Delivering on the promise of technology in senior living
As members of the baby boom generation move into retirement and begin to review their housing options, they will bring more advanced expectations for the senior living communities that are trying to attract them. One of these expectations is around the role of technology in their lives — from the desire to keep personal mobile devices to staying connected and secure.
Annual spending on long-term care services and supports already has reached $310 billion annually. With costs expected to continue to increase, many communities are left to wonder how they will continue to manage overhead while delivering on the solutions that next-generation seniors will need and want.
The needs and expectations of residents will continue to expand, however, and the smart use of the right technology will have to be part of the answer. Already, many of the pieces are in place to achieve this outcome.
The pace of technology change is accelerating, with all kinds of new possibilities emerging every year (what's your “wearables” strategy?). In this context, it makes sense to stay as flexible as possible. One strategy is to stick with standards-based solutions — for example those that operate on WiFi. Already, nearly 80% of senior living communities have some level of WiFi in place (from WiFi hot spots for residents to full WiFi deployments), and a wide range of solutions is available — everything from staff communication to security applications such as emergency call and wander management.
Using standards-based solutions helps a community avoid investing in proprietary technologies that can go out of date or are limited in scope. If you're not ready for that step, be sure to choose solutions that are scalable and come with a clear upgrade path so that you know you can continue to evolve your services as needs change.
Another approach is to investigate service-based models, such as SaaS (software as a service) and cloud-based solutions for things such as medical records. Again, these technologies already are well-established in senior living. They enable providers to take advantage of advanced systems without big upfront costs and the ongoing expense of in-house support. Best of all, they allow you to remain nimble in a changing landscape.
Many large senior living organizations are consolidating with a few vendors, to obtain economies of scale. Even organizations with the resources for a major information technology and network team recognize the wisdom of working with a select group of vendors that will give them the best price and focused attention.
Fortunately, organizations of any size can reap similar benefits by engaging with a group purchasing organization. GPOs use the collective buying power of their members to obtain favorable pricing of equipment and medicine supplies from manufacturers, distributors and other vendors. Providers can take advantage of lower prices, which they otherwise wouldn't have access to as individual purchasers. More importantly, they can gain access to the best technology, because the GPO already has done the hard work of sourcing the top vendors. (In this regard, it may be worth considering Prime Source GPO, the only one in the country dedicated exclusively to long-term care. Certainly, this focus is one of the reasons we chose to partner with Prime Source.)
By making the right choices and partnering with the right suppliers, senior living organizations can better position themselves with the technologies and services needed to meet the expectations of younger generations driving an evolving industry forward.
Mike Webster is senior solutions manager for long-term care and security at Stanley Healthcare.