By Mark Tomzak
The senior care sector is no stranger to being overstretched. Most facilities are challenged to make budget dollars go further, while still providing excellent care. So what happens when another traditionally overstretched group, the IT team, is saddled with too much and can’t provide the support or services that facilities and staff need? The answer: everything suffers because it’s all connected.
Just like the song Dem Bones (the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone…) your IT backbone affects everything in your facility.
IT is often looked at solely as a cost center – a department that costs the company money. But management also needs to consider IT as an enabler – a group that, when working properly, can help enhance employee engagement and satisfaction, boost productivity and provide greater overall efficiency. All of which contributes to cost savings, better care and in the end, improved resident satisfaction.
Take IT support for example. Many of our senior care facilities realize they need to devote more attention to this function. Providing after hours support is an added cost – but what are the consequences of little or no support for staff working at 10pm or 3am? Likewise, what are the consequences of overtaxing your existing IT team by having them wear pagers after hours?
Wireless infrastructure is another important element of your IT backbone. Again, many of the customers we work with know how critical solid Wi-Fi is and understand the importance of long term planning. But it doesn’t always become reality. How long ago was your facility’s infrastructure installed? Did your roadmap plan for regular Wi-Fi upgrades? Was your wireless network ever intended for use by residents?
According to the American Senior Housing Association 2017 Senior Living Technology Report, there seems to be a gap between what survey respondents think is beneficial in terms of technology vs. what is currently successful – meaning facilities and users see and understand the benefits of technology – but it’s potential is not yet fully realized yet. For example, in discussing Point of Care (PoC), approximately 90% of respondents thought digital PoC (tablets/handhelds) was very to extremely beneficial (rated 9 or 10 out of 10). While those asked to rate current success with digital PoC resulted in only about 40% as responding very or extremely successful (ratings of 9 or 10 out of 10).
Clearly there is a gap between technology potential and current reality, and there is still work to be done. I’m sure the mobile devices themselves as well as the functionality of the software platforms used on that hardware do play a part in adoption.
But from conversations I’ve had with many end users of mobile technology in senior care facilities, what’s often lacking is a combination of factors:
- lack of training,
- unreliable or insufficient Wi-Fi and
- lack of support.
All of which results in staff frustration – often leading to staff turnover.
Like the song says – everything’s connected. How well your facility does with technology adoption is very likely related to the strength of your IT backbone and all its elements.