I recently attended the NIC Conference on Investing in Senior Housing and Care, which focused on new developments and hot topics in the senior living and long-term care industry. From every angle, it’s undeniable at this point that the long-term care market is growing.
Transformation is being driven as healthcare real estate investment trusts (REITs) are funneling more capital into the market. In fact, publicly traded REITS currently own more than 4000 healthcare properties across the U.S. and Canada, and their portfolios are worth $90 billion. According to Beth Mace, chief economist and director of Capital Markets Outreach for NIC, “Transaction volume for 2014–15 is going to exceed the transaction volume of the last 12 months. With so much capital coming into the space, we fully expect to see more growth and more new development.”
In addition to an influx in funding, the types of facilities are also shifting. Senior living is moving from just apartments for seniors to a more complex level of care. The new potential relationship with accountable care organizations (ACOs) is also a factor. Ray Thivierge, executive vice president at Genesis HealthCare, says, “Properties that have been well established and enjoy popularity [in the community] are being selected out [for inclusion in an ACO model]. If the formation of an ACO is reliant on a four- to five-star building and you only have a three-star building, then that facility is out of the game.”
This is where technology comes in to keep a community “in the game” and competitive. Even though technology is believed to be a differentiator by senior care providers, there is still a lack of fundamental understanding as to how exactly it sets a community apart. This illustrates the urgent need for operators to educate themselves to gain a better understanding of how to build a technology foundation.
So what sort of plan is needed? Essentially, there is an inherent need to take a step back and start from the basics. For long-term care providers, this means:
- Putting healthcare-grade network infrastructure in place that’s both secure and HIPAA-compliant, so residents and staff have easy access to WiFi
- Incorporating mobile devices for both residents and staff that are outfitted and deployed with comprehensive mobile device management
- Ensuring proper training takes place so technology is being used to its full potential
Education on the benefits and technology impact is also integral to this discussion. For example, sensors and wearable technology offer long-term care organizations the ability to gather and share data through seamless communication. In turn, there is huge potential to leverage this data to impact readmissions, proactively preventing episodic incidents of health and empowering older adults and their caregivers to take control of their health.
The future is incredibly bright, and long-term care organizations that are properly preparing for the future now will be best positioned to reap both short-term and long-term benefits from their technology investments.