By Susan Saldibar

As awful as this pandemic has been, it has managed to push even some of the most tech-averse operators to start using technology. And they’re sharing their experiences with those willing to listen.

Lisa Taylor, CEO of iN2L (a Senior Living Foresight partner) has been talking with dozens of senior living CEOs over the past couple of months about how they got into using more technology and how they plan to use it going forward. And the journey has been smoother for some than for others.

What they all seem to agree on though, is that technologies, such as video chat, are now considered essential to their businesses. As Lisa often says, now it’s “power, water, and technology.” Never thought we’d hear that in this industry. And yet, technology budgets seem to be increasing, according to conversations happening in many forums.

So, with budget season here, I asked Lisa to share with our readers what advice she might give, based on her conversations with CEOs, to anyone looking to make the most of their technology budget dollars.

Three Questions 

She begins with three key questions for operators and CEOs to ask themselves (and their teams!) when evaluating any potential addition to their overall tech stack:

  1. How does this technology support your goals? Think about the big rocks that your organization is trying to move forward and where technology might be an enhancement. Instead of approaching it with a specific technology in mind, remain open to solutions that might be multipurpose and provide support in more than one area.
  2. What challenges will this technology help you to meet? This industry is still undergoing one of the most trying times we’ve ever faced. Learn from it! What curveballs has the pandemic thrown your way that technology might help you better handle? What challenges are you facing now that might resurface in the future? How do these challenges potentially impact your goals?
  3. How can the technology best support your staff? This is important since it is the staff who are responsible for helping residents to use some technologies. Do you expect it to eliminate some of their workload? Or do you want it to just make their existing workload easier? Will it improve the quality of their work and help them feel more successful while saving time?

Additional Considerations

Looking at potential solutions through all of these lenses can make a big difference in setting and meeting expectations for any technology purchase downstream. But there are other considerations just as critical when evaluating technology; considerations that go beyond goals and budgetary concerns. Lisa shared a few:

  1. Simplicity of use. It has to be super easy to use, especially for your staff, Lisa tells me. “Your staff are the people who will be helping residents to use the technology,” she says. “You don’t want technology getting in the way of staff caring for your residents.” Tools that are cumbersome to use simply won’t be used. “No one wants to download programs and re-enter passwords every time,” Lisa says.
  2. Don’t let technology isolate residents. Lisa says one of the CEO’s greatest fears is that the technology is so robust and all-inclusive that residents will just use their devices to connect. Opting to say in their rooms rather than come out and participate in group activities. “There is a balance that needs to be achieved,” she says. “With COVID, many communities are cutting down the size of their group activities to encourage residents who may be reluctant to feel safer participating. It’s important to keep in touch with residents and find creative ways to bring them together safely,” she adds.
  3. Use technology to support changing marketing and sales initiatives. COVID has changed the way your prospects are connecting. For example, everyone is using more video chat. It makes good marketing sense to show prospective residents and their families how you are using technology to connect residents to family members. Even when the pandemic passes, they will be glad to know you will continue to enable connection with technology whether it’s flu season, family members are out of town, etc.
  4. Don’t piecemeal your technology solutions. Look at the big picture, Lisa advises. It will cost you less. “When COVID hit, we saw lots of CEOs going out and purchasing hundreds of iPads just to facilitate video chat,” Lisa says. “To turn those iPads into multi-functional and senior-friendly tools for resident use, they had to source content apps.” What they ended up with, according to Lisa, were apps from different vendors, none of which were integrated and all of which added significant cost that could have been avoided had they contracted with a single provider, offering engagement content, family connection tools (such as video chat), and senior-friendly activities.

Don’t Let the Shiny Objects Distract You

The main point behind Lisa’s questions and considerations is to keep operators from buying technology for technology’s sake. “This may sound strange coming from a technology company, but don’t just buy anything. There is a lot out there and it’s easy to get distracted from your goals and purchase a lot of things you don’t even need,” she says. 

Lisa urges operators to stop, ask the questions she suggests, and consider the benefits and caveats to bringing technology in house. And she’s thankful for the opportunity to talk with CEOs and keep her finger on the pulse of what’s happening out there. 

“Collaborating with CEOs, no matter whose technology they’re using, is how we get better as an industry,” Lisa says. “It helps to know what they’re trying to solve. Then working alongside them to learn how we can best use technology going forward. And, always, always asking ‘How can we help?’”

Click “DOWNLOAD GUIDE” below to get more information from iN2L on selecting the right technology.

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