For the last decade, my job in the aging/tech industry has been to educate healthcare, long term care and other aging service providers about using technology to enhance senior care. I tell them life will be better for staff, residents and family members. A connected patient is a healthier patient. A connected client is a happier client. That’s all well and good, they often reply, but where are the numbers? Where is the proof?
So I share all of the statistics about the “aging tsunami,” the “silver tsunami” and the “boomer mega-boom.” (Okay, I just made that last one up). Of all the people in the history of the world to reach age 65, two thirds are alive today. In 2014 there were an estimated 5.2 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease. This number is expected to rise to 13.8 million by 2050.
I tell them if we don’t do something to address the aging population and rising cost of healthcare we will bankrupt the country. It’s all pretty scary stuff–but it just doesn’t move them. Professional Care providers see the writing on the wall, but still don’t seem to understand that this is their crisis, and more importantly, their opportunity.
Where are we now, ten years in? Well, the good news is that the industry is growing and shifting. New innovations are sprouting up left and right to address any and every need in the aging and healthcare business. Providers are actively seeking new technologies for their businesses. This is all good.
But why are they not implementing in droves? What’s the hold up?
The obstacle to adoption isn’t that service providers are confused as to which technologies to integrate; it’s because they are focused on misguided questions such as these: Can you prove the technology works? Can you prove that technology improves the quality of care? Can you prove that giving me access to more patient data will enable me to provide better care? How do we price the technology? Can you give me X number of references and provide my board with case studies?
While these may be valid questions as far as they go, they are the wrong questions to focus on when making a technology implementation plan. Oh, and by the way: assuming long term care clients will pay a la carte for your new technology is as ridiculous as asking them to pay extra for the computers and phones the staff use. Technology is the new cost of doing business. Suck it up, buttercup.
Okay, it’s easy to cast aspersions and tell everyone else that they’re doing it wrong. Do I have the right questions providers should be asking when developing a technology implementation plan? I believe I do. Here’s the top three.
1. How do I get staff buy-in? Without it, any new program will fail. Change is hard. There has to be an engagement process that starts from the top and touches every staff level along the way. This corporate challenge has to come as a cultural change in the way your care providers deliver care. Think carefully about how the administrative staff will use the technology as well as the hands-on caregiving staff–and how this change will feel.
2. How do I seamlessly integrate the technology into our model of care? Another million dollar question. It cannot be a simple add-on. The technology ingredient must be added into the mixture and become an integral part to the care the organization provides. The goal is to have the technology so deeply ingrained into the staff culture that it would be impossible to separate the two.
3. Who should I choose from my staff to champion the program? This is necessary to address. Too many organizations believe that the technology will just manage itself and the staff will come together around it without a clear leader. This will not work. Someone has to be the champion, drive staff engagement, determine who is running which parts and commit to on-going staff training.
Although these questions are difficult, addressing them successfully will make the opportunity even larger and more lucrative for those providers who seize it now.
The way I see it, there are only two choices: Embrace technology now, secure a competitive advantage and generate new revenue streams…or be forced by your competitors to embrace it later at no competitive advantage. Choose wisely.
Once the rules of the game are clear, the window of opportunity has closed.