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BlogCCRCThe Backbone of Your Senior Living Technology Stack: Integrations and Interoperability

The Backbone of Your Senior Living Technology Stack: Integrations and Interoperability

The promise of introducing more technology to your senior living community is a more connected community: better visibility into operations, more streamlined communications, the ability to do things faster and more efficiently – in short, the ability to do more, better.

But in reality, many communities find themselves using all their “saved” time toggling between their various tech solutions, copying and pasting information back and forth, and troubleshooting when things don’t work as expected.

Effective integrations resolve those problems. But too often, conversations about senior living technology focus on the output and not on the technology at large – and the community it supports – as a whole.

In this piece, we’ll explain the importance of effective senior living technology integrations, what to look for as you build and evolve your community’s tech stack, and how our philosophy ensures that we’re always delivering the best possible experiences to the communities we support.

Integrations Let Data Flow Seamlessly Through Your Tech Stack

If you haven’t spent much time thinking about integrations, it’s worth taking a moment to define what they are and what they do.

Integrations connect technology platforms to each other. In the case of senior living communities, integrations link your various systems (POS, activity calendar, EHR, work order manager, directory, content library, visitor management platform, etc.) together. 

One key function of integrations is that they exchange data between platforms. For example, if a new resident updates their legal name to a nickname in the directory, that change would (ideally) show up when they register for activities or reserve a table at the bistro – and even as a preferred nickname in the integrated EHR system.

The most effective integrations not only connect data on the back end; they also offer a unified front-end experience. This typically manifests as single sign-on (SSO) or open authentication (OAuth), which let you use a single login to access multiple platforms at once.

For residents, this means they can sign in to, say, their resident portal, then click over to view their dining account balance or activity calendar without entering their username and password again. Staff can take attendance, schedule new life enrichment activities, and track their hours without reentering login data.

In short, integrations link systems on the back end to make using them easier on the front end. The ideal world is one where all of your systems talk to each other. That includes…

  • EHRs and eMARs.
  • Content providers.
  • Dining and reservation software.
  • POS software.

But it also includes…

  • Activity calendars.
  • Family engagement software.
  • Employee recognition platforms.
  • Resident and staff communication tools.

That’s only to name a few – there are plenty others. Just as important as which systems you connect, though, is how you connect them.

But There’s a Key Difference Between Automated and Manual Integrations

Tech platforms can connect to each other in multiple ways. Two of the most common methods: a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) and an application programming interface (API).

SFTPs require manual input from IT professionals: a file is downloaded from one place (say, your menu vendor) and uploaded to another (say, your in-house dining schedule). As you can imagine, the main drawback of SFTPs is that they require human effort to set up, maintain, and execute.

In practice, this means that changes made in one place aren’t automatically reflected throughout a system until the manual update is made. Depending on the nature of the integration, that could be in a matter of hours or days.

The more efficient integration technology (and the one we prefer at Icon) is the API. APIs connect two systems so that data can flow seamlessly between them in real time, without any human intervention. API integrations lead to scenarios like the one we outlined above: New resident Mary Elizabeth Jones updates her portal name to Liz, the name she’s gone by her entire life, and as soon as she’s made the change, she’s showing up as “Liz” throughout your community’s system.

Still, APIs aren’t always available or possible to implement within a given tech stack. In general, integrated systems work better than disconnected systems, even if those integrations aren’t yet happening in real time. Let’s take a look at why integrations are so valuable.

What an Integrated Tech Stack Delivers: Huge Time Savings, Less Rework, and a Better Senior Living Experience

With an integrated tech stack, your staff can save time on time-consuming tasks. Instead of manually copying events from your life enrichment planning tool to Outlook or Google Calendar, each event they create will sync with their calendar a few moments later. And with SSO or OAuth, they can hop from calendar to dining to EHR integrations with just a single up-front login.

Integrations also make technology easier for residents to use. Just imagine having to download separate apps to make a dining reservation, view today’s food menu, and more. That’s not just frustrating – it can also be confusing for less tech-savvy adults. 

But with the right integrations, residents can log in once to their portal and access everything they need in a handful of clicks. What’s more, the experience will feel like a cohesive digital ecosystem.

Icon’s Integration Approach: API-First and Best in Class

With high-quality integrations, it’s easier for communities to realize the promise of senior living technology. At Icon, we center integrations and interoperability from the start of every relationship. 

If you already have some integrations with your current platform, we’ll migrate over the ones you want to keep. Then, we’ll help you clarify what you want to do with Icon – and pinpoint best-in-class integrations that can make that vision a reality.

In practice, that might mean exploring existing options in Icon’s app store or building custom APIs to connect to new third-party tools. Depending on the vendor requirements, we can often integrate Icon with your software of choice in a matter of days.

For your community and staff, the outcome is a digital experience with near-endless possibilities. And one of the best parts? Whether they want to find a menu or fitness video, users can access most things in three clicks or less.

Collaboration – Not Competition – Improves Senior Living

Icon has a suite of powerful senior living technology solutions. But we also know that it’s impossible to build the best digital tool for every function within a senior living community. That’s why we focus on integrating our platform with the best third-party software available. This way, we can provide a collaborative digital ecosystem that improves your community’s senior living experience. If you’d like to learn more about our integration philosophy, let’s talk – we’d love to start a conversation.

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