This interview is brought to you by CDW Healthcare. The article is based on an interview that took place during a live Q&A session with Liz Cramer, Chief Post-Acute Care Strategist for CDW, at the SHN BUILD event in Chicago held on November 17, 2021. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Senior Housing News: Welcome Liz Cramer from CDW Healthcare. To kick it off, we’ve seen the pandemic transform investment strategies in senior living across the board, but one of the most notable areas has been technology. Where are you seeing organizations make investments, and how are they approaching that?
Liz Cramer: The investments we’re seeing right now are primarily in infrastructure. Unfortunately, prior to the pandemic, that area received some pushback and now, facilities don’t have the infrastructure they need to support all these devices or keep everybody connected. We’re seeing more and more campuses focus on infrastructure.
Larger campuses are also looking to improve their infrastructure from a staffing standpoint. It’s very difficult for nursing staff to do their jobs efficiently, if they don’t have a strong infrastructure. They may have issues getting documentation done in a timely manner, and with the staffing crisis at-hand, we need everyone working on the campuses to be as efficient as possible.
Another area we’re seeing investments is voice. We have seen partners like Volara come in with the Google Nest Hub Max, and Alexa home is growing for seniors as well. Again, you have to have infrastructure to support all those devices, and that’s really where we’re seeing a lot of attention.
SHN: You mentioned staffing, and that has been a really big topic as it relates to technology. We’ve also heard a lot of talk about a new role, the tech concierge. What is it and how are providers approaching the costs associated with that new role?
Cramer: The tech concierge concept came up by accident. We had a CIO roundtable earlier in the year hosted by my colleague Jessica Longly and Senior Housing News, and one of the topics that came up was this tech concierge. It was a really interesting discussion. One of our customers actually did a time study and found that staff were spending over 60 hours a week helping residents with their technology needs, which is a lot of time. Coming from an operations background, the first thing I thought of when I heard 60 hours a week is, “that’s 60 hours that they’re not doing their actual job.”
They’re trying to help the residents stay connected when they can’t get those devices working the way they want them to. A study completed by Deloitte this year showed that in the average household right now, there’s about 25 connected devices.
We’re continuing to see residents bring more and more devices on campus, so having that tech concierge to help them out is key. It’s spilling over. The time study is great to be able to show what’s available out there and make that business case. Then, there’s also some alternatives such as third party partners that focus strictly on tech concierge. The residents can actually talk to a person and walk through the inquiry on the phone, just like if we were to call a help desk ourselves. Those are available as well, and we’ve worked with customers to set that up.
SHN: Can you talk a little bit about the older adult consumer of the future? How are communities shifting their approaches to accommodate the increasing number of connected devices?
Cramer: We’re seeing some of their priorities shift with regards to infrastructure. Some campuses have historically made the residents responsible for providing their own Wi-Fi, internet when they come into the community. They’re starting to shift toward providing campus-wide Wi-Fi. A lot of the campuses, again, are looking to keep residents engaged. They’re looking at solutions like the Google Nest Hub Max to do video calling with family to keep them connected. They are looking to up that presence for them to come on campus.
SHN: How are providers measuring value when they implement new technologies? Do you have any thoughts on how they approach that ROI question?
Cramer: If we’re looking at solutions from a staffing standpoint, we ask, “How is it going to help them be more productive or more efficient operationally? Is it the adaptability for the nursing staff or the CNA staff, the therapists?” We want to make sure if we bring something on to help the staff, that they’re actually going to use it. Also, is there interoperability? There’s a number of great solutions out there, but if nursing staff has to log in four different places to use it, they aren’t going to be very efficient.
Then, from a resident standpoint, what are we seeing from outcomes? What problem are we looking to solve, and is it something that’s going to assist with quality measures? If we’re looking at a full CCRC campus, a skilled nursing facility or even senior care, are we looking at falls on the campus? Is it going to help us on the back end as well and be able to track if residents or staff are actually using that solution?
Those are very important to look at when you’re trying to decide which solutions to bring on campus.
The amount of data that’s now being collected is a key part of that too.
SHN: Why should organizations consider extending Wi-Fi into the resident’s room, and why is that so imperative right now?
Cramer: In this competitive market, it’s another way for marketing to even the playing field. When they’re talking to residents and bringing them on campus, this is an amenity to highlight. It’s also important looking into the future at more connected residents.. Senior living will be oversaturated with baby boomers by the year 2030 when they’re all 65 plus. Being able to provide that infrastructure and engagement is important from a marketing standpoint because they want to stay connected and bring their devices with them.
SHN: Lastly, what technologies are making a strong Wi-Fi infrastructure so critical? You talked about voice and some others. Are there any others you would consider essentials among residents today?
Cramer: Almost every resident is coming in of course with a smartphone, tablet and even a smart TV. The AARP did a study earlier this year, and one of the items they looked at was technology spend by age group. The 50 plus age group increased spend by 194% from 2019 to 2020.
They broke it down by age group from 50 to 59, 60 to 69 and 70 plus. The 70 plus age group actually increased their smartphone usage by almost 77% which was probably due in part to the pandemic, but there was also a very large jump in smart TVs, tablets, and even smart home and voice assistance technologies.
SHN: Does CDW have a services infrastructure nationwide for installation of these tech solutions?
Cramer: We do.
SHN: Excellent. What uses could voice command be used for in independent units or what are you seeing there? And then we’ll wrap.
Cramer: Right now, many of our partners integrate with other systems on campus like Tell or LifeLoop. That way, residents can see the menus and activities just by saying, “Hey, Google, tell me what activities are happening today? Or Hey Alexa, tell me what’s for breakfast tomorrow?”
It’s allowing campuses to get information out en masse without having to print menus every day or putting information in the mailboxes. It makes it very easy for the residents to find out what’s going on with reminders as well.
In the Smart Home, we can set up lighting for fall prevention if residents are getting up at night,we can set up pill reminders, they can use voice to turn on the lights and they can even use voice to turn on the television. There are a number of items that allow them to stay in their homes more independently longer, which is what everybody wants to do. They never want to move through that continuum of care, they want to stay wherever they started.
CDW is a leading multi-brand technology solutions provider to business, government, education and healthcare customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Our broad array of offerings range from hardware and software to integrated IT solutions such as security, cloud, data center and networking. Learn more at cdw.com.
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