This article is sponsored by Parasol Alliance. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Amber Bardon, CEO & Founder, Parasol Alliance, to talk about the current senior living technology landscape, and how she is helping providers navigate it. She shares her vision for transforming technology culture in senior living at large, and she also provides an outlook on what this culture will look like in the near future and beyond.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Amber Bardon: I have been working in the senior living industry for over fifteen years. I began my career working at the service desk for a community and over a period of nine years, moved through various different IT positions from business analyst to management and ended up as the senior IT director. Throughout this process, I worked with every department and in every service area to really understand operations and how important it is for technology to effectively partner with the business.
I founded Parasol Alliance eight years ago, with the investment of five senior living providers, who came together to create the company both as a way to provide high-quality technology services to themselves, and to serve as a wider resource in the industry to professionalize IT services.
What does Parasol Alliance offer senior living communities that other IT companies don’t offer?
Our approach is unique for several reasons. First, we emphasize building a technology strategy from the very beginning. All of our clients first undergo a comprehensive strategic technology assessment. We want to ensure that our clients are making smart, strategic investments in resources as well as ensuring support of ongoing operations, and in tune with community strategic goals.
Our technology assessment is a deep dive process that involves our team going on-site and interviewing community stakeholders to ensure we understand all aspects of the community. We analyze areas such as culture, operations, business and network systems, security, and innovation, then deliver a clear Technology Assessment that outlines their current tech situation along with our tailored recommendations. Clients also receive a scorecard, comparing them to our benchmarks, and a 3-year Strategic Technology Roadmap.
What sets us apart is this roadmap. It clearly outlines both the tech projects the communities want and our recommendations, covering everything from culture, operations, business systems network, security, systems, low voltage and innovation. This roadmap provides a clear path, outlining necessary steps, investments, and projected costs over three years.
Our clients benefit from more than just IT break-fix support, we offer a full partnership. Not only do we provide day-to-day IT operational support, we’re committed to bringing the roadmap to life. Clients choose which projects they want from the roadmap, and we regularly meet with our IT steering committee to ensure we’re on track. These meetings focus on the roadmap, budget considerations, and introducing new technology into the community. At its core, what makes us different is our early focus on strategy and our dedication to following the roadmap, all for a set contracted price.
What is the tech landscape today in senior living, and how is this changing?
At a recent event, a speaker noted that technology emerged as a beacon of hope during COVID, but it came with its challenges, as many were left scrambling. The silver lining, however, was the urgency for providers to prioritize tech, and the willingness of residents to overcome their fears and adopt new tools.
Our vision is to “transform technology culture in senior living.” We aim to shift the industry’s view from seeing IT as just an item on the budget, or the IT person who fixes your computer to a much broader definition of technology. Technology involves process improvement, automation, life safety, resident engagement and data-driven business decisions.
The backbone supporting these features is just as important, and we need a change in perspective. Technology should be a part of leadership discussions and central to future planning. The real task is recognizing tech as a tool for solving business hurdles, not as a complex or intimidating obstacle.
What are the top technology items that providers need to consider in the next few years?
In the next 5 to 10 years, the choice of senior living communities will hinge on their tech capabilities. Future residents and family members will inquire about technologies for falls management, monitoring daily activities, platforms for resident interaction, and modern amenities like voice commands. Having this technology available will set communities apart from a competitiveness standpoint. Additionally, tech support, which is often neglected by many communities, will be essential — our Tech@Home initiative fills this gap.
Preparing for this tech-driven future is key, and reliable Wi-Fi networks will be a significant part of that. I recently spoke about the “Wi-Fi crisis” at LeadingAge Missouri, emphasizing the complexities and costs of proper Wi-Fi setup. Equally vital is the mounting concern of cybersecurity, as threats grow and costs rise, highlighting the need for vigilant protection.
How can providers combat and prepare for the rising IT costs associated with those?
Starting with a technology assessment and creating a roadmap is crucial. This aligns seamlessly with our goal to reshape the tech culture. A roadmap helps clarify priorities and expenses. Often, the uncertainty and unease around IT comes from a lack of understanding. Community leaders don’t need to become tech gurus, but they should be equipped with clear information to make decisions. That’s what the roadmap offers. Every business should prioritize technology. If unprepared, a single cybersecurity breach can tarnish a community’s reputation permanently, and recovering that trust can be an uphill battle.
Having a well-defined roadmap and the insights from the assessment offers clarity. This knowledge helps communities avoid unexpected issues, streamline operations, and boost efficiency. Whether it’s preparing for system upgrades or maximizing the efficiency of current systems, the roadmap delivers essential information for smart business choices.
Finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry has been defined by…?”
…transition. We’re still grappling with the aftermath of COVID, notably the retirement of many seasoned leaders during the pandemic. New leaders are stepping into these roles, and they’re met with an industry that often holds a “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. However, these fresh faces are starting to reevaluate and reimagine long-standing practices.
With many communities considering mergers and acquisitions to ensure sustainability amid change, there’s an emphasis on how to best integrate technology. Funding these technological advancements is also a pivotal consideration. We’re amidst a transition phase, and on top of these changes, the impending change in resident demographics is demanding a shift in how services are delivered and what they expect.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
To best prepare your Senior Living community for the technology needed to support your residents, future residents and staff, it is essential your community has a Strategic Technology Assessment prepared to learn your community’s current technology environment. Your community will also want to have a 3-year Strategic Technology Roadmap created, which features a list of best practice, high priority technology projects for your organization, as well as a more comprehensive list of medium and lower priority initiatives that are also achievable within the three-year time frame so we can help your community achieve its business goals and improve your community’s overall operational efficiency. Transform your Senior Living community’s technology by reaching out to us to learn more about how to get started with a Strategic Technology Assessment & Strategic Technology Roadmap by clicking here or by emailing Kati Jones at [email protected] .
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].