In its broad 2015 Population Health Study, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) finds that healthcare organizations of all sizes and types are beginning to employ a wide range of initiatives focused on population health management. Such initiatives include chronic disease management, wellness and preventive health, clinically integrated networks, telemedicine, even patient-centered medical homes.

Indeed, senior living operators are rapidly becoming reliant on information technology and are being transformed in the process.

As Argentum points out in its state-of-the-industry report, “Getting to 2025: A roadmap for the senior living industry,” operators must create more efficient operating environments through technology and innovation. 

“Technology empowers operators to know more about patients/residents, and more strategic personal health information about these residents, than ever before,” says Russ Hertzberg, vice president of technology solutions for Prime Care Technologies. “This enhanced resident data profile can eliminate ineffective care, reduce stay length and increase quality of care.”

Adds his colleague, Rand Johnson: “Data is the new currency of long-term care. With technology as the catalyst, efficiencies and savings can fuel the further development of affordable and accessible senior living and care services.” 

Consider how far the senior living industry already has come with information tech:

Mobility — IHS Technology predicts that sensors in wearable electronic devices will rise by a factor of seven through 2019. Companies like MatrixCare are finding ways of mining the data from those devices to populate other databases with critical health information.

Connectivity — Tablets, medical apps and mobile phones are exponentially increasing the numbers and complexity of connections between residents, caregivers and business staff. 

Even MatrixCare, a company that etched its imprint as a leading electronic health record provider, and Yardi, a property management software giant, have their own integrated platforms that allow residents two-way communication and sharing over myriad channels. At press time, Yardi released RentCafe Senior Living, a portal that allows families and residents to view their loved one’s health record as well as schedule activity participation and pay bills online, according to Fil Southerland, director of healthcare solutions for the

EHR systems — Argentum recently reported that 20% of residential care communities currently use electronic health records, and most are using them for purposes other than billing or accounting. Dave Wessinger, co-founder and chief technology officer of PointClickCare, says he believes the EHR is at the very core of providers’ insatiable quest “to build a highly valued, sustainable business.”

Monitoring and security — There seems to be no end to innovation around resident monitoring and security, says Mike MacLeod, founder and lead strategist of Status Solutions, a high-tech situational awareness solutions provider. 

“Being able to know where staff and residents are at any one time gives you the ability to potentially manage and plan and fix,” says Ari Naim, CEO of CenTrak, a real-time location services (RTLS) provider. “These are efficiencies you need in order to provide excellent care and services to those residents at your facility.” 

Naim believes one of the greatest benefits of RTLS is the ability to associate all the elements, whether it’s people or equipment. 

More and more, senior living operators “are relying on solutions that leverage data throughout the employee lifecycle so they can make better decisions while driving cost efficiencies,” says Mark Woodka, CEO of OnShift, which provides cloud-based software and proactive services to solve everyday workforce challenges. 

Challenges abound

Adds Keith Speights, president and CEO of Constant Care Technology, LLC, “The real challenge for providers in staying up to date on important technology developments is avoiding information overload. I wouldn’t overlook using your technology vendors as resources for information.”

“Senior living residents typically are cared for by a team of people, including healthcare professionals who are not staff members of the senior living community,” says Joe Weber, MatrixCare’s chief technical officer. “Technology can help save time and improve the quality of care by ensuring that all members of the care team have access to current and accurate resident information.”

At the end of the proverbial day, it’s all about taking the plunge, and not just dipping your toe, into the IT waters, experts say.

“A few big misconceptions about IT inside senior living communities are that it is optional, that it is too cumbersome or that it is too expensive,” says PointClickCare’s Wessinger. “However, health IT systems can be a bridge to creating greater care efficiencies, but only for the forward-thinking senior care providers who get on board now, before it’s too late and the ‘silver tsunami’ of aging baby boomers outpaces the ability of the next generation’s capacity to take care of them.”