Dec 20 2022

3 Senior Care Tech Trends to Watch in 2023

Staff shortages and increased smart device adoption by older adults are driving technology trends in senior care.
Tech Trends 2023

Technology adoption is growing quickly in the senior and post-acute care spaces, driven largely by staff shortages, resident demand and an increase in solutions created by digital health companies for the senior care industry. With more options available and more demand for innovative solutions from both residents and staff, senior and post-acute organizations are looking for solutions that will create the most engagement and efficiencies on a limited budget.

As senior and post-acute care leaders enter the new year, here are the three biggest trends to keep in mind when making technology investments for resident engagement, staff wellness and patient outcomes.

1. Voice, Video Provide Engagement and Connection for Older Adults 

Expect to see greater adoption of voice and video in senior and post-acute care next year. Part of this is being driven by an increase in digital health companies focused on aging. Voice- and video-based technologies allow older adults to maintain their independence by accessing information on demand and connecting with others. Senior care organizations can also provide a customizable experience through these technologies to drive resident engagement.

The Amazon Echo Show, Meta Portal and FaceTime on Apple iPad devices are some of the ways older adults are interacting with video and voice technology to contact family and friends or access information such as event calendars.

Voice and video also enable older adults to interact with smart home technology such as smart plugs and thermostats, giving them control of their spaces and allowing them to maintain independence. With the release of the Matter 1.0 standard, it will become even easier for smart home and Internet of Things devices to be integrated, which will likely lead to further adoption as the smart home market matures.

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2. Automation, Robotics and Sensors Mitigate Staff Shortages

Staffing issues aren’t going away, but automation can give clinical and nonclinical staff more time in their day to focus on residents and patients. Most staff at senior and post-acute organizations are used to engaging with automation and smart technologies, and they expect to have that same continuity in their workplaces. Implementing automation can help attract and retain staff.

Automation can be applied to documentation within clinician and operational workflows to take care of repetitive tasks such as filling out forms related to employee onboarding or patient data. The important thing to keep in mind is that automation should tie back to compliance, billing or a patient need. Collecting data just to collect data creates extra work.

In addition to automation for documentation workflows, many senior care organizations are turning to robots. One example is dining robots, which are being used to support team members with repetitive tasks such as running meals and dirty dishes to and from the kitchen. This gives the dining staff more time to talk with residents during meals.

Robotic solutions such as those from Labrador can also help with evening check-ins. The use of robotics in senior care has evolved from helping older adults with mobility issues in their homes to the assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care spaces. Expect to see growing adoption of assistive robots next year as well.

READ MORE: Four technologies that can improve staff experiences in post-acute and senior care.

Passive sensor technology will also be a trend in 2023, especially for fall risk detection. A sensor can detect where a person is in relation to the floor. With sensors, older adults don’t feel as watched as when cameras are in the room, but the technology still allows care staff and clinicians to get an idea of what’s happening in the patient or resident room. Sensors are being used in skilled nursing, memory care and even independent and assisted living.

The implementation of this technology provides another level of safety and supervision, making it possible for many older adults to remain in their current communities longer. It can also enable some older adults to age in place at home as senior care organizations begin to expand their care services outside of their campus walls. If a sensor detects a fall or unusual movement, it could alert the organization to contact emergency services or check on the person.

When AI and predictive analytics are applied to sensors, they can detect when a patient or resident is making moves to get out of bed, and they can alert nurses or caregivers to assist in order to prevent a fall. Sensors can help monitor older adults at high risk for falls without always requiring a physical person in their room.

Other types of sensor technology include smart toilets and urinary incontinence sensors connected to the cloud through Internet of Medical Things devices, which allow clinicians and caregivers to monitor the dryness level of older adults’ brief. This saves the care team time by decreasing the amount of time needed to check each patient’s or resident’s dryness levels. Instead, they can simply assist the older adults who need help changing wet clothing.

3. Continued Growth in Technology Adoption by Older Adults

As more Baby Boomers age into senior and post-acute care services, they’re bringing with them smart devices such as phones, tablets and smart TVs. The new generation of older adults is more comfortable with technology than ever before.

However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need help with technology. Many have an expectation that if they need help, they should be able to get it on demand. Rather than asking care staff and others to provide technology help, there’s a growing trend of senior care organizations implementing tech concierges to answer these questions and even provide a broad curriculum about different types of technologies and how they’re used. This is particularly helpful when older adults receive smart devices from family members and do not yet know how to use them.

With this increase in devices comes a need for senior care organizations to upgrade their network infrastructure and broadband to support them with strong Wi-Fi connectivity. While more than half of senior care residents are 85 years old or older and may not use devices, younger older adults will bring their technology with them, and having support for those devices will be an attractive amenity for senior care organizations.

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Tips for Technology Implementation in Senior and Post-Acute Care

When looking to implement any of these technologies, senior and post-acute care organizations should survey residents or staff where applicable. They shouldn’t assume that they know which solutions are right for the community or organization. When considering technology solutions, organization leadership also needs to make sure the technology solves a problem for staff members or residents. Will it bring joy to an older adult and help build census? Rather than assuming, ask residents and staff to better ensure implementation success later in the process.

It can also be helpful to create a committee of stakeholders who will be impacted by the solutions. That committee should be involved as early as the kickoff call and exploratory phase to help the organization gain an understanding of which problem is being solved. Then, do another survey with the same questions halfway through the pilot to see how it’s going and compare the responses to the initial survey. Do the same thing at the end of the pilot to identify trends in key performance indicators. That can help make the business case for further investment. Having resident or staff champions as enthusiastic adopters of the technology can improve the likelihood for success.

Senior and post-acute care organizations also should identify stakeholders who will own the adoption and training process if it’s not being owned by a technology vendor.

CDW also can help organizations with their technology implementations. CDW has experts who are advocating for senior and post-acute care organizations and understand tight margins and short timelines.

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

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