Outdated security

Senior living is awash in new technology. No wonder so many owner-operators are equally dazzled and dismayed by a wave of impressive innovations with big price tags.

Most vendors and their designers and engineers wish the adoption rate for resident security technology would accelerate. Laura Wasson, director of healthcare for Tech Electronics, for example, notes how “perceived high costs” are squeezing the flow of now plentiful — even disruptive — technologies today.

But there are a few things they simply cannot afford to skimp on, and resident security tech is one. New products and services are making it easier than ever to keep residents safe — while also making many existing options obsolete.

Yet with all the competitive, financial, legal and regulatory pressures to keep communities safe, residents aren’t the only things aging in place. Even well-established, stalwart tech is in need of serious facelifts in many senior living communities. Like everything, it’s a juggling act. Acquisition cost may be the biggest hurdle, made even more dicey to navigate by the political chaos in Washington. As Brad Hyder, marketing director for TekTone Sound & Signal Manufacturing, observes, “Changes to the healthcare structure are leading to a level of uncertainty. With drastic changes to the market over the last few years and uncertainty for the future, a lot of facilities are hesitant to make any big changes.”

Just a few years back, few owner- operators knew little of things such as real-time location services or predictive analytics. Yet these and other emerging technologies are transforming and expanding the capabilities of resident security in long-term care. Legacy technologies like Wi-Fi, along with an explosion of mobile smartphone applications and electronic health records are making it more possible than ever to integrate resident security into the larger realm of resident care and quality.

“Resident security technology is increasing as we see operators looking for advanced ways to provide a safe environment converge with manufacturers’ growing interest in the senior living marketplace,” observes James Jansen, product manager for Direct Supply. “Technology that was traditionally only within reach for hospitals, education and government is becoming realistic for the senior living space.

Hyder believes resident security is in a period of rapid growth. “With more companies developing time to R&D, new technologies are altering the canvas for resident security standards across the globe,” he says. In addition, he sees newer medical technologies and an increased need for wireless networks pushing the desire for more facilities to want integration and interconnectedness across all platforms.

Only recently has the awareness of new resident security tech been this palpable.

“Resident security technology is evolving. It was stagnant for the last 10 years, but over the past five years, new technologies, feature functionalities and integrations have been developed,” Wasson says. Around the corner: a major impetus thanks to healthcare reform. Wasson contends those efforts are driving change.

“I believe that accountable care organizations and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services initiatives may force communities to adopt these new technologies,” she adds. “It will be hard for the communities that do not adopt new technology to stay competitive.”

To understand how CMS now is driving interest, look no further than changes in long-entrenched systems, according to Tim Fischer, vice president of sales at RF Technologies. “The CMS guidelines requiring Quality Assurance Performance Improvement plans by the end of this year are spurring a lot of activity in nurse call systems,” he says.

Few evolving technologies are changing and improving resident security more than sensors, which play key roles in everything from resident fall management to elopement, as Maayan Wenderow, director of marketing for EarlySense, notes.

“I do see an increasing trend to make investments in technology and market it to all stakeholders,” she says. “From what I see, skilled nursing facilities are in the process of adopting technology and innovative sensor technologies to increase residents’ safety and stay current with CMS trends such as the Five-Star rating, [as well as] pressure from referring hospitals and family members concerned about their loved ones.”

Tech adoption drivers

Several factors are driving resident security tech adoption.

Particularly with non-skilled senior living, competitive pressures to have the latest innovations are peaking. Says Fischer: “A lot of communities are implementing new systems so they can be more competitive in their local markets.” That competition also is coming from employees, more and more of whom are immersed in mobile tech. As Fischer explains, an increasingly number of facilities are replacing pagers with smartphones and call-system apps.

“In today’s environment, two must-haves are mobility and reporting,” Wasson adds. “Mobility solutions allow for a quicker response to a resident’s call and enhance communication between staff for assistance.” Myriad mobile apps now greatly enhance areas such as resident wander management, HVAC, resident entertainment, fire alarm, and fall technology, she adds.

And the ubiquity of Wi-Fi now makes wireless security essential.

“UL 2560-listed wireless emergency call system solutions in assisted and independent living settings offer reliability and durability, plus ease of installation, flexibility and scalability,” says Todd Stanley, senior product manager at Inovonics. They also greatly facilitate faster response times.

The pace of new products flooding the market almost demands frequent upgrades, as Jeff Moore, U.S. director of senior living for Philips’ Home Monitoring division observes. “Technology is constantly evolving everywhere we look in healthcare,” he says.