But with anything “new” there’s a lot of misinformation, so we’re going to dispel the five most common myths about AI in healthcare.
MYTH 1: AI WILL REPLACE DOCTORS
Technology can’t and won’t replace actual physicians, but it will help them be more efficient and provide better care to patients. For instance, AI with machine vision can monitor patients who are at risk of falling and notify healthcare workers before the patient intends to get up, preventing a fall. AI can also be used to monitor patient vitals, which are then transmitted to nurses and doctors so they can take a proactive approach and possibly prevent serious health complications such as heart attacks and sepsis.
MYTH 2: BIG DATA WILL FIX EVERY PROBLEM
AI is only as good as the data it collects. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution—far from it. Implementation of AI within health systems is specifically adapted for the circumstances in which it will be used. It can streamline administrative processes like patient codes for billing and allow more patient accessibility. AI is also used to help doctors’ treat patients. Complex health data is distilled into accessible, measurable information doctors can use to diagnose illnesses and provide prescriptive wellness programs. The possibilities are limitless!
MYTH 3: IMPLEMENTATION IS HARD
If you’re partnering with the right company, implementing AI can be seamless! VirtuSense Technologies‘ products are simple to setup and they are compatible with endpoint devices already in use by your staff such as smart phones, iPads, and the central console.
MYTH 4: IMPLEMENTATION IS EXPENSIVE
Many AI companies are creating technology that can be adapted with the systems and tools already in use by the healthcare facility, so they are affordable—sometimes, more affordable than solutions currently in place.
MYTH 5: AI WILL SHARE PERSONAL DATA
Any technology implemented in a healthcare setting has to comply with strict HIPAA privacy rules. Also, unlike video surveillance, AI remote sensors aren’t cameras and don’t record patients. The sensors detect movements and anomalies based on thousands of hours of normative data to alert health providers before an issue arises or worsens.
VirtuSense‘s mission is to accelerate access to care. Predictive AI can make healthcare simple, affordable, and accessible without compromising the quality of care.
Are your ads and marketing materials representative of your resident and caregiver population? Are they representative of society? According to an article in Seniors Housing Business, baby boomers entering senior living communities are more diverse than ever, but populations in these communities don’t reflect this reality.
They surveyed 1,691 people approximately split across Caucasians, Asians, African Americans and Hispanics. The questions focused specifically on continuing care retirement communities, referred to as life plan communities in the survey. Findings included:
Hispanics were most likely to say they would consider a move to a life plan community or CCRC.
African Americans were most likely to say they would stay in their own home with help from family.
Asians, despite higher average median incomes, were less likely to say they would feel welcome in a life plan community.
A second part of the study revealed that less than 50% of senior living management personnel felt that the racial and ethnic distribution of their community mirrored that of the surrounding area. And, while residents are typically non-diverse (95 percent Caucasian), community leaders reported that their staffs are more diverse, with 51% Caucasian, 25% African American, 17% Hispanic and the remainder Asian and other races.
The report suggests that barriers to community diversity come from a lack of diversity among leadership, as well as a community’s tendency to appear exclusive based on its religious or ethnic affiliations. Be aware of the face of the brand you’re distributing to your market, because the future of senior living is diverse.
There are many stigmas surrounding senior living; especially in the wake of the coronavirus, which disproportionately affected places with an older population. Right now, senior living is often seen as a last resort—somewhere you have to go when there’s simply no other option. This shouldn’t be the case—senior living exists, and continues to exist because it fills a need within the market and leverages economics to provide more overall value to its residents than they could afford apart from it.
But how does senior living work from an economic perspective?
There’s a principle in economics called the economy of scale: Put simply, the more you buy or manufacture of something, the cheaper it is per unit. This is because you can implement more processes, standardizations, and efficiencies that bring down the overall cost. This principle is why it’s cheaper to buy in bulk at the grocery store, why custom items are more expensive, and why more popular, well–supplied items tend to shift downward in price over time.
But what does this have to do with senior living? What a senior living community is (from a market perspective) is a giant facilitator of the economy of scale for the benefit of an older population.
Let’s take an example: It can be expensive to hire a cleaning service just for your apartment. This is because you’re not just paying for the cleaning—you’re paying for the time it takes for the cleaner to drive over, the gas for the drive, and an extra bit on top to distribute risk costs based on how often there are last minute cancellations. But when a senior living community hires a cleaning staff they don’t have to worry about these extra costs—the rooms are always in the same place, there’s no driving between them, they have a tangible number of rooms that need cleaning that they can budget for, and cancellations aren’t a sunk cost since the residents are paying for the service either way based on their rent.
