are some additional solutions out there as well that can provide check ins via the television. The resident just has to click the button that yes, they’re up and they’ve checked in, so they know that they’re there. We’re seeing solutions out there that are starting to do better, with communication to family. Not necessarily HIPAA data, but just what’s going on with mom or dad while they’re on the campus.
SHN: One of the more challenging things for providers is vetting these technologies. There are a lot of them, as we all know, and especially with the surge of new solutions that came to market during the pandemic to solve all different types of challenges, do you have any recommendations for how organizations can go through that process of vetting? You mentioned, they may have implemented solutions and now may have to assess which ones to keep and which ones have longevity for the organization.
Cramer: One of the great things we do at CDW is if you’re looking for a solution or you have a problem that you’re trying to solve, we do a lot of that vetting for you. We can pull in some partners if you want to have a bake off to see which one works best for you. We can set that up for you. It’s really important as you’re trying to make a decision to consider what’s that problem I’m trying to solve? What is that KPI? Then, what’s the plan as we move forward? Some of those KPIs may not necessarily be monetary. Really looking at how it’s affecting your residents and your staff.
There’s a lot out there. Some of the solutions that we would recommend, we don’t necessarily work with, but I wouldn’t have any problem recommending them. Again, I think reaching out to your network, reaching out to those of us in this world, and just asking those questions.
SHN: Do you have any advice for providers implementing technology, given today’s staffing challenges? Any best practices that you can share relative to implementing new solutions during the staffing crisis where there’s a lot of turnover and a lot of considerations with respect to training and onboarding?
Cramer: When it comes to staff, there is this bit of a conundrum because we are short-staffed, so we’re trying to figure out ways to do more with less staff. Adding a new solution or a new technology for them is sometimes very stressful. Really taking that survey, we have found in talking with our customers that new solutions roll out better operators actually, going out to those staff members that are going to be using it, survey them and talk to them about what are the problems? What is most impactful for you to give you some time back in your day? Instead of starting from the top and just saying, “Okay, this is the technology we’re going to implement.”
Really having that conversation with the staff that are going to be using that solution and gaining that buy-in. Then you have your champions that see the bigger picture, and can roll it out. Looking at if you’re a larger provider with multiple sites, what that rollout plan is, not just everybody at the same time. Then also having a plan as you continue to move forward. If it’s more of a pilot, how long is that pilot going to last? Then, making sure, again, you’re surveying throughout, is it working? Do we need to change anything? Do we need to go back and start over? Then, having a plan as you continue to move forward for new staff that are coming in, and what training looks like and who’s going to be doing that, because that tends to be an issue as well. As we get it rolled out, things go well, then all of a sudden, staff turns over and we haven’t trained new staff on a piece of technology that we’re using, that maybe other sites aren’t using.
SHN: Is there any update on the tech concierge concept? Are you seeing providers still successfully use that role to address some of those challenges?
Cramer: We are. Funny enough, we had an event last week, and one of the gentlemen that was at the event said he was actually hired as the tech concierge for their campus. Then they found out he had a pretty extensive background in IT, so his role quickly evolved. We’re starting to see more and more [individuals] that are really looking at how do I provide those services to the residents on campus? Because they do need that Level 1 support. They’re coming on campus with multiple devices. And we need to be able to support that. Sometimes our IT staff don’t have time to so having someone that is specifically focused on those residents is very important.
SHN: The last topic I want to talk about is security. It comes up a lot and with all different types of technology now being cloud-based, more and more solutions going in that direction, how can senior living organizations manage the security needs that they have? What questions do they need to be asking and answering from a security perspective?
Cramer: Depending on the campus-wide Wi-Fi, it’s very important from a security standpoint to have those different Wii networks. You have your corporate office potentially, or that corporate side, and then your clinical staff that are providing care, they need to have different Wi-Fis, and then your residents. Having something that is managing that so you know what devices are on your network is very important. We’re starting to see more and more security questions coming up as we’re meeting with customers. They’re starting to look at more in-depth assessments that can be done to make sure they are secure for both staff and residents.
Really looking at whoever your partner is from an IT standpoint, are you doing those assessments? Then changing from year to year. If the same group is doing your assessment every year, you probably want to change that up from a security standpoint because you want to see what else is out there, and they may have a different take on things. Staying on top of that is so important.
SHN: From your perspective, what are the biggest barriers to enabling ambient and automated care in existing or new developments?
Cramer: Right now, I just think it’s so new to the industry still. This is not something we’re used to. It’s a different process in providing services and care to our residents. I think we’re going to continue to see it evolve, but again, our staff that have been providing care in some instances, 10, 15, 20 years on our campuses, we’ve been doing it the same way for that long. Change is hard. Even if it is for the better, change is hard. Making those changes from the way we provide the care is really kind of that biggest barrier.
CDW is a leading multi-brand technology solutions provider to business, government, education and health care 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. To learn more, visit CDW Healthcare.