Using Data Intelligence to Provide Better Senior Care
It seems like every industry has been overtaken by talk of analytics and data-driven planning. If you work in the senior care industry, don’t think you’re an exception. Assisted living communities, in-home care companies and nursing homes alike can all use data to improve the care they provide to residents.
Many are already starting to.
Data Intelligence and Senior Care
Collecting and making use of data in your senior care practices can be good for a number of compelling reasons:
1. It helps you understand caregiver’s strengths better.
Every caregiver who works for you is unique. Recognizing their particular strengths and weaknesses can help you assign them the roles they’ll perform best. If one of your employees is especially good with people with Alzheimer’s while another possesses the physical strength to more comfortably move patients who need physical help, then making sure they’re each assigned tasks working with the patients who can most benefit from those skills just makes sense. Data that tracks health outcomes and patient satisfaction when specific employees are teamed up with different seniors in your care will help you better see those strengths.
2. It helps you understand individual needs better.
If your company cares for a large number of seniors, staying on top of the particular conditions of each patient and understanding over a long period of time what types of care work best for them can be tricky – especially if the staff who work with them directly changes over time. Data makes the process easier. You can track over time which activities, health treatments and tactics produce the best results for each individual. Once you can better see what works for each individual in your care, you can easily provide that information to every caregiver who works with them and ensure that they receive the highest level of care each day, every time.
3. It helps you see what works best for your business.
Understanding each senior in your care on a personal level is important, but data has the extra benefit of helping you gain insights into the larger trends in what works and doesn’t in your facilities. If offering tai chi classes consistently lead to improved health outcomes, then you may have trouble figuring that out based on anecdotal evidence, but will have an easier time seeing the relationship between the two things with the help of data.
4. It helps you run your business more efficiently and make a dollar go further.
In addition to spotting the things you try that improve outcomes, data can also help you look for ways improve how efficiently your business is run. If there are initiatives or products you’ve invested in that don’t prove to be worth the cost, your data will make it easier to identify those and cut them out of the budget in the future so you can spend more on the initiatives that are working.
5. It helps you understand the needs and priorities of your residents better, so you can build out your business to better serve them.
In senior care, there’s often a disconnect between the decision makers and the seniors affected by those decisions. As hard as you may try, if you’re basing decisions on how a facility or in-home care business is run on assumptions you’ve made about what’s working or could work, you may be guessing wrong. Data that tracks what’s really happening and what residents are really thinking and feeling can bridge any disconnect that exists and enable you to confidently make decisions based on knowledge rather than just intuition.
Ways to Use More Data to Improve Senior Care
Talking about “data” is overly general. There are lots of different types of data that can be collected in a number of ways and generally, more data is better – but only if you have the means to properly analyze it:
Invest in data intelligence software.
You probably already have a lot of data and could easily begin collecting more, but if it exists only in the notes of caregivers or forms that sit in a filing cabinet, it won’t produce the kind of improvements you’re looking for.
Data intelligence software designed for senior living companies can help you get that data into a form that you can use. Companies like GreatCall and SeniorGrowth give you a place to input that data and start seeing the trends in the information you have.
While data intelligence software isn’t necessary to start tracking and using data in your senior care business, it will make the process much easier on you and make it more likely that you can visualize the data in helpful ways and gain useful insights from it.
Track health outcomes.
Part of your job as a senior care company is keeping your patients healthy and safe as possible for as long as possible. Tracking how well you’re achieving that should be an important part of how you use data. When you carefully track the incidences of things likes falls, heart attacks and hospitalizations, you can start to better suss out things about your facility and care that may be contributing to negative health outcomes and what’s helping to reduce them.
You may learn that seniors who attend certain exercise classes are less likely to experience falls or notice that reducing salt in the menu brings down the number of heart attacks in the facility. Some senior living residences are making use of wearables to add to their data. One community used activity trackers that monitored heart rates to learn that when seniors heart rates rose above 90 beats a minute during sleep, it pointed to a higher likelihood that they’d have a health issue soon. Knowing that allows caregivers to take action and get the patient to a doctor for preventative help before the issue gets worse.
Use surveys and assessments.
If you’ve been worried while reading that the idea of “data” feels inhuman or impersonal, it doesn’t have to be. One of the best places to start collecting data is by asking questions of your residents. Create assessments for them to fill in information on their experience with your company’s care and their satisfaction with it. Provide surveys for them to respond to.
You can combine this information with other data you collect, such as demographic and health information included in forms (although be careful to anonymize this data where appropriate, in keeping with HIPAA) and data you have on what’s going on your facilities, such as everyday activities, what’s on the menu, or who’s on staff each day.
Data is a means to identify room for real improvement in the care you provide for the people your business serves. That’s it’s most important job, but it can also make the lives of your employees easier, enable them to do better work and help you run the business more efficiently.
You have to take time to analyze your data for that to happen and, just as importantly, take action based on what you learn. The results are likely to be well worth any investment you make.