A mobile app designed to communicate activities and dinner menus has turned into a roadmap to guide the retooling of a senior living operator’s care program for post-pandemic life.
Atria Senior Living is incorporating key lessons learned from COVID-19 to promote transparency around its care program through the Atria Mobile app. As did other senior living providers that pivoted during the pandemic to adapt to shelter-in-place orders and quarantine protocols, Atria turned to technology to streamline processes, connect residents and families, and keep everyone safe.
The Louisville, KY-based operator originally developed the Atria Mobile app to communicate with families about events and activities going on in its communities.
When the pandemic hit, the company leveraged that existing technology to keep residents’ family members updated on the health statuses of loved ones and provide mandated ongoing surveillance for early detection of the coronavirus.
“Initially, we implemented a daily view into being able to see Mom or Dad’s vital signs. It was a temperature-taking mechanism,” said Joanna Mansfield, senior vice president of care and life guidance. “Through that, at the height of the first wave, we were able to provide a sense of relief to family members.”
That move encouraged Atria to look at how the app tracked resident status from an infection control standpoint.
“Something as basic as a front-facing customer app forced enhancements on data-tracking to make decisions on our business to show how to handle various outbreaks in communities, how to elevate cleaning practices,” Mansfield said. The enhancement, she added, allowed nurses to focus on addressing the needs of residents. If a family member wanted to have a conversation about a resident’s status, he or she had basic information in hand before making a phone call.
Ali Sareea, Atria’s chief information officer and chief technology officer of Glennis Solutions, Atria’s senior living software business, said the whole point of the family app was to provide transparency, giving personalized communication to families about what was happening in a building week to week, how protocols changed and what was for dinner.
“It gives us a whole channel to talk directly to the family in real time, using modern technology,” he said. Atria, Sareea added, already is looking at how to expand the platform, including adding additional capabilities, including changes in condition, bill payment and activity calendars. “All those things are on our roadmap,” he said.
Mansfield said that the app was helpful in communicating the ever-changing protocols and mandates coming from local, state and government sources, including changes to visitation.
“We were sending out almost daily communications,” she said. “Reviewing the feedback, the majority of our customers like the real-time updates about what was going on with their loved one’s living situation.”
More than 8,000 users have registered and downloaded the app. Sareea said that Atria will continue monitoring active usage and will use staff, resident and family feedback to build on the app.
“For staff, it was a big time-saving thing,” Mansfield said, adding that an additional feature of scheduling family visits once communities started reopening came from staff feedback. The feature, she added, helped communities plan for staffing needs during visitation as well.
Staff members also are using the app as a digital documentation tool to assist with activities of daily living, track incident reports and administer medications. Mansfield likened it to hitting “likes” on Instagram to navigate through tasks.
“It’s really taking technology and adapting it so it’s specific to the demographics of employees,” she said, adding that at some point the company will deploy ADL information on the front-facing platform for family members.
Sareea said the app is simply a window into an ecosystem of care, billing, activity management and dining.
“The app forced us to improve all underlying base pieces as well,” he said. “If you’re going to show real-time ADL, you need to capture real time ADL. This does it electronically and efficiently.”
Mansfield and Sareea said the app was “built by users, for users,” and they are happy to share the technology with others.