Senior living communities ramp up technology
Use of technology is accelerating among senior living operators, according to the November 2016 LeadingAge Ziegler 150 report. Faced with mounting labor shortages, and anticipating growing demand as the boomer generation ages, a growing number of senior living communities are integrating technology to enhance workforce efficiency, reduce patient risk, and improve quality of care.
Between 2014 and 2015, the percent of surveyed senior living operators who utilized electronic medical records (EMRs) rose 75 to 80%. The number using automatic fall detector technologies increased by half, from 24% to 36%. Those using telehealth and telemonitoring technologies almost tripled from 7% to about 20%. And the percent using medication monitoring technologies has been rising dramatically over the last several years from 21% in 2014, to 39% in 2015, to 45% in 2015.
The adoption of technology is being driven by three major trends. First, the senior living industry, already grappling with mounting labor shortages, is facing unprecedented demographic pressures. 20 percent of Americans will be 65 years or older by 2030, and 19 million adults will need long-term care services by 2050, up from 8 million in 2000, according to a University of California-San Francisco study. As a result, the long-term care workforce will need to increase by 79% by 2030 to keep up with demand, according the study. “Even if 20 percent of elderly patients move out of nursing homes into home health care, which would be huge change, the projected increase in demand for long-term care workers would only drop from 79 percent to 74 percent,” said lead author Joanne Spetz, PhD, professor at the UCSF Phillip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies and associate director for research strategy at the UCSF Center for the Health Professions. “Filling these jobs will be a big challenge under any scenario.”
Second, technology is becoming more widespread throughout different sectors of the health care system. These technology innovations are particularly effective in addressing the complex, long term care needs of an aging population, which typically require ongoing communication and coordination between payers, pharmacies, hospices, labs, hospitals, and other care providers. Senior living communities, which have generally lagged other health care sectors in technology adoption, are now playing catch-up to more efficiently interact with other members of the health care ecosystem.
Third, new evidence that social interaction technologies can improve both quality of life and health of residents is spurring a growing number of senior living communities to build in greater technology infrastructure, including accessible wi-fi, tablets, gaming, education, and other technologies that enable residents to stay engaged and connected to family and friends. A study conducted by the Stanford Center on Longevity, sponsored by Brookdale Senior Living, found that residents’ use of technology is associated with higher life satisfaction, lower loneliness, higher goal attainment, better subjective health, and fewer functional limitations. Another recent study conducted by the University of California at San Diego found that use of social platforms such as Facebook increases life expectancy.
Future generations of senior living residents will be both more adept with, and demanding of, technology innovations to improve both their quality of life and care. According to the Pew Research Center, usage of social media among those 65 and older has more than tripled from 2010 (11%) to 2015 (35%). Senior living communities which adopt the right technology innovations today will be better prepared to differentiate and compete for increasingly tech-savvy customers in the coming decade.