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    How Technology is Reshaping the Seniors Housing Landscape

    by: Nellie Day


    Technological advancements in healthcare and daily living are having a profound impact on the seniors housing industry but not without growing pains, panelists asserted at InterFace’s Seniors Housing West Conference, held Feb. 26 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles.

    On the healthcare side, providers and family members want to do what they can to keep their loved ones active and well. On the entertainment side, many seniors want the comforts of home – and Wifi is one of them.

    “I love the idea of technology in healthcare for our clients,” said Dana Wollschlager, Vice President of Senior Living consulting firm Plante Moran Living Forward headquartered in Southfield, Mich., and a speaker on the “Technology and Operations” panel.

    “I love it most importantly because we’re able to drive better outcomes for the residents we’re serving, but it does bring additional revenue and cuts costs. It results in 25 percent fewer turnover in our communities. That equates to revenue not lost. These are huge numbers as we work to drive net operating income and make these numbers work even better. This is the low-hanging fruit.”

    The technology affecting seniors includes everything from surveillance cameras and sensors mounted in individual residences to tablets that record and monitor activity and vital signs. These innovative services and products have an extremely wide reach since both senior care communities and families alike can utilize them.

    Technology also takes some of the guesswork out of senior care. While panelists noted many seniors are apt to say they “feel fine” if asked how they’re doing that day by a staff member, the data can show otherwise.

    “Clients ask us, “Tell more on any given day, which 10-12 residents should I be most concerned with out of the 200?” said Bryan Fuhr, moderator of the “Technology and Operations” panel. Fuhr is Co-Founder and Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for Healthsense, a telehealth remote monitoring firm for senior care in Minneapolis, Minn.

    Algorithms with Clout

    Introducing technology into a home or care facility may sound like a win-win, but panelists noted it is oftentimes an uphill battle for all parties involved. One reason is the price.

    “The number one barrier to implementing new technology was the perceived notion of business loss,” said Fuhr. “Our clients have pushed us pretty hard on that point over the past few years. They want to document why they’ve invested in this, how it will generate more revenue, how it will reduce operating costs, how it will keep residents longer.”

    Wollschlager is a big believer in technology as well, but cautioned the commitment to it must be strong throughout every facet of the community for these new systems and services to not only be effective, but also to turn a profit.

    “It is absolutely critical that the operators you have running your technologies are completely committed to these technologies,” she said. “They have to be driven from the very top leadership positions to the very last line staff person. If everyone from the top to the bottom isn’t engaged in this, you’ll never see those returns.”

    That’s why fellow panelist, Dan Dixon, President and CEO of senior care organization Guardian Angels Senior Services in Elk River, Minn., not only attends technology training modules in person, but also brings his staff.

    “They sit in training modules with me and say, ‘We’ve never done it this way,’” he said. “By the end, they say, ‘Oh, the new standard of care is coming.’”

    Leveraging Technology

    Dixon noted the cost to add technological services such as Healthsense to his two newest Minnesota-based projects added $150 per month to each door.

    “With that money, we paid for the investment in one year,” he said. “That doesn’t even include the service revenue enhancements coming after that. We’re excited about our ability to care for seniors in a better environment, and to receive revenue and a higher ROI. As a faith-based non-profit, we’re certainly concerned with labor costs and the workforce that’s out there. I think technology will make us more efficient and allow us to use staff more efficiently.”

    Wollschalger welcomes today’s focus on technology because it puts the attention back on the seniors, their health and their comfort.

    “Imagine beyond bricks and mortar,” she said. “Residents really don’t want to be in our facilities. They would rather be in their own homes. We still want to generate revenue back to us, so we have to figure out a way to do that.”

    Margaret Wylde, President and CEO of research and advisory firm ProMatura Group and the conference’s keynote speaker, agreed that communities don’t have to sacrifice profits for results. Wylde urged operators to take action that will provide the kind of results that lead to profits.

    “We still act like what we deliver is care – with an apartment,” she said. “That’s selling to need. If they don’t really have need, we don’t get any sales. If they do have need, it’s a hostage sale. They don’t want the product, at least how we label it,” emphasized Wylde. “If we figure out what they want, and sell to what they want, we can sell to emotion. Get them excited. It’ll be ‘I gotta have this,’ If we can sell to both want and need, we have sustainable sales.”

    So how does a community determine the wants and needs of its residents and capitalize on those wants and needs?

    “Do quality improvement surveys and look at the results. Do them before budget time. Run regression analysis, put in questions about feeling at home and appeal to their real soft side,” urged Wylde. “They survey will pinpoint exactly what you need to put your money into. Then you have a plan not for your company, but for your community.”

    About Healthsense

    Healthsense is the fastest growing provider of remote monitoring technology solutions for the senior care continuum. With our full range of health and safety monitoring systems, providers are empowered to proactively deliver the highest quality care possible through critical health information. Caregivers reduce costs, increase independence and enhance senior experiences when armed with the right information at the right time.

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