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The Technology Gap in Senior Living: Why Communities Need Interoperability

As more senior living communities and operators support the needs of a growing older adult population, cracks in existing technology frameworks are beginning to show. One major fracture? Siloed platforms.

Relatedly, we’ve already noticed a shift in the senior living tech landscape that unites disparate platforms –  more vendors are joining forces to create all-in-one solutions (*cough cough*). But these new platforms still need to fit alongside existing technology systems. They need to offer interoperability.

Here, we define interoperability and share three ways it helps communities deliver more attentive care at a more efficient pace.

Background: What Is Interoperability?

Put simply, interoperability refers to the “ability of systems, applications, and devices to exchange information” with one another – without any additional actions from the user.

And while there are different types of it (syntactic, structural, and semantic), for the purposes of this blog, all you need to know is that this connectivity lets senior living communities share data between different pieces of hardware and software.

In practical terms, this helps you do everything from analyzing attendance data to sending medical alerts the second a trip or fall occurs. For more on those applications, keep reading.

1. Simplify Staff Workflows and Leverage Your Data

Even a barebones online calendar – like a Google calendar – can offer value to a community transitioning away from a paper-based system. The main benefit in this case: staff, residents, and families can more easily check the event statuses. Need to bump the choir rehearsal? That’s a quick fix that community members can see once it’s been finalized – just by checking their smart device of choice (phone, laptop, tablet, etc.).

But what happens when it comes time to run analytics on, for instance, attendance data? What happens when life enrichment teams want to compare that attendance data with resident usage rates of other platforms?

With a siloed calendar tool, this seemingly simple task becomes an undertaking that obligates staff to manually aggregate – and analyze – data from various platforms every time they want to check on the performance of, well, anything. And in a lot of cases, this data reporting process is so long-winded that communities give up on it.

With interoperability, though, staff members don’t need to spend hours manually entering attendance data and usage rates into spreadsheets. When you adopt digital calendars that connect with other senior living technology (engagement platforms, smart home devices, communication tools, etc.), you can bring all your data under one roof. That means your staff saves time, and you get to make decisions with data backing you up.

2. Give Families Visibility into Loved Ones’ Lives

We recently discussed the sandwich generation’s role as a growing decision-maker for long-term care. One key consideration this generation makes when evaluating senior living communities? What systems you have in place that make it easy to check in with loved ones.  Tech stacks.

That’s no surprise. This group grew up with the internet. Roughly 95 percent of them use a smartphone. They know how technology can foster familial connections, whether it’s over monthly Zoom calls or a back-and-forth game of Words With Friends.

Interoperability helps communities meet and exceed the tech expectations of family caregivers and older adults alike. With connected senior living technology, family members can log into a family engagement portal and quickly check which fitness classes their loved one took, what activities are going on in the community, and whether there are any time-sensitive community updates (rate changes, new meal plan options, fitness center renovations, etc.).

Not only that, but tech compatibility also lets family members reference this information and communicate with staff members – via one-to-one messaging hubs – in the same portal. This means, with the right all-in-one platform, family members can assess loved ones’ health and wellness in a matter of clicks.

3. Provide Greater Accessibility and Convenience to Residents

We know older adults expect to see technology in their senior living communities. But there’s more to this demand than simply supplying residents with new devices. (You wouldn’t just hand an Echo Dot to a resident and call it a day.) To meet older adults’ expectations, senior living leaders must also ensure that residents can readily use the technology in their community. And that’s where interoperability comes in.

Let’s say you run an assisted living community. You just installed a fleet of Alexa-enabled devices, from Echo Shows to smart lights. With interoperability, residents can use certain smart home devices – like Echo Dots – to perform functions that extend beyond their dwelling. This helps residents get more out of their smart home devices while making it easier to learn what’s going on in the community.

For example, if you’ve integrated Echo Dots with your engagement portal, residents can ask Alexa to announce upcoming calendar events. Or, if residents want to RSVP to that upcoming ballroom dancing class, they can ask Alexa to reserve a spot.

There are plenty of other applications, as well – like fall detection. With integrated platforms, you can program wearable devices to, in the event of a slip or trip, automatically send a message to onsite medical staff that includes the resident’s location and their biometric measurements.

The Future of Senior Living Rests Upon Interoperable Technology Solutions

For decades, the senior living space was somewhat slow in adopting technology. That’s changed. We’re in a golden age of tech development, with vendors releasing new products at a constant churn.

To grow your community – to save time while deepening the value you provide to residents and families – you need platforms that complement each other.Want to learn more about how Icon’s interoperability can future-proof your community? Shoot us a message. We’re happy to help however we can!

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