Technology is taking on a more active role across the entire healthcare space, and senior care is no exception. From electronic health records to smart glasses to wearable devices, the latest technologies are continuing to be implemented across the senior care market to improve the care experience for residents and their families, as well as staff members.
A regulatory push is behind some of these new technologies, too: New legislation affects all healthcare markets, and organizations are joining forces to improve data access. Our experience with more than 13,000 care providers in the senior care space has given us a strong understanding of the emerging technologies for the coming year.
Technologies will support several benefits: Better and more efficient care, improved resident experiences and enhanced staff engagement. As a result, operators will be better positioned to manage the health of their businesses and their residents.
Here are some of the trends to watch for in 2017:
- Technology enabling better service capture and documentation. Many senior living communities still are using paper workflows to maintain their core functions and processes. That means multiple points of input, all of which need to be logged separately. Others may have information buried in multiple systems that don’t talk to each other. All of this makes it more difficult to capture, track and ensure that services (especially “unscheduled services”) are being recorded. If they are not, then they won’t get billed. This is an industry that is 95 to 100% private-pay, so we need to guarantee a return on investment. We now have technology that will automatically make across-the-board changes as well as tightly integrate services with billing records.
- Managing care transitions more efficiently. We already are seeing technology being used to engage residents long before they move in. Senior care communities are getting ahead of the curve with in-home care programs; equipping prospective residents still living independently with technology such as iPads. These tablets come preloaded with software, such as medication reminders or “face to face” check-ins. By helping these individuals remain independent for as long as possible, communities are building relationships in advance. Then, when the individuals finally make the move, theirs will be the community they gravitate to.
- Attracting a more informed population of residents. Senior living operators know that when a prospective resident and his or her family tours your community, they’re looking at two or three others as well. This is a new, highly informed prospect. As a former operator who has conducted many tours, one of the first things I’d talk about is how we’re using technology to track all the things they care about, such as the services that they will receive each month. Not being able to do this could hinder your chance to be the community of choice.
- Mobility for team members. Senior living communities always have strived to provide a home-like environment rather than a clinical institutional environment with nurses’ stations. One way to achieve this environment as they introduce technology is by equipping staff members with mobile devices. Being mobile means that care teams can spend more time with residents documenting as they go instead of sitting behind a computer logging information at the end of each shift. We’re noticing some exciting new apps that provide much more face time with residents, and they are as easy to use for older workers as they are for millennials.
- A new generation of young caregivers. Let’s put it this way: The new generation expects it. Young people are accustomed to managing their lives around technology. You can’t expect them to engage with your community without an acceptable level of mobility and automation.
- Greater need for medication management. The average assisted living resident is taking nine medications. Multiply that across hundreds of residents a community houses. It’s a huge challenge for communities that manage medications for residents. With so many different medications per resident across an entire community, no room for error exists. Families expect that their loved ones will have accurate and efficient medication administration, and technology will help achieve this.
- The evolution of the portal for resident/caregiver engagement. An exciting assortment of creative resident engagement tools, as well as family portals, exists. This area of technology is growing quickly, and operators need to stay on top of it.
The key is to use technology, when possible, to help minimize risk as much as possible. So how can a senior living community stand out from the crowd and get noticed? One way is by providing solid, integrated technology. Not only for engagement purposes, but to deliver a higher level of service.
Travis Palmquist, is vice president and general manager for senior living at PointClickCare.
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