This same principle applies to every service and amenity a senior living community provides for its residents: Hiring a professional chef to cook meals for just one person can be expensive, but hiring one chef plus some kitchen staff to cook for a whole community saves money in a lot of ways— ingredients are purchased in bulk and prepared for big groups, saving time and money, among other things. All these individual uses of the economy of scale add up, allowing every resident in a community to enjoy a much more comfortable lifestyle than they could afford on their own.
What does this have to do with safety?
The economy of scale doesn’t just have to do with luxuries and creature comforts, but also applies in the area of health and safety. While many people would be unable to afford a full–time nurse on call 24/7, senior living communities can disperse the cost of this due to the fact that they don’t need a nurse for every resident in the community—they only need enough nursing staff to handle things as they come up.
This same principle ripples through every level of health and safety. Senior living communities can leverage the economy of scale to outfit buildings with state of the art safety features, staff on call 24/7, top of the line medical technology like VSTBalance and VSTAlert, or anything else to improve the health, wellness, and safety of their residents.
Even in the context of COVID-19, while being in a more condensed high risk population can increase the chances of contracting the virus, other factors can improve outcomes: Lockdowns and quarantines are a lot more bearable and less isolating with a staff to check up on you, testing protocols can ensure that positive cases are identified quickly, and an on–staff nursing team means better and faster treatment of infected residents.
Senior living isn’t just a place you go when you have no other option. Well–run senior living communities allow their residents to experience comfort and care for a price they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. That’s why, from an economic perspective, you’re safer in senior living.
How the leaders at one senior living community rallied to provide solace and continuity to residents and staff during a frightful and confusing time, and what they learned along the way.
Several members of the leadership team at Montgomery Place in Chicago took the unprecedented step of moving into their community in March 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect in senior living communities across the nation. Here, CEO Deborah Hart, COO Paul Zappoli, and CRO (Chief Relationship Officer) Stefanie Dziedzic talk about the decision to move in and what they took away from the experience, in their own words.
Deborah Hart: When COVID attacked us in 2020—and I use that term very judiciously—nobody knew how to deal with it. We were all learning as we went, basing it on experiences of infection control procedures. But COVID gave the entire senior living industry a new component to deal with. Because we immediately sensed fear, several members of the executive leadership team, myself included, chose to literally move into the building. We had some vacant apartments that we could utilize. Some people were on beds, others were on air mattresses or sleeping bags, but we chose to be here 24 hours a day so that when our staff and residents needed us, we were here.
Stefanie Dziedzic: This was not an initiative that was done for show. It was really done from the heart, and I think that’s what made it successful. Residents couldn’t see their families. They couldn’t see their friends. They couldn’t do the things that made their life normal. We were what made their life normal. And so it really was an easy transition to make. Now, a full year later, it’s almost hard to remember how scary it was and how quickly things were changing.
Paul Zappoli: We moved into Montgomery Place because it was the right thing to do. We can’t help a resident or a staff member, if we’re not there. As we all know, emergencies don’t only happen when you’re there. They happen at the most inopportune times. So having someone in the building that is three minutes away from the problem is really important.
Hart: It wasn’t uncommon to get a call at 2:00 am. We were with our staff members, supporting them all through the night. We would do rounds at all hours just to make sure everybody was comfortable. It gave a calm to the overall organization and a comfort to residents and families that I don’t think we could have accomplished in any other fashion.
Communication was Key
Dziedzic: When I look back at the CCTV videos now, I’m like, What were we thinking? The graphics are terrible and the jokes are worse. But the residents appreciated it and they understood the intent and the spirit behind what we were trying to do.
Hart: Just like residents, staff were very scared. They didn’t understand this any more than anyone else. And the media and news reports became very confusing. So we did an Herculean effort in order to help educate, give comfort, and show and demonstrate everything from mask wearing to being able to put on all of the appropriate PPE—and making certain the PPE was present. They gained confidence. They also didn’t have a choice. [They] could not work from home.
