Technology Trends in Senior Care Communities
From telehealth to medication management to virtual visits with family members, technology plays many roles in the senior care community industry. Technology is also rapidly evolving, and the systems we have in place today can quickly become outdated.
Three senior care industry experts shared their thoughts on where technology will be in a year, and what to do to prepare to use new tech in your community.
How Senior Care Communities Are Using Technology Now
Kelly O’Connor, MA, CPRS, CSA, CDP of Calhoun Legacy LLC, explains that technology has evolved somewhat slowly in the senior care industry because so many communities are focused on immediate resident care needs, rather than on implementing new technologies.
“Additionally, training dollars are spent on orientation training due to high levels of turnover and regulation compliance, leaving very little, if any, money for teaching technology skills or learning the new systems and processes that new technology brings,” says O’Connor. “The push will come from consumers who are using new technological devices at home and who will demand those same advances in senior living.”
Dr. Ari D. Kalechstein, CEO and President of the behavioral healthcare team at Executive Mental Health, explains that telehealth has had broad applications for clinical work, including managing mood disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma-related issues, personality changes, and the effects of situational changes, like bereavement, a change in residence, or a loss of social support.
Dr. Kalechstein notes that telehealth offers multiple benefits. “Current or newly admitted patients can start or continue psychological treatment with Telehealth during social distancing or medically-required isolation. As the doctors’ network is not restricted geographically, they can also access care in different languages if needed,” he explains. Telefamily care also allows residents’ families to speak with clinicians about the resident.
Lyn Lewis, senior vice president of new product development at Atria Senior Living, explains that technology starts to play a key role even before seniors become residents. “We engage a potential resident in our Customer Relationship Management system, through move-in,” she says.
“From there, technology helps us to do things like ensure resident safety (through emergency call software) and digital management, to culinary “point of sale” to ensure we are providing the best food experience, and through in-community engagement with Amazon Alexa along with interactive digital events.” Staff are also empowered by using community analytics to identify where to enhance the resident experience.
Technology Trends We’re Likely to See in the Future
Lewis predicts that big data will play a major role, giving communities actionable insights. “We will keep improving all of our resident data touch points (such as existing resident experiences, emergency call trends for residents, and care management) to predict where we can best provide care and support,” she says.
She feels that technology will be a key driver in enhancing the overall resident experience. “For instance, there will be more technology to enable virtual family and doctor visits and new software to manage the culinary function,” she says. “Technology will also help us manage our communities more efficiently, which will in turn allow more resources to apply to the resident experience. And of course, as long as COVID remains a health, concern, ever-improving technology for infection control such as contract tracing will be an extremely high priority.”
O’Connor also feels that technology will be used to improve resident safety and engagement. “Technologies for fall detection and safety systems will remain the most prevalent purchases in the market,” she predicts. She feels that cognitive learning, emotional engagement, and improved communication devices will follow closely behind in popularity.
While the pandemic led to an increased adoption of telehealth, Dr. Kalechstein believes that the technology’s use will continue long-term. “While most senior care facilities have adopted telehealth, we support it being an integral approach to their wellness programs. While it took a pandemic to make it a reality, I would say with almost 100% certainty that telehealth is here to stay – you simply cannot put that genie back in the bottle,” he says.
Tips for Enhancing Technology Use or Exploring New Tech
With technology changes imminent, O’Connor encourages communities to involve staff in their decisions to implement new technology. “Get the buy-in from the end-line users first,” she says. “No one likes when management throws something into their already stressful work lives. Consider engaging the most influential person in each shift into the decision-making process, so they can advocate on your behalf.”
Lewis suggests that communities upgrade their network and capacity immediately. “This opens the door for mobile applications, voice assistances, advanced emergency calls, streaming content, and so much more. Expectations are increasing with the newer technology-savvy senior,” she says. “Wi-Fi is becoming table stakes for new residents, and we need to invest now to maintain our competitive edge in providing an optimal resident experience.”
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