Oct 17 2022

LeadingAge 2022: Digital Transformation Is an Ongoing Process in Senior Care

Automation and integration can change how senior care organizations deliver services.

Like many industries, the pandemic caused a major shift in the technology and staffing landscape of aging services. With many senior care organizations cut off from the world due to COVID-19 protocols, the space was forced to adapt to create a sense of connection and support for staff and residents. This shift coincided with increased demand by seniors for smart devices and integration, growing data collected by senior care organizations, and increased demand for remote work opportunities.

Panelists at the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO addressed this evolving landscape and discussed how senior care leaders can move their organizations toward successful technology implementation.

Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology and business strategy at LeadingAge and executive director for the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies, set the stage as moderator of a panel titled “Digital Transformation in Aging Services.”

“Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination,” he said. “Technology is changing, and so preferences, expectations and needs are also evolving.”

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Technology Enables Problem-Solving in Senior Care

The pandemic was the catalyst for many technology implementations at Ingleside in Washington, D.C. Dusanka Delovska-Trajkova, CIO of the organization, said it values in-person communication but had to quickly pivot in order to offer remote services.

“We found that remote work increased productivity and customer experience because we could reach people where they were,” she said.

Delovska-Trajkova explained, however, that digital transformation means different things for different people, so organizations looking to encourage it must create a compelling vision and give examples of how things will work.

“It’s also important when talking to residents about technology implementations to answer the question of what’s in it for me. Meet people where they are and solve some of their problems,” she added. “If the vision is not compelling to their problems, they’re not going to help. You need to provide a compelling vision for everyone.”

She recommends getting buy-in from the CEO and board because digital transformation is not solely an IT project. It’s important for digital transformation leaders to create a digital roadmap, start with small projects and then build momentum by showing how much better experiences can be with the new technology.

“Technology is an enabler. It can’t solve the problem, but it can enable you to solve the problem,” said Delovska-Trajkova. “To provide a good technology solution, you need to understand your digital environment by conducting a digital audit.”

LeadingAge Panel

Panelists at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO discuss how senior care leaders can create successful digital transformation at their organizations. From left: Majd Alwan, Executive Director for the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies; Dusanka Delovska-Trajkova, CIO of Ingleside; Jim Michels, Vice President of Development and Strategic Operations at the Army Distaff Foundation and Knollwood; and Peter Kress, Senior Vice President and CIO at Acts Retirement-Life Communities.

Digital Transformation in Senior Care Starts With Culture Change

When Jim Michels, vice president of development and strategic operations at The Army Distaff Foundation and Knollwood, stepped into his role, he started by looking at the organization’s history of dealing with innovation.

“I looked and said, ‘Why not engage in aging innovation and health tech? There shouldn’t be a firewall between care and innovation.’ I needed to create that environment as a foundation for success,” he said.

Michels lobbied to review and rewrite part of Knollwood’s charters and gained buy-in from the board.

“If you don’t have the board on board, you’re going to have an uneven experience,” he said.

Creating partnerships with academic thought leaders was also helpful, according to Michels. He pointed out that it’s also a great way to develop future leaders for the organization’s board.

He emphasized the importance of involving residents in the journey.

“Engage residents and staff early and often to create a dynamic culture. Transformation shouldn’t be applied externally but should be embedded in the DNA of the organization,” said Michels.

Digital Transformation Offers a Way for Senior Care to Catch Up

“The way senior care has worked for the past 20 to 40 years is unlikely to allow us success over the next five to seven years,” said Peter Kress, senior vice president and CIO at Acts Retirement-Life Communities. “As we think about digital transformation, we have the opportunity to think about new ways to do business.”

Kress emphasized the importance of collaboration in digital transformation success. Letting a single department choose its own software will rarely transform an entire organization; it involves organizationwide intentional planning, according to Kress.

Looking at use cases from the past five years might not be as helpful as many senior care leaders think, he added.

“If your goal for transformation is to adopt what someone else did five years ago to make their system better, then you’ll only be as good as someone else was five years ago,” said Kress.

DISCOVER: Why senior care organizations need to prioritize health IT.

Kress highlighted the need for senior care organizations to engage with MACH architecture. This set of technology principles involves microservices, an API-first approach, cloud-native Software as a Service and “headless”technology.

“Small pieces don’t work unless they’re designed to be assembled,” he said. “Just like how interior design changes don’t require us to redo the whole building — that’s how we need to think about technology.”

When talking to vendors about their technology solutions, it’s important to understand how these solutions integrate and coexist. 

Delovska-Trajkova encouraged senior care leaders to pressure vendors to delivery technology that exists in other sectors.

“Healthcare is 10 years behind, and senior care is 10 years behind healthcare, so we’re 20 years behind companies like Amazon,” she said. “Residents and staff are being trained by their experiences with apps like Grubhub and Uber. The tech exists, so why can’t we make it work in senior care?”

Keep this page bookmarked for our coverage of the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO, taking place Oct. 16-19 in Denver. Follow us on Twitter at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #LeadingAge22.

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