SHN BUILD: Planning for Future Innovation

This article is sponsored by CDW. This article is based on a discussion with Liz Cramer, Healthcare Strategist Post Acute & Senior Care at CDW. This discussion took place on November 15, 2023 during the SHN BUILD Conference. The article below has been edited for length and clarity.

Senior Housing News: How does CDW work with providers planning for future innovations?

Liz Cramer: The way CDW works with customers depends on that customer or client. If a customer is more forward thinking when it comes to innovation and technology, that discussion could be focused more on planning for the future when it comes to resident and staff technology, how they’re wanting to go to market differently and what that looks like. What do they want to offer residents and how do they make life easier for staff.


It may be that the customer has to start with an initial technology or tech overview of what they currently have on the campus and then some of those assessments from a infrastructure standpoint, can their infrastructure support what they’re wanting to do in the future, is their security posture where it needs to be. It may be that we’re starting with those basics of what’s needed to really run a lot of that innovation before we jump into the different types of innovation that are out there.

I also spend a lot of time with customers just reviewing what we’re seeing in the market, what we’re seeing other providers doing, how they’re looking at innovation for both staff and operational workflow efficiencies but then also for residents and patients that are on the campuses as well.

In terms of new building or new construction, I know there’s not a ton of it, but what types of discussions are you having with providers who are building and maybe have that longer-term horizon of being able to plan from the ground up?


With a lot of customers, and I know you hear me say this a lot, but that initial discussion is really around the infrastructure where historically we’ve still seen building the way we built 10 years ago. We’re starting to see that we need to have those upfront discussions of what they want to offer, like smart home, voice automation, maybe RPM and what does the infrastructure need to look like to support this plus addition of future solutions. Don’t get me wrong aesthetics are important but the foundation for operational efficiencies and resident innovation include having a strong secure infrastructure.

We’re starting to see a lot more that are really looking at what I would say is a wellness focus. That wellness includes passive monitoring preventative and predictive type care versus that reactive care. Again to be able to do all of those things, it is that initial infrastructure and then building in some of those smart automation processes into that new build.

I think you just started touching on this, but what types of technology seem to be gaining traction right now? You referenced some of the more passive monitoring or those types of technologies that might not be so proactive or reactive, but are there specific types of tech that are being requested or that you’re planning in those new builds?

A lot of voice automation is starting to take off. I think you have all probably seen that as well. Obviously, Alexa probably being at the forefront of that. What’s really nice about voice is it gives you both that resident engagement factor of empowering the residents to do more on their own so they can self-help versus calling the front desk or calling whoever to find out what activities are going on, what’s on the menu for the day, scheduling a maintenance or service request, etc. whereas with the Alexa product and a lot of the software that can sit on that, it allows them to do that on their own.

It not only allows them to be more independent, and then you add on the smart home component to it that allows them to use voice to do minimal things like lights and temperature and maybe see who’s at the door to give them some of those steps back in their day so they can do things they really want to do.

It also helps the staff out because historically not necessarily having two-way communication of an easy connection to the staff, a staff member might have to come to the house or to the apartment to check on that resident whereas now those type of check-ins can be automated, or potentially the staff have that ability to communicate with the resident even if they’re not at a point they can pick up the phone, but they can say, “Alexa, call the nurse’s station.”

They can have that conversation so the care staff can come more prepared when they do have to come to the house or the cottage or the apartment. I think we’re going to continue to see traction with that because again it’s twofold. It is both beneficial for the residents and a great marketing tool, plus there’s the staff efficiency side to it as well.

I’m glad you mentioned that because I think a lot of us envision how Alexa supports us or how we use it, but there are these other things that are so relevant to the aging population and for operational reasons, there’s certainly a staff benefit in addition to the resident support.

The last question is, what are providers focused on when it comes to spending, and how are they looking at making these investments, or what types of returns are they looking for?

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but earlier in the year, the Ziegler report came out about what customers or providers were spending. Top was infrastructure. That’s still really been a focus for 2023. I think it’s going to continue into 2024. Infrastructure for both residents and staff. We’re still hearing from a staff standpoint, a care standpoint, there’s only access points in the hallways and common areas.

When staff go into rooms, they can’t do that point of care documentation or have that ability to pull information up when they’re in the resident room. Looking at the infrastructure from both a care and corporate standpoint but then also again from the resident standpoint, also looking at robotics is a big discussion, security is a huge discussion right now as well. I think, unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more breaches. With residents bringing more technology/devices on to campuses that adds an additional layer of security concern. Education for the residents on how to keep their items secure is important. We want to keep them secure as well. Automation is another big one, even from just IT and staff automation, things that this industry has historically been very manual and sometimes very duplicative.

There’s a lot of processes that can be automated with the use of artificial intelligence, and data analytics. Being able to start to bring those into the industry is definitely a game changer as well.

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