Like everyone else, we technology providers didn’t see the pandemic coming. We weren’t knowingly developing our solutions to serve a world thrown into crisis mode. We were busy connecting people, creating stronger sales tools, facilitating remote workers and automating tasks to free up valuable staff time. Then, almost overnight, ours became the “go-to” technologies to help overwhelmed, time-strapped operators keep moving forward after the pandemic hit. 

Consider how these digital technologies have exploded over the past year and ask yourself how many you put into use:

  • Telemedicine/telehealth
  • Virtual 3-D tours 
  • Zoom and other virtual meeting tools
  • Products such as Eversound for social distancing engagement 
  • Tablets and other forms of resident engagement
  • CRMs that facilitate remote working and allow sales to do more online engagement
  • eSign and paperwork automation

Of course, each has been instrumental in a different way. Some of these technologies are helping to take ongoing burden off the shoulders of staff members by automating repetitive, error-prone manual tasks and freeing up valuable team members to perform more high-value work. As a provider of paperwork automation, we’ve witnessed firsthand the increase in productivity that happens when rote, low-value tasks are automated and staff members can get back to using their skills and talents. 

Some operators latched on eagerly to these technologies, some dipped a toe in the water and others dug their heels in, waiting it out until they could go back to business as usual again.

That hasn’t happened. The fire already was lit under operators. The technologies to improve performance and efficiency were there for the taking. And, by now, most of us realize that there is no snapping back to a pre-COVID-19 world. Those operators who attempt to do so will be quickly sidelined by those who are more agile and forward-thinking. 

Just to be clear, this isn’t just about using Zoom and checking a box or two. You also need to consider the fact that, to attract new talent, you will have to offer more than the standard employee benefits package. You will need to demonstrate that you have tools and technology in place to support them once they are in their positions. Leadership needs to recognize that the bar has been raised. Certain technologies now are expected to be in place that, even a few short months ago, were not.

Clearly, for those slow to the game, COVID just made everything worse. But at the end of the day, the “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” are not constructive. The point now is how established operators will compete in a world where the new community down the street is rocking its technology and attracting both residents and new talent in the process. 

Maybe now is a good time to do a deep dive into your organization and look for the vulnerable areas where technology can help strengthen your infrastructure, empower your salespeople to turn more leads into move-ins, and automate your paperwork. The better organized you are with your efforts, the more value you will get from the technologies you deploy. 

COVID lit a fire beneath this industry. Don’t try to put it out. You can’t (and you shouldn’t).

Instead, let’s embrace the new technologies that got us through this pandemic in the first place. And let’s hope that, after the devastation of COVID subsides, the fire it lit under senior living burns a bright path forward toward a new, different and better future for an industry that could use a fresh start.

Darren Mathis is CEO of LincWare.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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