How Technology Can Help Operators Prepare for the ‘Silver Tsunami’

by Jeff Shaw

By Brad Frasher, Executive Vice President, Glennis Solutions

There’s no question that digital technologies will have new and increasingly important roles to play in nearly every aspect of senior living. But with the complex regulatory and safety environments in which senior living providers operate, as well as the unique combination of managing properties and resident care services, selecting and implementing the right assisted living software isn’t always straightforward.

Seniors housing operators must be thoughtful about the technologies they choose to invest in to ensure that they achieve the highest return on investment (ROI) and improve business performance on every front.

To illustrate the kinds of considerations that senior living facilities must take into account, here are just four challenges the industry will likely face as we prepare for the “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers — and how the right software can help operators overcome them.

Build resources

In a recent survey of seniors housing business leaders, 70 percent of respondents reported that they were experiencing a “very or extremely challenging” situation hiring frontline workers. Another 63 percent reported the same of finding nurses.

Technology can’t address a shortage of qualified talent — at least, not directly. But when there’s a shortage of talent, technology can help you do more with the staff you have. By digitizing the management and administrative components of common processes, employees can spend more time providing care and less time entering data.

Today’s senior living software solutions can streamline care delivery from Day 1. Before a new resident even signs the resident agreement, care providers can create 360-degree resident care profiles, complete resident care assessments and receive automatically generated resident care service plans, which include detailed task schedules down to the exact time allotment. This can help senior living operators better estimate costs and schedule staff more efficiently.

From there, a point-of-care delivery solution can take up the baton, helping staff adhere to daily task schedules, record care and note resident interactions in real time for seamless transition between caregivers — all from a mobile device. These same mobile technologies can also improve incident reporting, enabling automatic notifications to be sent directly to nurses and management so they can resolve issues quickly.

As these examples show, technology has an important role to play in addressing the care talent shortage in the senior living industry by helping providers leverage existing resources more efficiently.

Fight increased competition

Between now and 2030, the U.S. assisted living facility market size is expected to grow at a rate of 5.5 perent each year as the country’s “Silver Tsunami” crests. Investment in the seniors housing industry continues to grow, as does the number of operators. What that means is that setting yourself apart from the competition will become increasingly important in coming years.

Senior living software can help distinguish your community from the sea of options by driving quality of care. A quality-management solution streamlines the audit process, reducing manual work while improving accuracy and coverage to ensure you’re not only meeting regulatory standards, but your own higher brand standards. In our current culture of “review everything all the time,” operators can’t afford to have residents who experience anything less than excellence.

To offer a superior resident experience, you’re also going to need superior performance from staff. Technology can drive effective performance management at assisted living facilities by automatically gathering and reporting on key data relating to operations, financial performance, and resident care and service.

Performance audits are most insightful when leadership can easily review, compare and combine data from across these functional areas, which is why it’s so important for senior living operators to use an integrated platform that reads and writes to a single database. This approach ensures that operators have access to clean, consistent data.

In addition to being the basis for retaining residents, quality drives word-of-mouth for your community. But to uniquely market your community against the competition, marketing technology is critical.

Seniors housing marketing technology can help sales and marketing teams manage leads, precisely control marketing spend and engage with large numbers of potential residents at all points in the marketing funnel. A solution designed expressly for senior living is especially important here as the technology needs to account for industry-specific activities like guided tours, gathering sensitive medical information and moving residents into their new homes.

Additionally, for seniors housing operators with a portfolio of properties, a customer relationship management (CRM) software designed for senior living can also help match residents with the perfect property by comparing data points like interests, former occupations and hobbies, then pairing them with residents they’re likely to forge connections with. As anyone who’s spent time around senior living communities knows, social dynamics are extremely important. The strength of a resident’s connections is a major driver of their satisfaction with the community.

At the end of the day, it’s every senior living operator’s responsibility to provide a fulfilling overall living experience where every resident feels a sense of community and engagement. A resident experience tool is an indispensable component of your technology stack. By helping operators keep residents informed on community happenings and serving as a forum in which to organize social gatherings, resident experience tools can help drive that full sense of community and engagement that residents deserve.

Medicaid and reimbursement

Managing specialized payer programs is no one’s favorite part of operating a seniors housing facility. But reimbursements from Medicaid are becoming a larger part of the business. With the right assisted living software, the process can become immensely easier, giving you more capacity to deliver services and improve your community.

Medicaid reimbursement software for senior living facilities is a win-win for residents and billing professionals alike. The software automatically updates resident billing information based on changes to care services, and auto-calculates daily Medicaid reimbursement amounts.

Billing teams can easily generate up-to-date, real-time reports with accounts receivable in a single place. The best software can even track Medicaid and private-pay payments separately, so residents are shown a bill that clearly shows their payment responsibility. By not only saving billing teams time on paperwork, but also reducing errors and gaps in billing, this kind of system can be hugely beneficial for operators.

Data privacy and security

Many seniors housing operators still rely on pen-and-paper and Excel spreadsheets to provide care, manage residents’ finances and more. These legacy processes do not provide adequate information security for any modern business, but are particularly ill-suited for assisted living facilities, which deal frequently with highly sensitive resident medical and financial data.

A senior living management software solution, which is designed with the data security needs in mind, keeps resident data secure and helps ensure that health data is always up to date, which is critical for continuity of care.

Similarly, there are many kinds of technologies designed for multifamily housing that forward-thinking seniors housing operators might want to take advantage of. But while multifamily and seniors housing share some superficial similarities, as we know, seniors housing is a fundamentally different beast.

Assisted living facilities, unlike multifamily communities, directly provide care to residents. And doing so means they’re subject to HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Technologies designed for the multifamily industry typically do not offer HIPAA compliance features because their target customers don’t have to worry about it. The upshot is that assisted living operators who want to make use of property management technologies, especially for purposes relating to providing care to residents, must pay particular attention to how resident health information will be secured when evaluating technologies to add to their stack.

The easiest way to do this, of course, is to choose a tech vendor for all their seniors housing-specific needs that by design offers the right checks and balances to prevent data breaches and missed information related to private medical information.

But no matter the approach you take, as a seniors housing operator you must ensure that as you work to improve your technology stack, your systems do not lead to improper access, storage or use of sensitive health information.

Brad Frasher is the executive vice president of Glennis Solutions, a software solution  offering a fully integrated platform designed in conjunction with a senior living provider. He has over 20 years of experience in seniors housing, managing teams and functions that include operating budgets, procurement, workforce management, acquisition and development underwriting, revenue management and data science.

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