How Senior Care Facilities Can Safely Welcome Visitors Back


Bob Gatta, CEO, Data Display Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic forced senior care facilities to alter or even stop visitation for the safety of their staff, residents, and visitors. As these facilities start to welcome visitors back, they face multiple challenges. Facilities not only need to ensure building security, gather visitor information, monitor visitor access, and more, but they also need to meet COVID-19 screening and tracking requirements. Technology can help them to accomplish all of those goals.

Common Challenges in Welcoming Visitors

Prior to the pandemic, senior care facilities faced many challenges in welcoming visitors that still exist today. Bob Gatta, CEO of Data Display Systems, explains that controlling all of the access points to a facility is an important, but complicated priority. Without that control, facilities aren’t able to fully control who enters the building, and when. Restricting not only visitor, but also resident or even staff access to different areas of the building can also be a challenge, unless a facility uses a badge system.

Additionally, facilities need to track visitor entries, where those visitors travel in the facility, and who the visitors see. Facilities also need to gather visitor contact information. Those elements amount to significant work for receptionists, especially during busy visitation times. Manually kept records are prone to errors and aren’t ideal in the case of an audit.

But the pandemic added an extra layer of complexity. Now, facilities need to screen visitors, staff, contractors, and anyone else entering the buildings. Screenings often include temperature checks or certain questions, and facilities need to be able to prove their screenings are compliant with local and state requirements. That gets complicated for businesses with facilities across multiple states, each with its own compliance regulations. Facilities also need to track visitor access throughout the building, and if COVID-19 is later diagnosed, they need to have detailed records for contact tracing.

Strategies for Welcoming Visitors Safely

Gatta explains that most visitor access tracking has previously been done manually, but embracing technology makes access tracking and COVID-19 tracking easier and more efficient. When facilities use a visitor management system, they’re creating data about exactly when and where visitors accessed the buildings.

“If my facility is going to be audited, I want to be able to give them the set policies we’ve been following, with that documentation,” says Gatta. “Someone can look at the electronic data from six months ago, rather than sorting through manual logs.” Laurie Lefever, Senior Brand Manager at PDC, adds that when a facility uses the right technology, it can establish audit trails for COVID-19, infectious diseases, contact tracing, and more.

Technology also serves to streamline the visitor check-in process. Not only does a digital check-in eliminate another touchpoint where diseases could be spread through contact surfaces like pens, countertops, and clipboards, but it’s a much faster process that doesn’t require a receptionist’s dedicated supervision. This advantage is particularly important given the staffing challenges that the senior care industry currently faces. These types of technologies can help to reduce the workload on present staff while still allowing for a streamlined check-in process, even during peak visitor times.

One such system is PremiSys Access Control by PDC, an integrated security platform that combines access control with other security components like video management, photo identification, biometrics, and wireless locks. PremiSys is a single platform that allows facilities to manage access control for perimeter doors, shared spaces, and resident doors. PremiSys integrates with LobbyTECH by Data Display Systems, and together, the systems give senior care facilities precise control over not only visitors, but also staff and residents access to the buildings.

Lefever explains that access control systems generally allow for access that’s based on set data that is programmed into the system. For example, a staff member might be allowed to use their access card during a predetermined time period, on certain doors, and on certain days. “With this technology integration, you have an additional layer of protection,” she says. “LobbyTECH performs screening, vaccination questions, and temperature scanning.” The employee must successfully pass the screening before PremiSys enables their normal access rights. If they don’t pass the screening, the facility door won’t unlock. The result is a much more thorough and customizable experience that helps to determine who can safely enter the building.

And if a visitor has an unusually high or low temperature or their answer to a screening question triggers an alert, the staff member monitoring the system receives precise information about why that alert was triggered. Gatta explains that with that information, the staff person can approach the visitor in a non-confrontational way to gain additional information and calmly address the issue.

The system’s ability to verify vaccination status includes the capability to track vaccinations by brand, policy, and state. It can alert visitors and staff that they will be due for a booster within the month in order to stay compliant with the facility’s policies. “It takes it out of the facility’s administrator’s hands,” explains Gatta.

Access control systems also add an extra layer of security to memory care units, notes Lefever. With PremiSys, facilities often use a card reader and keypad combination. “Employees use their badge in the card reader where they badge in and out, and family members use a keypad to gain entrance,” she says. “This not only secures the area and restricts access to authorized individuals, but it also frees up staff who would otherwise need to be available to allow access to the family members.”

Using technology also means that a facility is better prepared in the event of an emergency. Derrick Bellanca, Technology Service Manager at PDC, notes that during an emergency like a fire, tornado, or hurricane, staff can use the system to determine exactly who is in the building, as well as who is outside. Automatic alerts for fires, flooding, intruders, and emergencies mean that staff can push a button, and details about what to do and where to meet during an evacuation are sent to staff by text, email, or text in email.

The Benefits of Using Technology for Visitation

Investing in technology like PremiSys and LobbyTECH offers the practical benefits of improved contact tracing and audit trails, while also streamlining processes for staff. But it also offers a benefit that may be even more valuable: Confidence.

Jeff Porter, CTO of Data Display, explains that the system ensures consistency when it comes to screening building entrants and keeping the building secure. “People want to know that they are treated fairly when it comes to safety,” he explains. “With this system, all of the employees and visitors are going through the same guidelines. It gives you that sense of reassurance that there are policies in place.” With such technology, residents, staff, and visitors all have the confidence that the facility is vigilant in protecting them.

To learn more about PremiSys and LobbyTECH, contact PDC at 855-367-4721 or request additional information online.

Topics: Administration , Facility management , Featured Articles , General Technology , Infection control , Information Technology , Policy , Senior Environments , Staffing , Technology & IT