By Jason Oliva
The past year has seen an increasing willingness among senior living providers to embrace various forms of technology to drive operational efficiencies and enhance the lives of residents.
Electronic Health Records
Whether providers have adopted electronic health records (EHRs) in efforts to share accountability and streamline information sharing in an evolving healthcare landscape, or have launched digital social platforms to foster resident engagement, technology has deepened its roots within the foundation of senior living communities in 2013.
“There’s a movement toward technology in senior living,” says Asif Khan, founder and CEO of Caremerge, a healthcare tech company that provides a communication and care coordination solution for senior living communities, including Illinois providers BMA Management and Alden Gardens of Bloomingdale. “In the past, providers were challenged with adopting technology because of lower margins, but now they’re realizing that technology can bring efficiencies while also helping to reduce costs.”
Chicago-based Caremerge uses a mobile technology to connect senior living providers, physicians, nurses and residents’ families to facilitate timely decision making when it comes to resident care coordination.
Senior living organizations enlist the services of Caremerge to revamp their old EHRs, replacing them with what Khan calls “next generation EHRs” emphasizing shared accountability between senior living providers and clinical staff—a key characteristic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), especially as it relates to the efforts of senior living providers to keep residents out of the hospital.
“A lot of EHRs had to be reimbursed in the past, but with the ACA, things are going to look different. There’s going to be shared accountability and shared risk,” says Khan. “EHRs of the past were not equipped to adapt to the changing needs of the industry.”
The evolution of EHRs has a lot to do with Accountable Care Organizations from a regulations perspective, Khan says, where senior living providers are realizing that certain technologies will require them to look at their needs and find the right partner to help them solve their problems.
Clinical technologies, such as EHRs, are only one facet of the senior living tech industry. While senior living providers see the need to implement clinical tech to better position themselves in a shifting healthcare environment, others have leaned toward resident-facing technologies to improve social engagement within their communities and also enhance communication between residents and operators.
This year, national senior living providers including Emeritus Senior Living and Erickson Living launched proprietary mobile apps to keep residents connected with family, friends and tuned in to community happenings.
In September, Emeritus rolled out its “My Emeritus” app to eight communities in the Midwest, with plans to launch across the nation after the initial pilot is complete.
The app, which can be accessed via wi-fi-enabled tablets and computers, enables residents to connect with family and friends as well as other Emeritus residents through email, video chat and photo sharing. Residents can also RSVP to certain community events and activities, access dining menus, play games and choose from a library of more than 10,000 classic films.
Though still only in the pilot phase, “My Emeritus” has already experienced an adoption rate of more than 85% among residents using the app within the select Emeritus communities.
Noticing a trend of more residents moving into senior living communities with their own mobile devices, Erickson Living embarked on designing its own community-wide app with an eye toward boosting resident connectivity inside and outside of the community campus.
Erickson’s Digital Resident platform allows residents to use the Internet to access various community information, such as local resident directors, staff information, activities, transportation and see what’s on the dining menu for any meal of the day.
“For residents, now the expectation is that they’re going to be connected when coming to a community,” says Dan Dunne, director of communications and corporate affairs at Erickson Living. “Residents not only want the tools to be connected, but also a digital platform that lets them enjoy a lifestyle that’s unique to the services and programs provided in the community.”
Remote Sensor Technology
Residents are also looking for peace of mind when moving into a senior living community, something technology such as remote sensor systems can help to provide, says Bryce Porter, senior living manager at Care Innovations.
“Lifestyle has been primarily the driving factor for seniors to move into a community, but over the last two to three years, that driving force has taken a close second to peace of mind,” Porter says. “Because residents are moving into senior living at an older age than before, they want to know that they will be taken care of, that their needs will be met.”
Care Innovations’ QuietCare solution aims to provide residents and their families with that peace of mind through remote sensor technology that empowers senior living organizations with real-time data on the status condition of their residents.
QuietCare uses smart sensor technology that learns the daily activity patterns of individual residents and notifies senior living staff or personal caregivers of any deviations that could signify emerging health issues.
Using four to six remote sensors, the technology tracks a resident’s motion within his or her own room. Within one to two weeks’ time, the QuietCare system learns residents’ behavioral patterns, such as when they wake up in the morning, bathroom habits or frequency, medication management, as well as nighttime motions.
“As a senior’s needs change, the system can identify areas of such change to indicate to staff that something significant is going on,” says Porter. “Instead of waiting for accidents to occur, QuietCare recognizes the trends that lead these reactions to occur.”
As more prospective residents are moving into senior living with greater expectations of the services they will receive, technology can help provide the comfort that residents and their families are looking for when making the decision to move.
“There’s certainly an appetite and an emerging interest for innovative and new technologies in senior living,” Porter says. “Organizations are looking for solutions on how to provide the services and the level of care residents need, while also being financially sustainable.”
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