Innovative senior living organizations and leaders are using technology to improve the care and service experience for residents, families and staff members.
Before embarking on a new technology within your communities or homes, conduct a deep dive into the benefits for both your residents and organization, from a resident experience and operational standpoint, and compare the potential outcome with the costs. Does this technology address current issues within your organization by increasing your quality of care, and are you prepared to continue to invest in technology in the future?
Five years ago, new technology in senior living may have consisted of electronic medical records, point-of-care systems and community internet access. Now, these technologies are expected. The next generation of new technology consists of resident monitoring, wearable devices and telemedicine / telehealth, among other types.
The benefits of a patient / resident-monitoring system are apparent, from peace of mind for family members to 24/7 support for a resident. Monitoring can range from simple GPS location services to real-time data capture of vital signs with the use of wearables and medical devices.
Software platforms that allow integration of additional data points from devices (versus manual entry) enable more easily staying current with technology. Resident-monitoring applications platform that allow capture via Bluetooth (scale, oximeter, etc.) versus manual entry by staff members, for example, are recommended to save time and minimize user error. Each year, more and more medical devices are offering Bluetooth communication, and compatibility with your current resident-monitoring software can save retrofitting costs in the future.
One goal of new resident-monitoring technologies is to not only show organizations what residents are doing but also to predict what residents will do and then create care around these behaviors. Understanding the patterns of your residents can provide you with valuable data to help predict future issues that could require an increased level of service or care (at the acute or skilled level).
This benefit from information-gathering is valuable, but an organization must be prepared to commit to gathering, analyzing and using the data that are uncovered.
Medication management is another area where technology can both decrease user / caregiver mistakes and provide a documented prescription history that can be viewed by caregivers and current or future medical professionals.
The technology involved can be as simple as “smart” pill bottles that automatically send data each time they are opened to pill packs that are scanned when dispensed by the caregiver.
One of the most talked-about and written-about technology in senior living is the integration of telemedicine / telehealth into this market space.
A remote telemedicine program allows communities to manage a resident’s condition daily from any location. These programs can use telemetric equipment or smartphones / tablets and custom-designed assessments to provide practical, remote resident care.
A strong telemedicine program can allow your communities to partner with providers that understand the benefits of telemedicine and increase the overall quality of care. Telemedicine has shown to decrease hospital visits, readmission rates and total hospital days, according to research published in the American Journal of Managed Care and other sources.
4 types of costs
The cost of adding new technology to your organization should be viewed according to upfront equipment expense, monthly subscription / maintenance costs and operational cost concerning staff time. As an organization, you will need to identify what costs you can absorb and whether your pricing model allows costs to be passed on to residents.
• Capital costs
Capital costs include costs of equipment for your communities / homes that your staff may use (such as tablets and mobile devices), upgrades to the structure of your homes (security, fall-monitoring systems, smart-enabled lighting) and costs for wearable devices for your residents. Leasing offers benefits over ownership, from both a cost and future upgrade standpoint.
Also, as devices become smaller, the chances for devices to go missing (via theft or misplacement) become greater. Consider factoring in a certain percentage of your fleet of devices that may need to be replaced.
• Subscription costs
Subscription costs could include monthly internet costs required to run new technology and costs associated with software platforms that can consist of additional use costs for telemedicine.
• Maintenance costs
Maintenance costs include anything associated with the upkeep of your technology. A good example is smart lighting. In the past, your maintenance staff simply may have replaced a light bulb, but now, that light bulb may be a greater cost and may need to be integrated into the smart lighting system.
• Operational costs
Operational costs must be addressed is many aspects, from the beginning of any new project. What are the actual costs associated with additional staff members and training to use the new technology? Will this technology require additional, specialized IT staff members, or does the technology provider offer support from a technical standpoint at an included or additional cost?
As an organization, you will need to determine the cost / benefits before undertaking any project for your communities / homes. Understanding these points in all phases of implementation can help any organization maximize the benefits and minimize the cost while providing the best possible experience for the residents and family members.