Among those who’ve felt the pandemic’s impact the most are the residents and staff of senior care homes and facilities. The pandemic stress-tested the senior care sector’s operational capabilities, and heroic levels of effort and changes to caregiving undoubtedly saved countless lives.
Due to the vaccine, there is light at the end of the tunnel and an opportunity to “build back better“. We can now become more resilient in managing operational change, implementing better operational controls, and harnessing scale. New classes of operational technology can help accelerate this process and level up senior care by addressing these challenges:
Staffing Challenges in Senior Care
It was highlighted during the pandemic that the fast-growing senior care sector has experienced staffing challenges for years. Back in 2016, the senior living trade association, Argentum, stated in a report that the industry would have to attract more than 1.2 million employees by 2025 to meet demand. The report says that “the senior living industry will have to make senior living working environments and career paths attractive to future workers”.
This will involve offering increased wages for those staff and investments to improve working conditions. A commensurate level of productivity gains will be required to preserve operating margins. This will require deploying more tools of the job that caregivers can use to enrich their patients’ lives and experiences on a day-to-day basis while improving efficiency and quality.
Tech tools can assist in the training and instruction of increasingly tech-savvy employees, who may already wear many hats in a sector stretched for staff. Advanced monitoring from administrators reviewing digitally logged employee activities ensures that a “closed-loop” exists between intent and execution – improving accountability.
Increased Regulatory and Compliance Environment
Overnight, new regulations and protocols threatened to overwhelm senior care’s capability to absorb operational change during the pandemic. Post-pandemic, increased government funding for the senior care sector is likely to come with increased regulation and oversight levels in the future – and with it, elevated risk of non-compliance fines, costly both financially and in terms of reputational damage.
According to Beth Lori, Compliance Director/Corporate Compliance Officer at Life Care Services, there are seven steps recommended to follow for senior care compliance success:
- Install a high-level compliance officer who reports directly to the governing body.
- Implement policies and procedures designed to reduce violations and promote quality of care.
- Educate and train staff on why compliance is needed.
- Provide an anonymous reporting system free from retaliation.
- Use audit and monitoring systems.
- Investigate potential violations and take corrective action, if needed.
- Stay proactive and monitor changes in federal legislation.
Technology accelerates the progress against these steps:
- A digital system increases the level of organization and rigor attached to policy and procedure implementation.
- A digital system aids in educating and training employees on important compliance activities.
- A digital system helps monitor, audit, inspect, and take corrective/preventive action to prevent potential violations.
- A digital system quickly drives down to the field clear instructions and guidelines from the compliance officer’s office.
Turning Scale into an Operational Asset
The senior care industry’s organic growth combined with increased levels of investor funds and M&A is creating larger management groups. Scale – normally an economic asset – creates challenges due to the organizational changes required to support increasingly larger numbers of locations.
Because there are local differences, centralizing operations can be a tricky balancing act. In this article, Chuck Sudo from Senior Housing News reports that “as consolidation continues to gain favor, larger operators are attuned to the need to operate their assets, dictated by the needs of the community in which they are located”. Mississauga, Ontario-based Revera operates 500 communities in the U.S. Revera SVP, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships Trish Barbato said, “You have to be careful about being too tight versus the freedom you need at the local level.”
Cloud-based information technology supports larger groups in scaling operations management guidelines and ways of working. But operators need to be careful to select a platform that promotes increased standardization while allowing for local differences – which may have differing “footprints”, local market requirements, and regulations.
TrustPlace - The Technology Solution to Level Up Senior Care
TrustPlace is a digital tool for intelligently managing frontline operations and compliance. TrustPlace enables operations and compliance leaders, location managers, and staff to work together digitally to improve efficiency and quality of care for residents. TrustPlace was designed to support groups with multiple locations, standardizing operations and compliance while supporting differences at the local level.