Jim Rubadue
Senior care providers have traditionally been late to the game when it comes to adopting new technologies. But it’s a new year, and with it comes a surge in new technology implementations. In fact, health care information technology (HIT) spending is expected to top $34.5 billion in North America this year.
Mobile devices, smartphone apps, Web-based software, and cloud-based solutions have changed the playing field when it comes to using new technologies. Implementing these solutions has been dramatically simplified, with little or no technology resources required.
But while clinical, operational, financial, and other systems promise everything from better care and time savings to lower costs, the products themselves, of any kind, don’t actually do all the work. That’s because all successful technology implementations require a foundation of people, processes, management commitment, and best practices to deliver the benefits that they promise to deliver.

Mind The Change

Commonly, the most overlooked piece of implementation is the organizational change that may be required to get the most value out of the technology. The keys to successful adoption involve a range of roles within a community, a willingness to change and adapt, and a commitment to success.

The technology suppliers who have been selected play an important role as well. Those suppliers who are focused on customer success and offer the resources, services, and proven practices to support it can help pave the way to a successful adoption, realizing the full value of the new solutions.

The following best practices have been developed based on thousands of experiences in senior care communities. Managers should consider these best practices when introducing new technology products into the organization to get up and running quickly, optimize the technology investment, and experience maximum success.

Supplier Support Implementation Checklist1. Get Involved And Stay Involved.

Management support for introducing a new technology product and promoting adoption among users is critical. In fact, lack of management support is often the primary reason an implementation fails in a senior care organization. The most successful implementations are typically driven by a champion who takes ownership for communications, issue resolution, and risk avoidance. This person needs to have authority within the organization, be empowered to make decisions, and be accountable over the success of the initiative.

In addition, key management stakeholders need to stay on top of the new program. Administrators and managers with cross-organizational responsibilities, like regional vice presidents and heads of operations, finance, clinical, and human resources, for example, should be involved with the rollout of the new technology. Email updates to these important roles are not enough. Champions should look for ways to give key management positions some skin in the game. Administrators, executive directors, and other stakeholders should be familiar enough with the technology to have insight into the value to be gained and be accountable for it.

For example, if key data are important to the success of the deployment, managers need to review the information on a consistent basis. If employees and other users sense that the data are not being reviewed or used, it could lead to lack of adoption.

2. Communicate Change.

Managers should make sure that stakeholders, technology users, and anyone affected by the new products understand what’s coming before it gets there. Managers should set expectations for how the technology will affect each and every person involved.

Get the team prepared for the new products, make sure they understand the value, and discuss the changes that may occur. How will their jobs change? What new responsibilities are involved? How soon can they expect to see the benefits?

Managers should hold a kick-off meeting with key stakeholders to define the upcoming changes, reinforce the reasons the technology is being introduced, and clearly outline the roles and responsibilities for all involved. Managers need to scope the impact for every role that will be affected and communicate it, right out of the gate.

3. Tackle Training.

Continue with the important messages about value, objectives, and change during employee in-servicing and training sessions. When the time comes to train users on the new technology, the technology supplier should offer services that are tailored to positions, learning styles, and even generations.
For example, a 54-year-old director of nursing and a 22-year-old nurse assistant may both need to be trained on a new clinical product that’s delivered on tablets and smartphones. Their learning styles and the time required to adequately train each may be at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Training plans and services need to be flexible enough, both virtual and onsite, to accommodate the range of users within each community.

4. Create A Turnover Action Plan.

Employee turnover has and continues to be a major obstacle in senior care. Average certified nurse assistant (CNA) turnover in long term care is a staggering 55.3 percent, which can have a big impact on the success of technology adoption. Managers should create a contingency plan to address employee turnover.

Education and re-education are critical in minimizing disruption. Virtual and on-demand training options offered by technology suppliers can help get new users up to speed quickly. Also, managers should consider appointing some key longer-term employees to assist with knowledge transfer when new CNAs or others join the organization and need to pick up new products as part of their everyday tasks. Employee turnover is going to happen, so managers should leverage services, training, and guidelines from their technology partners and have a contingency plan for employee turnover to ensure ongoing success.

5. Manage, Monitor, And Measure.

It is critical to work with the technology supplier at the very beginning of the partnership to identify and agree upon expected value. Be sure to determine value that fits with the organization’s terms and environment.

Managers should be realistic in expectations. Also, managers should continually monitor progress toward the goals of the technology initiative and understand where adjustments need to be made. What kind of measurable impact has the technology delivered? Is it living up to expectations? If not, understand why.

In addition, managers should work with their technology partners in tracking to important milestones. For example, the end of training and beginning of the “go-live” is a critical event. Managers should try to accelerate the time between training and go-live, avoiding any prolonged gaps that could put adoption at risk. Check the temperature of all users at this point and then two weeks into the implementation. If adoption isn’t going as well as hoped, work with the technology partner to find out why and identify what can be improved.

In the early stages of a rollout, managers should demand a quarterly business review with the technology partner to check progress toward deployment milestones and the value achieved. This can provide for short-term course corrections and good visibility into the success of the project. Continuous improvement is a core part of every successful technology adoption.

Get a head start over the competition with these five essential practices when introducing new technologies into the organization.

And remember, ongoing support, best practices, and successful services from the technology partner along with internal teams and processes are just as important as the new products themselves.

Jim Rubadue is vice president of customer success at OnShift, a provider of Web-based staff scheduling and labor management software for long term care and senior living. He can be reached at jrubadue@onshift.com.