In coming years, one of the most complicated business drivers for senior housing executives to address will be information technology. This has been a slow-adopter industry—perhaps with good reason. Providers focus on people, with technology often taking a back seat to the pressures of providing daily care.
The point of IT investing in the coming years will be to shift the focus from short-term gains to more synchronized long-term efforts, thus better positioning the organization for the future. Some of the paybacks of investing in IT infrastructure include:
• A sound IT infrastructure that can drive efficiencies throughout an organization
• A deliberately designed IT infrastructure that can safeguard the organization against future IT changes, thus ensuring the system will be able to adapt as needed
• A thoughtful infrastructure that makes it possible for a business to benefit from IT-enabled business values
In fact, a sound technology infrastructure can be among the foremost avenues for delivering care. Though it’s true that individual employees will always be at the front lines of care delivery, technology can do much to support their efforts—to make it easier and more efficient for caregivers to carry the ball.
And yet, many senior housing operators neglect this crucial component. According to a survey conducted by Healthsense and Senior Housing News of 670 older adult living professionals, only 40 percent of respondents said their organization has a dedicated information officer who is tasked specifically with implementing technology. That means 60 percent of senior housing organizations don’t have anyone heading up IT.
That trend may be turning. The global market for eldercare technology products should reach nearly $7.2 billion by 2018, according to a research report from BCC Research. Senior housing is expected to drive much of that investing, with operators eager to glean competitive advantages in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
It is time for senior living communities to take concrete steps to understand their position and chart a course to develop an IT infrastructure that will last over time:
Before investing in new technologies, take the time to review established operations and consider where technology might be of greatest help—whether that is in staff retention, resident satisfaction, or some other area.
Build a Budget
Technology costs can vary considerably depending on the need and the solution. As with any other aspect of business, it makes most sense to set a budget and work from there, rather than pricing out services and seeing “how much you can afford.”
Most housing operations will have at least some IT already in play, whether it involves something as simple as resident Wi-Fi or as complex as a high-end intranet. Either way, seeing how much you can leverage from existing systems makes sense before moving forward with further investments.
Consider Your Whole Infrastructure
When changing or upgrading technology, it is important to consider the infrastructure as a whole. Changing one part of your environment may affect other aspects as well. For example, when upgrading your Electronic Health Records, you may also need to consider both increasing your Internet bandwidth and upgrading your data storage environment to support the new operations. Would your organization’s needs be better suited to on-premise or cloud-based data management?
In carrying out all these tasks, engaging the services of an experienced IT consultant may be a sound investment—someone who can analyze the need, identify likely solutions, and carry you through the actual implementation. Some IT consulting companies may even help to provide these services in the form of a technology “concierge,” the company’s own representative (often stationed on site) who will provide daily IT support to residents as well as employee training and education
Of course, there’s a temptation to go it alone. Product vendors will make implementation sound easy, and sometimes it is, but the long-term upkeep of a system may be another matter. Help is needed, and yet not all IT consultants are the same. Candidates must be vetted by experience and reputation. Overall, the services of a well-traveled guide in this complex landscape can be a major advantage in pursuing a long-term investment meant ultimately to cut operating costs and drive retention.
Developing a sound IT infrastructure is both imperative and complex. Engaging the services of an expert who can advise and implement is not only important, but also potentially profitable.
What steps have you taken to prepare your IT infrastructure for the future?