By Susan Saldibar

We’ve heard many times that there will not be a light-switch return to normalcy. In fact, “normalcy” as we once knew it, may never return. So we forge ahead, learning new ways of navigating around and getting things done.

One thing we’ve gotten pretty good at is using remote communications and collaboration technology — many believe it’s a skill we’ll be hanging on to.

This leads to the question of how much senior living communities can accomplish remotely. How many processes can be handled remotely? How far can you take a prospective resident towards a move-in without their setting foot on your premises? Should we be laughing at that idea? Or listening to it?

To Darren Mathis, CEO of LincWare (a Senior Living Foresight partner), the idea of an automated environment that lets you accomplish much more with a resident without making them set one foot inside the door is nothing to laugh at. Because it’s already happening. I asked Darren to share a few areas where he’s seeing it happening. Are you doing or considering any of them?

Employees Working from Home

“Even after COVID we’re hearing from operators who may allow some staff on the business side of the house to continue to work from home,” Darren tells me. Typically, that would include your HR and finance staff. For some communities, it’s about making better use of space and downsizing the number of staff onsite. “We’re reading about some CFOs saying they’re going to permanently mandate a percentage of employees to stay at home,” he adds.

Whether you can do it or not depends on the level of automation and integration of systems you have. “Nowadays with EMR and EHR, many operators already have the infrastructure in place. It may be more of a policy shift to make sure that employees are using these systems correctly and that they are easily accessible online,” Darren says. And admissions documents can be automated and available online as well. The key is being able to connect them to important information and documents.

Providing a Robust Experience of Your Community

This sounds pretty amazing, but how feasible is it? A big part of this is getting good at using virtual tour technology. And there are plenty of applications out there to get you started. Many communities have been slow to adopt them, but Darren says that is changing rapidly, as many have already done the groundwork but haven’t made the purchase. Now they are.

Other apps like Facebook Live are getting more use. “Nothing can totally replace the in-person experience,” Darren says. “But when you put together high-quality virtual tours and use social media to video your staff and residents, you can come closer than you might think,” he adds.

Finalizing the Move-In Before Move-In. (Wait. Really?)

This may not be as surprising as it sounds. Once the COVID curve flattens, many expect occupancy to increase as families come to the realization that their loved ones need to transition to assisted living. But they may still have a reluctance to come onsite. They’ll want to accomplish as much from their own homes as possible. And yet there is a lot that needs to happen prior to a move-in. So it’s really a matter of determining what is feasible to accomplish remotely.

Admissions paperwork is a good example of a process that can and should be executable remotely, Darren tells me. “If you can provide access to a family portal with all paperwork and processes right in front of them, it reduces the need to come onsite as frequently,” he says. Removing paper also plays a big role. “The back and forth process with paper takes time,” Darren says. “Mailing further delays it. Scanning and emailing may violate HIPAA. The bottom line is that we need to meet people where they are, whether it’s down the street or outside the state. But don’t make them come inside your doors just to fill out paperwork.”

Darren recommends that operators start by asking themselves what barriers exist today that keep staff, residents, and families from communicating, collaborating, and executing key processes remotely. Then, they need to look at automation to make it happen. “We don’t know how long this pandemic will last,” he says. “Make sure you are able to accomplish as much as possible, remotely, until people are truly ready to walk through your doors again.”

For more information about LincWare and their Admit+ admissions platform, please visit their website.

 Also, if you’d like to take advantage of LincWare’s Free Covid-19 Visitor screening tool, you can sign up here