Zappoli: It was very hard to actually get the staff’s comfort to a certain level where they’re able to execute their jobs. They came to work with a positive attitude, but the uncertainties created fear. And I saw that across all staff members. I saw this video [shown below] by Dr. Matthew Bai, an emergency room physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He explained what he was dealing with on a day-to-day basis, and I sent it to the entire staff because I felt like it would be inspiring for them to watch it on their own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGnxNsKtkjI&
https://youtu.be/OGnxNsKtkjI I learned a lot from that video, and I talked to staff and I said maybe you shouldn’t be fearful of being around [COVID-19]. You maybe shouldn’t even be fearful of contracting it. What you should be more fearful of is spreading it.So knowing what you can do to stop the spread—wash your hands, don’t touch your face. You know, the simple things.
Hart: The most important lesson that I have pulled out of COVID, and the response here in senior living, is to understand and be empathic to staff, to residents, to understand their fears and develop a plan of action as a business that can respond, and not create more fear. Without communication fear sets in very fast. And communication is not just a one-time event. It is constantly repeating the same message. It’s consistency, and it’s demonstrating calmness as you go through the process, as well as letting people see your emotions. There were a lot of events that occurred and we had to let people see that we were human too. And that helped.
Dziedzic: The days were so long. I don’t recall ever feeling as mentally and physically tired as I did in those days—and yet invigorated at the same time. Some of my favorite memories from that time were dinner with my colleagues and getting to know each other. It really became a family environment. We were literally spending 18 hours a day together.
And then as the days went on and we didn’t have any positive cases, we would get these alerts on our phones when somebody had a sore throat and we would panic. And then we would all be like, Okay, sore throats are still going to happen in the middle of a pandemic. Let’s not freak out. And we would talk each other off of our ledges. And I think the bond that came out of that experience is one of my absolute favorite things.
Barbara Dwyer, is a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 and ended up in the hospital for dehydration. After being released from the hospital, she says this of the care she received by staff at Montgomery Place:
Leading by Example
Hart: Leadership has to be very person oriented and you have to be able to pivot quickly—and in COVID we had to pivot very fast. You have to make rapid decisions. You have to have confidence in your decisions, even though underneath you’re wondering, Is this the right choice? We gained the confidence of our staff and our residents. We were doing the steps that we expected our staff to do (like delivering meals) so that they understood, we were part of this team that had to work together.
Zappoli: My motto is we need to be better everyday. Better tomorrow than you were today. Work hard and do the best you can. Hart: I think the most surprising thing that came out of COVID for me is how quickly we were able to adapt. Any time you’re faced with a calamity, you’re always wondering, How am I ever going to make it through? As an organization that serves seniors, we have to go through emergency preparedness. All sorts of emergencies. It’s totally different when you’re living it, but we were able to do it and we were able to create a playbook. So should anything similar happen in the future, we can go back to it and say, this is how it works.
The Effects of Isolation
Zappoli: Every time we were able to see residents, we did our best to have a conversation and make them smile. And that helps all the way around. It was immensely beneficial to staff members because they became very close to all of the residents. So we relied on them to give us feedback so we could stay attuned to our residents.
Hart: When COVID struck, everything shut down, including, outpatient therapy for a period of time. We saw how devastating isolation can be. Our residents declined mentally and physically when we were asking them to isolate in their apartments. When we saw how many people had declined, we were very concerned about it. Hart pull quote: Our need as human beings is to be with people. And we saw the decline that can be created by isolation, and I never want to see that again.
Dziedzic: Natalie Hackett, our director of rehab services was extremely concerned about physical decline in the residents and she was smart enough to think, You know, if they’re not going to come to me, I’m going to go to them. She took VSTBalance [which uses artificial intelligence to identify mobility deficits in older people] door-to-door so that people could get their assessment in their apartment, and she did inpatient therapy on an outpatient basis, and people started to improve. It really helped illustrate for the residents and their families, what an impact immobility had on people’s gait and balance and stability, and was really able to tell the future story of, Hey, if we don’t get ahead of this, this could really be a big problem. We could have falls, we can have injuries and we don’t want any of that. So by utilizing that technology and really showing people a mirror for where they were, it helped them overcome their fear and come out of their apartments and really start to re-emerge and re-engage and get stronger and healthier.
Coming out of this better than before
Zappoli: It has been the toughest year I’ve ever had to deal with in my career, but it also strengthened our mission and values as an organization. Our staff knows that we will support them at any moment and that will make us stronger.
