Thrive Center CEO and Executive Director Sheri Rose shares her outlook for priorities in the senior care sector for 2023.

Feb 09 2023

Q&A: Thrive Center’s CEO Makes Staffing Shortage Concerns a Top Priority

Sheri Rose shares her outlook for a new year in the aging services sector.

According to the Pew Research Center, the use of technology and social media among older adults continues to grow, and experts believe the trend will hold as more baby boomers reach retirement age.

“When you look at adults 65 and older, they have smartphones, they have tablets, they have wearables and they have smart home devices,” says Sheri Rose, CEO and executive director of the Louisville, Ky.-based Thrive Center, which highlights technological advancements in aging services. “They may enter an independent or assisted living community and they’ll expect all their devices to work. And that expectation will only build with each generation.”

Rose spoke to HealthTech about promising innovations in senior care, how to alleviate staffing shortages and what industry leaders are prioritizing for the new year.

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HEALTHTECH: What are the highest-priority issues for senior care organizations in 2023?

ROSE: I think it would be workforce and staffing issues, especially in the post-acute area. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw so many people leave healthcare. Staffing has always been an issue, but it reached critical status during the pandemic. Now, organizations are really trying to recover, so they’re looking for solutions that can augment their workforce and make workflows seamless — not a lot of logins, not a lot of devices, more cloud-based solutions that will really drive efficiency and mobility, because that’s going to be key to a lot of them keeping their doors open. For any IT leader working in post-acute care, it’s going to be about asking, “How can we augment the workforce shortage and help with staffing issues, smoother clinical workflows and ease of implementation?”

EXPLORE: Three senior care tech trends to watch in 2023.

HEALTHTECH: During the 2022 LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO, you spoke about how technology can alleviate staffing shortages. Could you expand on that?

ROSE: We talked a lot about smart home technologies, and when I say smart home, it may not be your home address; it could be independent living or assisted living within a continuing care retirement community. With these smart technologies, it’s really following up with that individual and keeping them independent for as long as possible, where they’re not transitioning into higher levels of skilled care. For technologies such as a smart toilet seat, you may ask, how does that augment staff? Well, if you're in a memory care unit, patients are not going to tell you if they have a urinary tract infection. You're not going to know if they've been drinking or they’re dehydrated. The smart toilet seat is actually able to analyze and alert the staff on changes in condition to prevent further complications and before symptoms arise. Technologies can replace manual check-ins and integrate with the nurse call system.  

We're also looking at a lot of home sensor-type technologies where, with artificial intelligence, you can track movement with nonintrusive motion detection. Yes, there are a lot of wearables on the market to help with tracking vitals and wandering, but at a certain point, as dementia progresses, wearables are not appropriate. A smart watch or Life Alert may be left on the shelf. So, they may be at home, but you need to monitor them to know they got out of bed, that they haven’t fallen, that there was an attempt made to open the refrigerator or if they left the premises. 

Voice assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, have also been a tremendous help. There’s so much you can do with resident engagement technologies and voice assistants. I have had people say, “I don't like them listening into my conversations.” But if you’re visually impaired or have mobility issues, you would look at it differently. Voice assistants can help augment a person’s experience at home and help them maintain their independence. They can use it to turn up the thermostat, turn on the lights, ask for the weather forecast or make a call to a family member.

HEALTHTECH: There’s a lot of discussion around automation. What should organizations have in place before deploying an automated solution to alleviate staffing burdens?

ROSE: With all of the technologies that we're seeing now, so many of them need Wi-Fi to work, so you have to have internet connectivity and bandwidth. In post-acute care, there are so many older buildings out there that really need that infrastructure upgrade. So, if you're going to bring in some of these newer, more progressive emerging technologies, and you don't have the infrastructure in place, you’re going to fail. The last thing that you want to do is to frustrate the staff, because if a solution doesn’t work properly, they’re not going to use it, because they don’t have time to wait or call IT. They’re going to walk away from the solution, and they’re going to go back to paper or to whatever they were using before. If you really want to consider these emerging technologies, you have to first start with the basics, and that’s infrastructure.

LEARN MORE: Find out how to tackle senior care staff shortages with technology.

HEALTHTECH: What are the top three tech trends for senior care for 2023?

ROSE: We are seeing so much around AI, but we need to move it beyond a buzzword. What can you do with that AI? Can you automate detailed reports in a dashboard that can capture current data and trends over time to make predictions? It’s about analyzing the data for outcomes.

Sheri Rose
We are seeing so much around AI, but we need to move it beyond a buzzword.”

Sheri Rose CEO and Executive Director, Thrive Center

We’re also seeing a lot around robotics, from assisting in dining and transportation to social companionship. I think the workforce shortage is another reason why robotics continues to be an area of interest.

And then, of course, there are a lot of products around mobility and fall prevention. Falls are one of the biggest healthcare expenses; about $50 billion a year is spent in the U.S. alone related to nonfatal falls. So, how can you better prevent them? How can we look at these mobility products that can not only assess us for fall risk but can work with us to improve neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis and try to keep us healthy and mobile?

Photography by JONBOB

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