Technology can help people stay at home longer.
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When will families demand technology in senior care?
Wireless networks – they matter in home care and assisted living. Adult children are letting home care and assisted living organizations off the technology hook, whether it is support for high speed Internet access, wireless networks, training staff on how to support social networking with long-distance family, or whatever. How do I know this? Let me count the ways. My own surveys – Future of Home Care Technology 2012, publicly available material surveying CFOs about tech investments (by Leading Age), conversations at MassALFA and finally with tech companies trying to sell technology to the senior housing industry.
Why blame adult children? Because too often they cheerfully confirm what providers believe – my mother (or father) doesn’t want anything to do with a computer or technology – “I’ve lived my whole life without any of this nonsense, why start now?” I even hear this repeated by tech vendors talking about their own parents! So there it is, the great excuse. The greatest generation doesn’t give a you-know-what for either technology access or proficiency, so why should (fill in the blank) bother with training in-house staff or home caregivers? Why spend time training residents to use an iPad, refitting out-of-date infrastructure, adding or properly placing wireless access points for families who visit to share videos and pictures with residents?
Providers will not accelerate without outside pressure. When the external heat is on, note the long-term care provider recent interest in investing in EMR software, for example. Why, just two years ago, they were quite unconvinced. Oops, in order to share access to a recently discharged patient’s electronic records, perhaps long-term care providers also need EMR software. And just as the readmission penalty has awakened hospitals, external pressure will make it so. Consider how competitive pressure forced the assisted living industry to invest heavily in upscale decorating, furnishings, common areas, and skilled chefs. Families look approvingly on this superficial list of amenities and select the just-right right mix of appeal and price, providing a dining room for once-a-year family gatherings. But they do not expect and do not ask for tech support for more frequent online gatherings.
One day soon families will make a fuss from the very beginning. During the sales pitch, they will expect to screen home care workers by video, check-in regularly with them in the home through the agency’s provided caregiver tablets, chat online with their long-distance parents in independent, small, or grandiose assisted living communities – even when they are back in their own rooms. So what day is that? The industry is counting on the fact that it is not soon. They believe that adult children will continue to have no expectations of technology and to expect nothing in the way of knowledge or skill, let alone resident or caregiver training. They believe that no time soon will tech requirements become standard practice and customer expectation. Ah, but be careful. The long-term care industry (along with doctors and hospitals) thought the EMR requirement was out there, way out there, in the future. So when does waiting for external pressure make you a just a day late and a dollar short? What if that first day of expectation is sooner than you think?