On April 19, 2022, McKnight’s Senior Living hosted a webinar “Revenue-Builder Secret Recipe: 5 Ingredients for Tech-Driven Predictable Growth” led by Sarah Thomas, Executive Strategist on Aging Innovation. Sarah, joined by two leading industry operators, Shelley Esden, Chief Operation Officer at Sonata Senior Living, and Dave Morgan, Director of Technology and Information Systems at Graceworks Lutheran Services, shared their insights on how leveraging technology to become the “community to beat” has proven that a right mix of technology encourages move-ins, increases length of stay and improves staff efficiency and satisfaction.  

Below is a summary of the discussion. 

Changing expectations in senior living

Managing senior living has never been more challenging, with struggles in occupancy levels, rising prices, staffing and resource management problems, and changing expectations of employees, residents and families. Operators must find new ways to differentiate and demonstrate value. Today, the value proposition goes beyond just quality of care and infection control. “Technology is a key differentiator for communities to remain competitive,” Thomas said in the webinar. “Yet communities often don’t have the staff to be able to manage multiple technology vendorsThey often don’t have a strong sense of how to prioritize their initiatives, or really how to justify the spend internally to really advocate for certain technology investments or purchases.” 

“Communities feel pressure to show the revenue gains and the bottom-line improvements of any new technology they want to engage with,” Thomas said. Residents are looking for familiar entertainment options, voice command technology, smart home features, personalized engagement options, and they want it at their fingertips at any given time. Thomas said that with the COVID-19 pandemic, families now demand more information about the services and lifestyles provided to their loved ones. “Never before have we had so many questions about infection control and the measures communities are putting into place to ensure the safety of their loved ones,” Esden added. 

Staff expectations have also evolved. There can be a disconnect between technology available to residents or their own personal technology, and the technology available to them at work. “Providing the right tools and technology for employees to do their jobs is an important part of keeping them engaged and happy,” Dave Morgan said. “it’s not just all about the device that they’re using, it extends all the way to the information that those different devices and technologies provide.” 

5 key ingredients for tech-driven predictable growth

“Technology is a key differentiator, to remain competitive,” Thomas said as she outlined five ingredients that senior living communities should consider when prioritizing and implementing technology initiatives. Those elements can not only result in predictable and profitable growth, but also create happier residents, staff members and families. 

#1 Define your goals: A primary step in any technology implementation is to clearly define your goals before you even consider a new technology. Identify your operational goals and how you want them achieved early on. What efficiencies do you hope to create and how would you measure success? Esden emphasized the importance of stepping back, considering the big picture, thinking about how the technology is designed to help the community overcome challenges, and assessing whether leaders and others are willing to adopt it. 

“They have to ask if the technology will bring additional peace of mind to my families. Will it enhance communication? Will the technology help me achieve my goal of minimizing team member burnout?” Esden said. “I encourage everyone to look beyond  bottom-line key metrics at the intangibles that will lead to your bottom line.” 

#2 Facilitate the resident experience: Your residents can use technology to make each day in your community the best it can be. Some operators are hesitant to implement the latest technologies for fear that residents will lose the personal connection with the senior living staffEsden admitted during the webinar that she was once one of those operators. Saying, “I have learned that integrating marketing automation into the website supports the resident journey by providing timely, accurate information while also generating high-quality sales-qualified leads. It’s automatic and creates workflows that are directly tied to the individual goals of you’re the organization.” 

Automation technology can affect all aspects of resident safety and engagement. Sentrics Ensure 360SM, for example, can detect when a resident is not up for the day and notify staff. Staff can set up automatic geofencing for residents to keep them from going to certain areas and the technology can notify them if two people who don’t get along are in the same room. Dashboards can identify appropriate staffing patterns, and Sentrics Engage 360 SM can provide recommendations to residents and staff based on resident wellbeing. 

#3 Leverage technology integration: A pre-integrated suite is the fastest way to make technology a key differentiator in your community. “We’ve done everything… We have taken on engagement systems, upgraded entertainment, advanced eCall technology, real-time location sensors, and even integrated EMRs with other systems,”Esden said. And It is easier when the technology is pre-integrated like the Sentrics360SM suite. 

Graceworks Lutheran Services implemented bundled TV, Internet, and Voice solutions that are managed and operated by a single vendor. “We initially offered basic TV service across our Bethany campus and telephone services in the apartment and connected buildings,” explained Morgan. “The independent cottages were on their own, and we provided Wifi services in common areas only, no Internet. Residents struggled because their services changed as they moved through the continuum.” Morgan explained that the company made the decision to partner with Sentrics to provide residents with entertainment technology. As a result of bundling the services, they were able to reduce costs, improve services for residents and simplify billing. 

#4 Translate technology into successful occupancy: Morgan explained that the move-in process is a continuation of the process of collecting information about new residents and preparing staff for their arrival. However, technology’s role doesn’t end there. It continues throughout the entire continuum of care Bethany Village has to offer.  

Additionally, another service that has proven popular at Bethany Village is the Tech Concierge. The onsite Tech Concierge helps residents set up their televisions, computers, and smart devices on move-in day, and ensures that residents’ email and Facebook accounts can be accessed so they are able to stay in touch with friends and family. In addition, that same Tech Concierge is full time and available during regular business hours, to assist residents with any technology-related issues. 

#5 Drive adoption and boost revenue: The key to a successful rollout of new technology is overcoming the fear of change. To achieve this, communities should invest in the appropriate infrastructure upfront. 

Esden noted that operators should vet vendors to ensure they can assist with training and the integration of new technology, and Morgan noted that infrastructure upgrades—such as fiber optic cable—may be needed to support new technologies. Bethany Village took a giant step toward the future with the installation of fiber optic cables. The community can now leverage a state-of-the-art networking system capable of keeping up with modern Internet and streaming demands. Prior to this, Graceworks Lutheran Services estimated that approximately 30% to 35% of the Bethany Village residents used the Internet. The company estimates that 65% of its residents now use the Internet daily, and they expect that number will continue to grow. 

“Communities need to understand that upgrading technology is a cost of doing business and the investment is going to support the growth of the business,” Morgan said. “We can talk about new technology helping to generate revenue, but we can’t overlook the nuts and bolts that provide the underpinnings for the technology.” 

A world of opportunities for technology-driven revenue enhancement

For Morgan, technology provides endless possibilities for revenue enhancement. “Much like other service providers, we can provide tiers to the residents based on their needs and desires,” he said. “For example, residents who need increased internet speed because they do a lot of streaming or have large numbers of grandkids visiting can seamlessly connect and stay connected. That’s just one example of the opportunities for increasing revenue based on an investment in technology.” 

Thomas concluded that justifying technology investments is always a challenge for senior living communities, but the right investments can make a significant impact. You can download the full webinar right HERE. 

The right technology can help you become the “community to beat”. You can deliver a more personalized experience for residents with an integrated suite of solutions from Sentrics. Contact us now right HERE for more information on how a single integrated solution can help you to improve outcomes, reduce risk, and create a better resident, family, and staff experience.