Senior living providers are looking to bring in tech platforms to their communities that encourage and streamline resident engagement as their top technology investment for 2021 and beyond.
But providers are still getting their sea legs in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, with many indicating that they are working toward tech-based solutions to operational challenges, if at all. Instead, they are focusing on technology platforms to facilitate resident engagement rather than systems that improve interoperability. Notably, a sizable percentage do not have an electronic health record (EHR) system in place, which can improve workflow and alleviate business pressures stemming from occupancy and labor concerns.
Providers are also reporting improvements in occupancy rates, but a majority have not seen percentages return to pre-pandemic levels.
These are the main takeaways from a new technology and Covid-19 recovery survey published by Senior Housing News and health care software platform MatrixCare.
The report collected responses from 134 individuals who identified as working for senior care providers. The survey covered a range of topics including how they are dealing with pandemic-related business challenges, investing in technology to address these issues, their approaches to occupancy recovery and attracting new talent to the industry, and their plans for leveraging technology for growth and community engagement.
The majority of respondents – 60% – are only recently beginning to see occupancy improvements in their communities, but rates have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Of the rest, 18% have not seen occupancy rates recover; 16% have seen occupancy rates return to pre-pandemic levels; and 7% reported no dips in occupancy rates during the pandemic.
Rebuilding census is the top challenge facing the survey’s respondents: 49% identified occupancy as the top challenge, while 46% indicated that workforce shortages and labor costs are the greatest challenge.
A majority of respondents indicated a willingness to spend money to fix these issues, but there appears to be a disconnect between the challenges identified and where providers are allocating their spends. Nearly 40% of respondents indicated they have technology solutions in place to solve occupancy and/or labor challenges, 39% replied that there are no technology platforms in place but they are actively seeking one, and 22% reported that they are not working on a tech-based solution.
Small tech budgets may be a contributing factor: 29% of respondents reported that their tech budgets are too small to find a solution for occupancy or labor woes. Insufficient infrastructure in buildings (24%) and staff exhaustion (21%) were also cited as obstacles to adopting technology.
A slight majority of respondents – 31% – are targeting their technology budgets to platforms that will improve resident engagement, compared to 27% looking to spend on health and wellness initiatives, 20% on platforms that streamline interoperability, and 13% on connected devices.
These numbers are more striking when asked if organizations’ EHR needs are being met. Only 31% of respondents replied that their EHR needs were being met by the platforms in place. The majority – 38% – reported being somewhat satisfied with their EHR systems, and 22% do not have a system in place.
It is possible that providers are targeting resident engagement platforms because older adults have embraced technology as a communication tool during the pandemic. Forty-six percent of respondents reported that residents have adopted technology to stay connected, and 43% replied that residents have somewhat acclimated to technology.
Other findings from the survey:
— Labor struggles continue to be an industry pain point. Nearly 61% of respondents cited attracting talent as the main staffing-related issue, followed by turnover at 27%.
— More providers are looking outside their buildings for growth in 2021 and beyond. Nearly 68% of survey participants are looking to expand their presence within the greater community, with 17% indicating an expansion into home health services, and 11% adopting a “CCRC without walls” model.
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