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Tech for boomers and seniors -- price right, partner often

Pricing matters -- and for senior-housing sales, it's unrealistic.  Looking forward today to the Boomer Venture Summit event here in California, where the sun is shining and the San Jose airport is filled with signs of tech this, enterprise that. But I have also heard this week about stalled deployments of tech projects in the non-profit senior housing sector due to low occupancy, confirmed in this May 28 investor report. Other barriers were cited -- lack of budgeted funds, lack of staff to drive projects. And I also heard about lack of demand yesterday in tech that could improve the quality of resident life. The tech was great; the price (an additional $100/month per user) was not.

Oh, and there's that pesky infrastructure, first.  I have also heard vendor complaints about the long sales cycle to get a decision, the need to defer to CIOs, the need for infrastructure (like high speed Internet and wireless, for example) before the project can proceed. Meanwhile, senior housing management may not understand or buy in to the process changes required in a broad deployment, especially when it comes to alerting technologies. Who gets the alert? All alerts or exceptions? Required to read reports? How often? How does this relate to risk avoidance? Or does it (as some have said) add to risk -- i.e. if you know something about a resident and don't respond, is your liability worse than if you didn't know?  Answer -- not worse.

Sell into senior housing with an eye to long payback cycle. But given the complexity above, vendors need to know how to overcome these barriers and price to tolerance and budget.  Consider small pilots with advocates who understand process change and commit, offered at low subscription pricing for the first year, ideally buried in monthly costs for new residents who need the service level implied, free base units, partner projects to bring in infrastructure at discounts.  Forced upgrade pricing for all risks negative reaction and backlash as with QuietCare.

So consumer direct sales must be easier. Well, now is where things get tricky -- clearly at one product at a time, price tolerance has been established by PERS vendors like Philips -- $39-59 per month -- REGARDLESS of what the product does, whether it is mobile or not, whether it doubles as a phone, or whatever. So recognizing the long payback cycle to be visible enough to acquire and retain customers, offering family member benefits and/or packaging devices together with other vendors to fit pricing into the above price band makes sense to me.  So vendors will say, but that's a money-losing proposition! Yes, this is true. In the first few years of any of these companies -- that should be the expectation. I am happy for you to prove me wrong.

The untapped -- home care agency and GCM resale to consumers. This may be partnerships matter most: packaging of solutions that include care recipient and family benefits (Ankota), smoothing the discharge process from rehab, incorporating communication from-to care providers to family members. Product vendors should partner (or seek referral agent roles) with health professionals to incorporate biometric device limited use and data transmission, placing the tool or device into its wellness context. Again, product vendors must have a well-defined process of where a tech fits, who does what with it, what the ROI is on its use, and how novice users can try with option to sign up.

Thoughts welcome, as always.




Return on investment is difficult to calculate with technology solutions to aging. With a lighting upgrade it’s easy enough to calculate what your savings would be- the only variables are wattage saved, use and the cost of the electricity. With anything that involves quality of life or potentially preservation of life, these variables are practically impossible to quantify. I’m curious how you determined that there is no additional liability with the knowledge of some untoward circumstances; not being persnickety, but I would love to be able to justify that answer myself. Perhaps another approach to introducing technology solutions to facility environments would be to focus on installing it in the private residence first, then to relocate it with the client if they are placed. It would be easier for management to accept if they didn’t have to sell the extra expense to their clients. After a few people bring their gadgets with them, others will want them (hopefully) and it will be management meeting demand not creating it.

This is from another blog post about whether risk and liability in senior housing if data is available and transmitted.

Reality: according to Craig Smith, IRR national practice leader for Senior Housing and Healthcare, the reverse is actually true. If it is feasible (through technology tools) to know information about a resident, your organizational risk is greater if you pretend that you don't or can't know. Craig notes that "you cannot hide behind 'we did not know someone was a fall risk' when they use a walker to come to meals and are clearly observable as having ambulation issues."

And when you suggest putting gadgets in the private home, one of those types of private homes are the independent living residences. But I agree with your point. Thanks.

Confusus would say that a person who falls a lot should use a cane unless his goal is to study the ground where he falls more closely.
technology is not designed for the masses, the masses demand the design. Why is that so hard to understand? I have had excellent luck in identifying products with mulitple applicaions. I only instruct the user on the one or two they specifically need at the time. I delight in seeing them two weeks later as they explain to me that I should have known the other features that where available. Interest, curiosity and boredom are excellent technology growth areas. Try it with your kids. Especially the ones who take it apart to see how it works.

A number of technology companies fall into the same trap that senior housing speculators do - they feel if they simply build it, "they" (the customer) will come. The product has to show value, so the senior housing or home care provider can easily show value/benefits to their customers. Much technology sounds or looks cool, but in the end value trumps cool. Maybe a tech provider will set up a living R&D lab in a senior housing community to test design, products, etc. with seniors and family members. Think it would be worth their investment.

Eric Schubert


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