Seniors housing technology has long been focused on health and safety — keeping residents safe from falls, managing medicines and addressing health changes that require a doctor’s oversight. But the future of seniors housing may lie more in the direction of holistic wellness — personalized nutrition, evidence-based decision-making for increasing or decreasing medical interventions and better resident experiences.
Over the next decade, data will be the driving force for communities that embrace wellness goals, according to Derek Ross, CEO, Aging and Caregiving at Philips. “There is a huge opportunity to collect and analyze data within seniors housing communities,” he says.
All this data can be downright overwhelming for community staff who must juggle these tools: “We’ve seen too many of our competitors try to solve one problem only to create another with information overload.” Ross explains that systems built to be as visual and intuitive as possible can help avoid the pitfalls of overly complicated systems.
The data collection process can lead to more personalized fitness and nutrition programs, better communication with residents’ families, improved staff efficiency and overall better health outcomes for residents.
In the meantime, some communities are working to pair the wellness approach with data. Take, for example, Kemper House Worthington, an Alzheimer’s and dementia care community in Ohio that practices a holistic wellness approach. Residents eat farm-to-table whole foods without preservatives, additives or ultra-processed ingredients. Doctors at the community strive to reduce patients’ use of unnecessary medications, and residents take part in a twice-a-week physical therapy/occupational therapy restorative fitness program.
The community also offers light therapy, music therapy and Companion Pets (animatronic cats and dogs that are touch and voice reactive). Resident wellbeing is monitored in part with regular memory screening and cognitive assessments.
“I know our program works anecdotally,” says Greg Cini, president and co-owner of Kemper House Central Ohio. “I need the data to support it. I have to be able to validate our results to say that we can slow and perhaps, in some cases, even reverse dementia symptoms. Using technology, I can track our results and we’ll be able to prove the effect.”
As Cini tries to tie the data points together, he is cognizant that he needs to aggregate the information without creating a burden for staff.
Kemper House has taken the first step in aggregating rich resident data. Cini’s staff uses Philips Cares for Senior Living, a cloud-based resident safety and community management system featuring wearable/trackable devices for both residents and staff. The system features real-time location, wander management, fall detection alerts and advanced analytics, which provide actionable insights.
Real-time location systems (RTLS) are stepping stones to valuable resident data and wellness analytics and programs. Many wellness, safety and business decisions can be tied to data from RTLS already in use at many communities, Ross says. For example, when using a cloud-based, advanced resident safety system that uses RTLS:
- Step counts can reveal low mobility scores, indicating a need for exercise programs and other interventions.
- Proximity data can indicate possible social isolation concerns and help with contact tracing/infection control.
- Movement data show active and engaged residents — and can offer details to be shared with families via a Family Wellness Portal, which reduces the need for staff to answer questions from family members.
- Staff movement can pinpoint inefficiencies related to time spent with residents and time to respond to issues.
- Keep in/keep out boundaries help to control wandering and limit resident interactions during a viral outbreak.
- Bread crumbing today is valuable for liability and complaint management, but also as a trove of data that can be translated into social isolation scoring and interventions.
Cini is also looking at the value of data from other technology used at Kemper House Worthington, including cognitive assessments administered using Cognivue and physical fitness as tracked via gym equipment.
And that’s where things get overwhelming — or interesting.
Managing data from multiple disconnected systems wastes staff resources and slows decision-making processes. But what if all the data can be aggregated into one system?
Philips wants to fill the gaps in this area with third-party integrations. Philips Cares for Senior Living is a SaaS (software as a service) platform at the beginning phase of integrating data for seniors communities, Ross says. “RTLS is step one of many steps to come. We’re focusing on how we can integrate programs with data — nutrition, motion, medical, social — to create healthier communities.”
Ross explains that Philips’ suite of tools is designed to help primary caregivers understand when interventions are necessary: these programs allow operators to track activity to improve the wellbeing of individuals and integrate data with electronic health records.
“Curating resident interaction data for the family helps reduce incoming calls for caregivers and is a great selling point, but it can also be used to extend the community’s reach and dramatically improve wellness.”
“There is also an opportunity with digitization to improve staff workflow,” says Ross. “What information do owners need to decide how to invest and deploy workers? What does a first-class workflow look like? This would mean the professionals in seniors housing have more time and energy for patient interaction, making the professionals’ jobs more enjoyable, driving retention and referrals.”
As Ross notes, analytics shared across companies with multiple locations could lead to exponential benefits. Comparing health outcomes leads to better decisions. Comparing staff workflow could lead to franchise-wide efficiencies that allow staff to spend more time with residents.
“We’re already able to generate care analytics based on proximity data and we are working to extend that so organizations can benchmark their communities and derive best practices,” adds Ross.
Ross and Cini agree: the future of the industry and differentiation is rooted in the use of cloud-based technology that can capture and process large amounts of resident data and analytics. Leaders in the industry will be able to prove their residents enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing.
As the technology itself improves, the greatest challenge to its implementation will be the hesitancy to move toward greater transparency. Cini explains, “The technology also captures your errors. Some communities are concerned about liability and hesitant to share data with residents’ families.” He believes it is increasingly important to work with customers to adapt what and how much is shared. Ross further explains that companies will have to share the data that families expect in an increasingly digitized world if they want to be competitive.
Ross notes that Philips Cares for Senior Living is a cloud-based platform, meaning that seniors housing communities can expand their use of the platform and analyze more data points as the technology itself evolves and third-party integrations are rolled out in the future. Cloud-based services will soon be essential to the senior living industry — as these avenues for capturing and employing data have become essential to every other industry hoping to compete in a rapidly digitizing world. The real work is establishing pathways to make use of this information in way that makes sense long term for residents, staff and loved ones.