For more than a year, everything but saving lives became a blur as the long-term care industry focused on surviving a pandemic. When operators emerge from their COVID-19 haze, they’ll need to take a critical look at other aspects of care that may have been neglected.

Catching up on investments in pivotal areas such as IT infrastructure will entail more than just hitting a reset button.

As Carl Mickiewicz surveils the IT landscape of incomplete patches, updates and overhauls, he is concerned. The number of remote connections to internal servers and guest networks increased exponentially with each new Zoom call. Bandwidth needs exploded. 

“COVID has also caused technology supply chain delays, creating a ripple effect on delaying the mitigation of technology obsolescence at the site level,” said Mickiewicz, Prime Care Technologies’ chief operating officer.

“For facility staffers, this meant software that may have just been purchased or was due to implement became ‘non-essential’ and so any efficiencies management and administrators hoped to gain there were put on pause,” added Joe Brown, Prime Care Technologies’ vice president of cloud sales. Brown assumes many IT projects tied to security and network protection were sidelined during COVID, only amplifying existing work-from-home challenges and hacking threats like remote access to corporate data, use of personal vs. corporate devices, “and lots of videoconferencing.”

Another exposed weakness: lack of speed.

“When COVID hit, there was an urgent need for facilities to communicate patient status updates and occupancy levels in as close to real time as possible,” said Kevin Whitehurst, senior vice president of skilled nursing solutions at MatrixCare.

The White House’s $3.5 trillion American Jobs Plan, which was winding its way toward a vote at press time, would earmark billions to expand broadband access nationwide. LeadingAge’s “Blueprint for a Better Aging Infrastructure” also calls for major federal investments in the physical and technological infrastructure of aging services, yet neither plan specifically addresses sorely needed improvements in cybersecurity that would directly help long-term care.