Answers about your top 5 technology challenges

James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

I've learned after many years of covering long-term care that certain things are sure to arouse providers' anger — over regulation, under payment and reckless media accounts among them. What provokes fear is even easier to identify: technology.

Whether it has to do with electronic records, monitoring, compliance or some special gadget, most long-term care providers seem to tense up at the mention of technology.

Rather than seeing the opportunity, and thriving from it, there is usually reluctance and slow adoption of a new technology. While there may be good reasons for some of that — such as funding difficulties — in the end, it doesn't do much for the advancement of the profession, or enhancing caregiving.

That's why I was so happy and satisfied listening to Chip Burns Tuesday afternoon as he led our Super Tuesday webinar, “The top 5 technology challenges in senior living.” This was good stuff, very helpful as to what you and your peers around the country might struggle with.

Or need to struggle with, if you want to succeed in the future. The really good news was that Burns, a 40-year technology veteran, and 20-plus years dealing with long-term care providers, was providing answers.

I'm not going to give away all five major challenges he listed — the webinar is archived and still free for anyone who wants to check it out — but I will share various insights he offered. He and his team of 50-plus consultants at The Asbury Group—Integrated Technologies have just about seen it all through the years.

Some pointers:

  • Pursuit of a high-quality electronic medical record suite is a must. Vendors can differentiate themselves by investing heavily in tech support for their clients. Demand it when shopping.

  • When you adopt a new records system, make sure your legacy system data is scrubbed first. There are plenty of products that will provide checks and balances and flag errors before they go into your new system. Get one. Data accuracy is that important — in order to get reimbursed, and to stay clear of legal challenges.

  • Accountable care organizations are on the rise … and will be leaving senior care providers “at the end of the table” when it comes to getting attention. That means it's up to you, senior living provider, to request and earn a better seat. “It is incumbent upon us to approach those ACOs and hospitals and try to create pilot [programs].”

  • Resident technologies MUST get more of your attention in the future. Residents are looking for “all-in packages,” expecting to be taken care of in every way imaginable. One of their expectations will be access to technology, whether it's to communicate with loved ones or to seek information. “We're gong to be helping them with it. This is becoming more and more of a requirement.”

  • Skype, brain fitness activities, email — it all has to be on your menu of offerings, and sooner than you think. Even if don't have funding to expand services in this realm, which you probably don't.

  • Burns advocates the hiring of a full-time employee(s) to deal personally with residents' technological needs and desires. Fund “Geeks on call” through resident fee-for-service payments when they need assistance with a computer or other new technology. “It will be a hard sell initially, but it has to be introduced,” Burns said.

  • If you don't think expanding services in this area is plausible as an internal effort, he says to just remember how senior living organizations used to have outside organizations come in to offer home- and community-based services. Eventually, the organizations started to realize that the only reason they weren't capitalizing on that business was because they hadn't put any thought or effort into it.

  • Burns had plenty more to inform and encourage providers, including a ton of great tips about operational efficiencies that I haven't touched on here.

    For any tense provider, there is good news about these technology challenges, even if you feel hopelessly behind or out of step. There is plenty of opportunity to improve, and you're certainly not alone.

    Or as Burns earnestly put it, “If you have a good plan, you're ahead of the game. If not, you're not too far behind.”

    James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.

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    McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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