Senior living executives face insurmountable pressure to reduce overhead expenses without compromising resident care and services. With senior housing occupancy rates hovering around 85%, owners and operators are actively looking for solutions to control costs and maintain budgets.
Intelligent energy management, or “smart communities,” is not a new concept. That said, it is a fundamentally different way of thinking and managing operations to trim expenses, reduce energy waste, provide operational efficiency, boost revenue and improve the total resident experience. Smart communities employ real-time data and intelligence to allow operators to quickly identify underperforming areas for tangible outcomes and sustainable savings.
Conservative savings for a smart community range from 15% to 20% of their utility and energy consumption costs. Deploying intelligent smart building technologies effectively allows senior living operators to do more with less, which frees up capital for use in top-quality care and other areas that positively affect the overall benefits for residents and team members, such as increasing activities and adding new amenities to the facility, including physical therapy workrooms, hydrotherapy and pools, and other equipment essential to improving mobility, healing and happiness in senior life.
Resident safety, health and overall satisfaction
State-of-the-art building solutions also offer significant benefits for residents’ health, safety and satisfaction. Residents stay more comfortable through properly maintained HVAC, and lighting controls and refrigeration monitoring allow for greater medication adherence and overall food safety.
“Smart” sensors in call lights improve staff attentiveness, and with the higher risk of falls among the elderly, new technology has the potential to reduce morality through fewer fall-related injuries. Added alarms can detect falls, absence from bed or chairs (for residents with severely limited mobility) and unauthorized entry or exit. In memory care facilities, preventing residents from wandering outdoors could reduce risk of injuries and missing persons, too.
Such measures provide an added layer of security and safety for residents, providing peace of mind to their family members. As a result, overall satisfaction increases, and since reimbursements from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) depend on treatment outcomes, profitability increases in tandem.
Reduced errors and other issues
Automating systems, including lighting, HVAC, refrigeration monitoring, and alarm or alert systems for equipment and safety, reduces the risk of a potential accident resulting from facility equipment, including medical devices, and eliminates errors in reporting. If an issue does occur, documentation ensures a timely resolution, further strengthening a community’s quality of care and maintaining the safety of residents.
Lower implementation costs
Disruption of the therapeutic care environment can have a disastrous effect on mental and physical health. Today’s “smart” systems are designed for seniors housing operators to integrate with existing facilities management systems without disruption to care environments or quality of life. Using wireless technology, modern smart building technologies can be retrofitted with legacy systems, allowing facility managers to collect actionable data and continuously improve business processes. This capability enhances wellness, improves satisfaction, increases profitability and reduces the overall effect of potential disruption.
Increased property values
Simple enhancements, such as using an advanced power strip, can contribute to overall savings, reports the Department of Energy. Smart building technology amplify those savings across an entire facility, and senior living communities can achieve sustainability, profitability and a higher quality of care. This is the ultimate win-win for seniors, real estate investment trusts, community stakeholders and healthcare organizations.
Potential increased eligibility for ENERGY STAR certification
Senior living communities can now obtain Energy Star-certification through the DOE’s ENERGY STAR program. The ENERGY STAR label identifies top-performing companies committed to protecting the environment through the adoption of energy efficient products and practices. They have a heightened awareness of energy use and contribute to more responsible decision-making. In addition, becoming certified may increase marketing potential, encouraging more older adults to consider the benefits of such communities and reducing the burden of care on family members.
James Walton is the vice president of technology with Entouch, where he is responsible for supporting key sustainability initiatives and the development of smart building solutions for the company diverse customer base. Walton’s experience includes Eltek Valere, Valere Power and Bell Labs Lucent Technologies. He received his Executive MBA from the Southern Methodist University – Cox School of Business.