Approximately 30% of senior living and care organizations have not upgraded their network infrastructure in more than five years, according to a HealthTech Twitter poll. That could be setting providers up for failure following rapid technology adoption during the pandemic, expert say.
LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies Executive Director Majd Alwan, PhD, joined other information technology experts in offering advice on strategies and solutions to help organizations upgrade their network infrastructures.
Alwan, who also is senior vice president of technology and business strategy at LeadingAge, said that increasing numbers of older adults are using smart technology and streaming services. The pandemic also ushered in the use of emerging technologies, including companion robots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, wearables and medical devices.
Assisted living communities often include services such as nurse call solutions, personal alarms and communication capabilities, according to HealthTech.
Senior living providers that offer “robust” internet connections can gain a competitive market advantage, Alwan said. But the solution goes beyond upgrading systems from an internet service provider — providers also need to upgrade their network infrastructure.
“If you observe the users of the internet, their demand on bandwidth increases by 50% year over year, which means that this is an exponential growth in demand for bandwidth,” he told the media outlet.
Many providers, Alwan said, weren’t prepared for the explosive growth in the use of technology that came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Installing a fiber optic backbone to individual buildings and / or units would provide the necessary bandwidth for the next five to 10 years, he added.
Alwan also recommended separate networks for residents, operations and visitors and partners, to maintain cybersecurity protections.
All of this technology comes at a cost, however, he said. Federal grant funding for broadband infrastructure is available through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Alwan recommended that long-term care organizations — especially larger organizations with multiple locations — partner with the state(s) where they are located to apply for this funding.
“Internet used to be a luxury,” he said. “However, in this day and age, especially after the pandemic, I believe it has become a right, and I would encourage everyone to jump on board and make it available to their residents.”