Apr 19 2022

Trends Affecting Technology Adoption in Post-Acute and Senior Care

Older adults are increasingly adopting smart technology as healthcare organizations continue to implement technology solutions for clinicians. Here’s what’s driving this trend and how healthcare organizations can overcome barriers.

The technology landscape of post-acute and senior care is changing as Baby Boomers, who are much more technologically savvy than previous generations, begin to age into senior care services. This trend is coinciding with greater digital health adoption by healthcare organizations in response to the pandemic.

As post-acute and senior care organizations continue to compete with the home environment for residents (90 percent of seniors intend to remain in their current homes for the next five to 10 years), it’s important for them to be mindful of technology trends among older adults and how to support those technologies.

On the post-acute side, clinician shortages are complicating care delivery. However, technology can improve nurse workflows, making care delivery more efficient.

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Growing Tech Adoption Is Changing Resident Engagement Needs

The workforce shortage, combined with Baby Boomer’s increased technology use compared with the Silent Generation, is creating a need for independent living communities to provide technology or be able to support it.

In the early days of the pandemic, many organizations had to prohibit visitors to protect senior residents and patients. Older adults relied on video calls via tablets or smartphones to keep in touch with their families and friends. According to AARP’s “2022 Tech Trends and the 50-Plus” report, 84 percent of adults 50 and older owned a smartphone in 2021, while 59 percent owned tablets.

However, those aren’t the only technologies older adults rely on in their day-to-day lives. Smart TVs are owned by 67 percent of adults age 50 and older, 35 percent owned home assistants, 30 percent owned wearables and 23 percent owned smart home technology last year, with growth in each category except smartphones compared with 2020.

Independent and assisted living organizations must be able to support these devices to attract residents while not overburdening their staff. Older adults will likely turn to care staff when they have technology questions if there isn’t a specific IT help desk or tech concierge to field these questions or issues. Organizations should consider whether it makes more sense for them to hire full-time staff or outsource this support in addition to the training needed to help residents stay engaged with technology.

EXPLORE: Find 3 senior care tech trends to watch in 2022.

Independent and assisted living communities are not just competing with each other for residents; they are competing with the home. Older adults aging in place are accustomed to having reliable Wi-Fi in their homes to support their personal tech needs, which makes it even more important that communities provide stable networks to support growing tech interest among older adults. Without that technology support, they will have a difficult time remaining competitive and being seen as innovators. These organizations also need to address whether residents are responsible for purchasing connectivity or if it will be provided by the community.

When it comes to smart home technology, providing devices can become complicated for senior care organizations, as many don’t have large budgets. They want to help residents maintain independence and live with dignity; however, because the market is still maturing, organizations may risk the devices quickly nearing their end of life and requiring replacement. As a result, many organizations aren’t placing their bets on smart home technology just yet, but some are open to pilots and conversations around the technology.

Technology also can help communities mitigate the impacts of the worker shortage. Digital signage can keep older adults aware of community information, updates, menu changes and weather alerts. This relieves the burden on staff while helping residents to feel empowered.

Skilled Nursing Shortage Leads to Tech Adoption in Post-Acute Care

Skilled nursing shortages are leading post-acute organizations to find ways to leverage technology to improve workflow efficiencies. Not only will the nurses be able to better manage their workloads but they’ll have more time to spend with patients.

Technology can offer a way for post-acute organizations to hire clinical staff that had previously left the workforce. Virtual care technologies such as remote patient monitoring and telehealth can provide clinicians with more flexibility if they are looking for an opportunity to return to the medical field.

Tablets and smartphones also are making an impact for clinicians. As adoption grows, many post-acute organizations are providing all clinicians with their own devices. Pre-pandemic, it was likely that home health clinicians would have a device, but those in a facility setting would most often share a workstation.

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Overcoming Tech Adoption Hurdles in Post-Acute and Senior Care

Several challenges can hinder technology adoption by older adults as well as post-acute and senior care organizations.

Organizations may implement technology for their staff, but that doesn’t mean the clinicians are using the technology. If the rollout process doesn’t include clinician feedback, test groups and proper training, clinicians could return to the old way of doing things rather than using the more efficient new technology. Caregiver staff must understand the new technology and be given a chance to ask questions. Pilots can help, so that when the official rollout occurs, the organization already has buy-in and support from clinicians.

Before implementing new technology, it’s important for organizations to have a plan and consider all the people who will interact with the technology to understand its full impact.

LEARN MORE: Discover the next level of tech in senior care.

Many technologies are not designed with older adults in mind, which can impact accessibility. Older adults in independent and assisted living facilities can likely teach themselves or be taught how to use new technologies and devices, but patients in memory care units may require specially designed technology.

To ensure residents engage with technology, independent living organizations should establish an innovation committee that facilitates technology discussions and pilots with health IT partners like CDW Healthcare. Such partners can help organizations implement new technology solutions one a step at a time, beginning with the most important portion and then adding in subsequent levels of functionality.

Finally, organizations should follow up to ensure that staff, patients and residents all understand how to use the technology and have adopted it. They should also have a plan for training new employees in order to keep everyone up to date.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.

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