Dziedzic: I think where you work matters, and nobody wants to get up and go to work and spend a third of their life or more with people they wouldn’t want to normally hang out with. We are fortunate that we are a small enough team and a small enough organization that we can still maintain those personal connections. There’s no real barrier to anybody on our team coming up with a good idea and walking into our CEO’s office and saying, Hey, I really think we need to think about this, or we need to consider this. And it will always be considered. And I think having that shared experience of living through what we’ve lived through, has taken us to a different level as a team, as an organization, and as a community.
The media surrounding COVID-19 and senior living in 2020 was brutal, creating a PR crisis that fundamentally changed how senior living is perceived. Headlines focused on death and despair and not surprisingly, the bad publicity has contributed to decreased occupancy and a poor public image. But, we want to change the narrative and make the voice of the industry heard: Older adults are safer in senior living than at home—even during a pandemic.
With this in mind, the expectations for senior living has changed overnight. According to an article in Barron’s, “Pressure to reinvent senior living more broadly is intensifying. Part of the industry has used a hospitality or real-estate model and not accounted for the public-health ramifications of older people living in close proximity.” Potential residents and their families need to be assured that the industry is agile and shifting to address the challenges that have been highlighted as a result of COVID-19.
Rethinking What Matters
Senior living communities offer three core benefits that residents simply can’t get at home, especially during a pandemic: Care, Comfort, and Community. During COVID-19, safety became the number one priority and it’s a trend that isn’t going away. Residents and their families want to be assured that access to care 24/7 is top of mind. Communities with doctors, onsite wellness clinics, and telehealth services such as remote patient monitoring for those with chronic conditions are the wave of the future.
During the height of the pandemic, the executive leadership team at Montgomery Place in Chicago, made the unprecedented decision to move into their community so they could offer compassion and support to residents and staff 24/7. Chief Relationship Officer (CRO) Stefanie Dziedzic says, “This was not an initiative that was done for show. It was really done from the heart, and I think that’s what made it successful. Residents couldn’t see their families. They couldn’t see their friends. They couldn’t do the things that made their life normal. We were what made their life normal. And so it really was an easy transition to make. Now, a full year later, it’s almost hard to remember how scary it was and how quickly things were changing.
CEO Deborah Hart adds, “It gave a calm to the overall organization and a comfort to residents and families that I don’t think we could have accomplished in any other fashion.”
Montgomery Place resident Barbara Dwyer, who contracted COVID-19 last November says the care she received when she returned from the hospital, likely saved her life. “Someone would bring me food, check my oxygen levels, take my temperature, and so on … whereas where I was living before, I don’t think I would have survived. Just having someone around me and watching over me was a good thing.”
There’s comfort in knowing people are checking on loved ones throughout the day to make sure they have what they need, such as hot meals or access to books and movies, all under one roof—in good times and bad. And for residents who actively venture out on their own, it’s reassuring to know that they don’t have to go out when the weather is bad to refill a prescription or go grocery shopping, if there’s a pharmacy and store right in their community.
And being part of a community encourages seniors to be more engaged and active, which contributes to their overall wellbeing. In addition to socializing with other residents, communities offer exercise classes, arts and crafts, games, field trips, and more. Older adults living at home, just don’t have ready access to these kinds of activities, which can lead to declines in their health and emotional outlook.
Technology will be another major shift
Communities that adapt and embrace technology will thrive; those that don’t will fail. “We’ve actually been seeing this for several years in advance, where the baby boomer generation is looking for a different product than what their parents looked for,” Hart explains. She adds that they are tech-savvy and demand high-speed internet access and smart tools/technologies to be more comfortable and connected.
“Although technology is going to the impact the way we move forward, we also know the value of human contact, so we have to find a balance between how we can encourage people to stay connected on a one-to-one personal basis and still use technology,” she acknowledges.
In any case, the advantages of living in a community far outweigh the potential for safety concerns and isolation if one were to stay at home.
Safer in Senior Living is a campaign that promotes the benefits of living in a community and shares the real-life stories of dedication and triumph from communities across the United States to bring them into the mainstream conversation. Join the movement and spread the word that it is Safer in Senior Living!
Safer in Senior Living invites residents, caregivers, and LTC administrators to share their stories about the benefits of living in a community and how it contributes to their health, safety, and longevity. We want to flip the script on the negative headlines surrounding long-term care that dominated 2020, and highlight the positive outcomes. As an industry, let’s join together and share these stories to ease anxieties about living in CCRCs and help people understand that they will have the greatest care in senior living communities.