This article is sponsored by CDW. This article is based on a discussion with Liz Cramer, Healthcare Strategist at CDW. This discussion took place on September 13, 2023 during the SNN RETHINK Conference. The article below has been edited for length and clarity.
Skilled Nursing News: Liz, to get us started, I think a lot of people obviously know CDW. It’s a big Fortune 500 company, but can you talk a little bit about how CDW partners with providers for their technology needs?
Liz Cramer: CDW from a healthcare standpoint, partners with providers in the post-acute and senior living space to build out solutions that can help to improve workflows, increase efficiencies, look at automation, all the things that everybody’s wondering about.
Curious if you can talk about some of the tech trends that you’re seeing when it comes to skilled nursing. I think both with regard to staff and also residents and patients.
From a trend standpoint, it varies. Everybody’s on a different journey when it comes to technology. We’re seeing infrastructure’s still a huge spend right now. I think we all realized during COVID, unfortunately, we added all these devices because we needed to keep everybody connected. We needed to keep our nursing staff and care staff efficient, and we added all these items to our infrastructure and it didn’t work very well. The infrastructure could not support the extra devices.
A recent Ziegler report, 2023 Technology Spending, showed the top spend for technology right now is still infrastructure, but we’re seeing, touchless vitals, remote patient monitoring, voice and automation are all continuing to be adapted. We are using sensors for monitoring for reduction of falls. We had a session with a group that is piloting a smart toilet seat, which is also helping nursing staff, be more efficient catching UTIs, dehydration which then leads to reduction in falls.
With automation providers are able to catch these things earlier to help the staff really work at the top of their license from a staffing standpoint. Looking at how we get rid of some of these duplicative processes that we’re doing within the industry. Then being able to, again, get the staff focused on what they need to be doing, which is taking care of our patients and residents.
From the resident side, resident engagement is still a huge discussion with many providers where there’s new technologies and innovations coming out every day, and the residents and patients coming into our campuses, as you all know, they’re more interested in technology than they used to be. Having technology available that can keep them entertained, keep them engaged, keep them going to activities is also important as well.
Can you explain a little bit about what the Thrive Center is and the relationship that you have with them?
The Thrive Center is an innovation center that is in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a nonprofit organization, and CDW is their technology partner. We work to bring technology into the Thrive Center, for providers to have the opportunity to come to one spot to see, feel and touch solutions available to the industry. Part of the focus of the Thrive Center is really on technologies that we’re seeing in the post-acute senior living space that are allowing residents to continue to be active, to live independently. Some of it may be living at home, some of it in independent even assisted living and post-acute care.
Sheri Rose, who’s the CEO of the Thrive Center, and I work very closely together looking at new technologies that are coming to the market and how those are being used. We also spend a lot of time working with some of these startups on how the industry actually works because many times, they are coming from outside of the United States and they’re not necessarily familiar with the payment system and the processes within the US. We’re able to help them adjust how they’re going to market to make it a little more exciting and interesting to providers.
Liz, can you talk a little bit about what you see as the biggest challenges when it comes to technology implementation for skilled nursing facilities?
I used to work in the industry. I’m a therapist by background, so I think many times we’ve done things the same way for a very long time, and change is hard no matter how much we want to do it, change is hard. There’s also this conundrum that we are short-staffed. We know there’s a staffing challenge. There was a staffing challenge beforehand, and now we want to add a new process, a new technology, and it takes time to learn that because it is different, it is changing.
Now, I’m already short-staffed. I want to add this new process or new technology that eventually will help my staff be more efficient, be more productive, but in the meantime, it stresses them out because it’s new. How do we work through that? That’s a big challenge.
Also looking at, and I always tell providers this, if we’re sitting down to look at a problem, let’s really figure out the staff that are going to be using the technology. Are they part of this process, and what problem are we trying to solve? Then once it’s implemented, what are we taking away? Ultimately, the goal would be if we’re adding technology to improve processes and inefficiencies and automation is that we’re then getting rid of something else, hopefully, two or three things that we’re going to be able to take off their plate as we move forward. Those are the big challenges.
Obviously, cost is always a challenge as well. Is this something that I’m implementing that’s reimbursable? If it’s not reimbursable, how do we look at it operationally? Is this something that we can bring in? Really looking at, I truly believe some of the falls prevention solutions that we work with, they aren’t necessarily reimbursable, but if you’re seeing a reduction in falls with injury of 50%, 60%, that’s worth looking at, bringing that in for your staff. Those are some of the things we talked to customers about as well.
What do you think are the most exciting technologies that are out there on the horizon?
There are a number of items that are coming into the industry that we’re seeing. The smart toilet seat is just absolutely amazing, and it seems crazy, but it really is. It really is bringing to the industry a benefit to the industry and assisting with nursing staff workflow. It’s allowing for that preventative care. It’s detecting dehydration, it’s detecting early stages of UTI. Those are things that, again, reduce falls, but we can be proactive in our care versus reactive.
From a robotic standpoint, I don’t think we’re going to get to the robotic RN. I think we still need people to actually provide that care, and that’s very important. We are getting to the point, we’re seeing some pilots and use cases studies with a company that has a robot, Labrador Systems, and they’re using it for check-ins to help with monitoring some of those types of things, so seeing some of that in the industry as well. I think robotics is definitely going to continue to grow in the industry, not necessarily a robotic RN.
How are you seeing providers handle MFA with their frontline staff when a second device isn’t available?
Multi-factor authentication. If the second device isn’t available, typically, that’s where you’re using that second device. We still have some providers that absolutely don’t want their staff using personal devices and some that have kind of said, “Okay, let’s figure out how we can do this.” Again, depending on your security infrastructure, that’s something that we work with some of our partners on as well. If staff are using their own devices it’s important to plan for the security needs and be sure the infrastructure can support the extra devices. There is the ability to use smart keys, tokens and USBs for MFA if phones are not available as well.
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