By Derek Holt, President, K4Connect. Over the past 40 years, many of the world’s largest industries (and by association, companies within those industries) have been dramatically changed by technology adoption.   Technology has changed how companies drive business (i.e. how they engage customers, deliver services, sell goods) and just as importantly, how employees of these companies perform their jobs.  Many forget, however, that these technological revolutions were far more evolutionary, than revolutionary.  We also tend to forget that early adoption was often created in functional silos (accounting adopted their tools, sales adopted their tools, etc.) and, thus, value creation was limited as these isolated systems helped improve individual performance, but sometimes created even larger chasms between functional areas.

Thankfully, over time platform thinking, open API’s (“advanced protocol interfaces” which allow disparate systems to communicate), and new approaches to data aggregation emerged, providing game-changing solutions and next order value creation.  They not only helped optimize performance within the individual function, they broke down silo thinking by driving improved communication, collaboration and visibility across roles and the business.   And it is this, the breaking down of technology silo’s that smaller evolutions began to drive revolutionary results.  Today, the Senior Living industry is poised to make this shift from siloed products to integrated platforms/systems where the most innovative operators are poised to reap the lion’s share of the benefits.

Before we dive into how to technically achieve all this, it’s important to think about the benefits.  A few that come to mind include:

  • Integration and Automation – When disparate technologies are integrated together as one, cross product automation can be leveraged to drive next order value. Imagine a very simple case to start, one in which your event management solution is integrated with your resident survey/satisfaction solution.  In this example, the survey solution is automatically aware that a resident has attended an event and can automatically send a survey and gather immediate feedback.  The result is less manual work for the staff, better programming, and increased resident satisfaction.
  • Data and Analytics – Without integration or larger context, the real value of data is limited or even misleading. Again, offering a simple example, let’s take the Point of Sale (POS) system. Of course, you can quickly check which dining choices are the most popular on a given day and even look at those trends over time.  Yet, for all you know, the most popular food (which you now order more of) is seen by your residents as the least horrible choice on the menu that day. Or, worse, that lasagna that everyone has on Thursday drives up the number of nurse calls and trips to the bathroom that night by 2X! To solve this, you need integrated and historic information including: POS, nurse call, survey results, and additional information like weather forecasts (as it is shown that weather influences food preferences).  With an integrated system, gathering this type of information can be easy, in fact, a more sophisticated system will tell you what you need to know without even asking, all of which drive satisfaction up and expenses down.
  • Winning the Talent War – The value of integration has a wide-reaching impact on employees and by association, an operator’s ability to hire and retain top talent. Study after study shows employees are happier when they have the tools and support to do their job.  By having a holistic platform approach to technology, staff workflows can be simplified, manual reports will be automated and ultimately teams will collaborate more efficiently.  These are the types of teams and organizations today’s workers want to be a part of.

There are, of course, dozens of other examples, many more material to your residents’ health and care, but to know what’s next, let’s look back at progress to date.  In the late 80s, early versions of personal emergency response solutions started to emerge, the 90s brought about wander management and the idea of wireless nurse call systems. Then in 2000, we saw the first wide-spread adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs).  Additionally, over this time we moved functions like accounting, census management, billing, scheduling, payroll, medication adherence and many others online and into digital tools. We even launched web pages, talked about our SEO rankings (search engine optimization) and drove digital marketing efforts in order to attract the next generation of residents.   While each of these provided value, they were all designed, engineered and ultimately deployed as individual point solutions with little to no ability to integrate.  Sadly, most are still siloed to this day.

At K4Connect, we believe the industry is poised to make that next move to an integrated end-to-end experience for not just employees and executives, but, and maybe most importantly, for the residents as well.  Open platforms and API’s will allow operators to extract more value out of legacy systems, and, by their very nature, allow for the rapid adoption of the latest in technology without the challenges or costs of the old product-centric model.   Whether you are a senior living executive, community staff member, resident or a family member of a resident, everyone stands to gain.