Photo credit: Tori Soper

Implementing a wide variety of innovative technology and data tools is vital to the long-term care sector’s future success. A panel of top sector leaders agreed that currently isn’t being done enough — and delays in doing so could prove extremely costly.

“What else can we do?” asked Cathy Williams (pictured), an independent facility operator and president of the Arizona Health Care Association Foundation. 

Her answer? Gather better data. 

“How can we identify situations with our residents, how can we [practice] preventative medicine?” she asked during a McKnight’s VIP Executive Conversation last week in Chicago

Technology stemming from artificial intelligence will be one solution at the forefront of gathering that data in the coming years, stressed Roberto Muñiz, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Parker Health Group and board chair of LeadingAge. He sees AI becoming vital to helping residents avoid expensive ER visits and hospital stays.

Others shared Muñiz’s emphasis on predictive data to drive better health outcomes.

Looking for “not just data but actionable data,” is critical, said panelist Savy Sabino, a senior vice president at IT company Sentrics. “Technology that has integrations to … not only identify your top caregivers and improve their efficiency… but also to identify that something is happening in the resident’s life.”

With the use of this actionable data, providers can identify social determinants of health and recognize a resident is declining or in danger of declining before the signs become obvious, he explained. That “pre-clinical” data will be critical to better and less expensive health outcomes.

Immediate alternatives

Data and AI are needed as a “productivity accelerator”, but sometimes more tangible technologies can be just as useful, according to Andy Carle, adjunct faculty and lead instructor at Georgetown University’s administrator training program.

“If we can make one nurse aide in the future as productive as three today with technology, that’s the technology we need,” Carle explained. “But we’ve got to be very intentional about the technology. So we need data, yes — but we need robotics. Anything that reduces steps… anything that reduces injuries. We don’t need a little robot that goes around the lobby telling jokes to residents, we need a robot that can lift. Because the number one cause of worker’s comp in our industry is back injuries. We know this — people lose the careers that they love because they hurt their back.”

Beyond the day-to-day process of caregiving, providers also need to collect and understand data about Medicare Advantage, according to Deke Cateau, CEO at Atlanta-based provider AG Rhodes.

“The other thing I would hit on is our payors,” he said. “They are increasingly in charge — Medicare Advantage, you name them. And I think the more we understand them, the more we understand the data… This industry… we are not really good at data collection and scrubbing the data. Because that’s not what we do — we care for people.”