Few industries have taken a harder hit to their bottom lines over the past year than assisted living and skilled nursing. If you’re an operator, you’ve probably seen your occupancy drop to dangerously low levels. You no doubt have had to cut budgets just to maintain a decent margin. These have been tough times, and just because the calendar clicked over to a new year doesn’t mean they will go away anytime soon. 

This not only should be a wake-up call to operators but also to those of us who provide products and services to long-term care. It’s time for suppliers to take a look at what we’re doing to ease the transition between pre-pandemic and the new normal we are now facing. It’s time to step up and take inventory of our roles and responsibilities to help this industry that has served us for so many years.

What can we be doing better? Here are two areas that really stand out to me:

1) Live up to our sales promises. Are we delivering? Are we making it right when we get it wrong? How are we adjusting our products to better support this new normal? We may not have all the answers right now, but we should be asking them.

2) Break down information barriers. We have a massive interoperability problem. We should be providing open access to data so that senior living communities can use information more efficiently. Stop acting like our applications “own” the information. We don’t.

This second point is one I take a personal interest in. As a provider of admissions automation, data integration is an area I know well. And it’s needed now more than ever. Senior living operators deserve open access to their data so that they have it where they need it, when they need it.

Why is this so important now? Senior living and care marketing, operations and financial people need to be able to compare data between multiple systems, both new and legacy, to tap into what’s happening in their communities. The pandemic has only made this more important as assisted living and skilled nursing operators struggle to keep their doors open.

There’s no reason why senior living providers shouldn’t be able to access and optimize the flow and use of their valuable data. But we suppliers need to break down some barriers to make it possible.

Without a doubt, APIs (application programming interfaces) are the optimum way to plug into data and share them. APIs are highly efficient and make the task of data flow through simple and straightforward.

One of the biggest barriers to obtaining an API, however, is cost. To be fair, it costs a supplier to unlock and move that data for clients. So it’s understandable that, all things being normal, suppliers would pass along that cost (along with a reasonable markup) to senior living clients. And yet all things are not normal these days. There are challenges today that didn’t exist a couple years ago. Assisted living and skilled nursing operators are trying to make ends meet against a backdrop of shrinking budgets and a myriad of other issues. Using an already-maxed-out staff to key in data, over and over again, to different applications does little to foster efficiency, let alone raise morale.

Therefore, although it may not be intentional, suppliers who continue to hold these data “hostage” aren’t doing anyone any good. Especially those who have an API sitting there ready to do the job.

Earlier, I talked about wake-up calls and suppliers stepping up to help an industry get back on its feet again.

So, as a supplier, here’s what I’m doing. I’m offering, at no cost, a browser-based plug-in that literally allows someone to copy and paste data from one system to another. So those employees who were spending hours re-keying data can now help their employer where needed the most.

As an example, perhaps you need to get the data from your customer relationship management solution to pass through to your medical records system, your billing systems and other systems. Instead of keying in and repeatedly re-keying in the data (which is exactly how names get misspelled and incorrect insurance phone numbers, birth dates, and email addresses get entered), you can go to a website and download an app that will get your data where they need to be. No, it’s not as elegant as an API. But it will get the job done.

And that’s really the bottom line. Senior living providers have paid enough for their valuable data. How can we suppliers make it easier?

I know that we all want this industry to move forward, to be healthy and prosperous again in ways that are better than before. It benefits all of us, operators and solutions providers alike, to see a vibrant, exciting senior living industry emerge from one of the darkest years in history. We should be glad to be able to help.

We can’t shift the industry alone, but together, we can make a difference. What will your contribution be?