What's coming in senior living technology in 2018

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Travis Palmquist
Travis Palmquist

Senior living providers always are looking to diversify their services to better meet the evolving needs of residents, partners and staff members.

From electronic health records to improving the care experience for residents and their families to strengthening staff engagement, technology plays a prominent role and can help set apart a senior living community from its competitors. By applying integrated technology, not only for engagement purposes but to deliver a higher level of service, operators are better positioned to manage the health of their business and their residents.

Our experience with more than 15,000 care providers in the senior care space has given us a strong understanding of the emerging technologies for the coming year. As we head into 2018, here are some of the top trends for providers to watch for.

Better service capture and documentation

Many senior living communities still use paper workflows to maintain their core functions and processes. Others may have information buried in multiple systems that don't talk to each other. Either approach makes it more difficult to capture and track services, especially unscheduled services.

Operators must be able to capture services not only to track current progress but also to consider ancillary offerings. As an industry that is almost all private-pay, operators need to guarantee a return on investment. Technology helps to align labor with occupancy and service needs, which will lead to more efficient revenue capture.

Staff retention and engagement

A viable business must have a strong, dedicated staff. With a 44% average staff turnover in senior living, it will be more challenging than ever to acquire and retain the million new caregivers needed by the industry over the next seven years. Competing for staff members is just as heated as competing for residents. Technology and the right work environment will help attract, retain and engage the right people.

Mobility for team members

Individuals today are accustomed to managing their lives around technology, so it only makes sense that providers allow their staff members to work the way they want to — leveraging technology and mobile devices. Being mobile means care teams can spend more time with residents, documenting as they go, instead of behind a computer logging information at the end of each shift. New apps offer information at the fingertips and are easy to learn and use, which also provides a home-like environment rather than a clinical, institutional environment with nurses' stations — something senior living communities strive to achieve. 

Enhanced care transitions

Operators are using technology to engage residents long before they move in. Senior living communities are getting ahead of the curve with in-home care programs, equipping prospective residents still living independently with technology such as iPads. These tablets come pre-loaded with software, such as medication reminders or “face-to-face” check-ins. Communities are differentiating themselves and engaging with older adults and their families in advance.

Aging in place

Operators want to offer residents quality care and services and an excellent living experience to extend their length of stay and allow them to “age in place” longer. This is a less expensive way for providers to build occupancy relative to other methods.

Technology also can help operators better manage services and care and educate and equip staff members with the right tools to care for residents. An operator that keeps residents longer also is introducing higher risk in the organization, so having the right tools that help manage this risk is essential.

Medication management

The average senior living resident takes nine medications. Multiply that number across the potentially hundreds of residents who live in a community and medication management is a massive challenge, with no room for error, for those communities that offer it.

Technology such as an electronic medication administration record, or eMAR, allows providers to integrate billing and CRM with pharmacies, labs and hospitals. Not only does this ensure that medications operators are managing residents' medications effectively; it also helps helps streamline communication outside of a community's four walls, which helps reduce risk.

The evolution of the portal for resident/caregiver engagement

An exciting assortment of creative resident engagement tools and family portals exists. Technologies are emerging that help operators focus on resident services and social activities as well as wellness.

More informed consumers/residents

Senior living operators know that prospective residents and their families tour many communities with a keen eye for expanded services and care offerings and a safer lifestyle. Technology allows providers to capture the right information for each resident, such as their likes and dislikes and the services they prefer. Having the right tools and technology to track and document preferences for each resident leads to higher-quality service, which is what consumers are demanding.

Senior living operators must stay nimble and aware of the changes in the industry. Many customers and partners — including residents and their families, staff members and hospitals — drive business decisions. As such, they are realizing that the right technology enables them to “future-proof” their communities by obtaining the right insights at the right time, helping drive better business decisions, managing staff and improving resident satisfaction and outcomes. Operators who plan for current and future needs are well-positioned to be the providers of choice for the right staff members and older adults.   

Travis Palmquist is vice president and general manager for PointClickCare's senior living division. He has more than 25 years of experience working in the long-term / post-acute care industry, having worked for a national provider of senior care and senior living services as an executive director, director of operations and regional director of business development before joining PointClickCare. He has served in executive leadership positions with established technology companies and tech start-ups.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes marketplace columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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