As the aging population grows over the coming decades, the need for frontline workers in assisted living will explode, according to Andrew Carle, founder of George Mason University’s senior housing administration program, a CAST university member.
Carle suggests that technology will play an increasingly pivotal role in helping assisted living communities address these workforce challenges.
“We need technology that will make one nurse’s aide, in the future, as productive as 3, today,” Carle told Senior Housing News. He predicts that innovation in 3 areas could more than double the productivity of the long-term care workforce:
- Workforce Injury: Back injuries are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims among the health care workforce, according to Carle. So why not use technology to do the heavy lifting that puts the workforce in danger of injury? “Japan has already been developing robots that do lifting,” he says. “If you could eliminate back injuries, how big a difference will that make?
- Medication administration: Carle maintains that many assisted living residents don’t need help taking their medicine. All they really need is a robotic medication dispenser to ensure that they receive both the right medications and timely reminders about when to take those medications. “Facilities right now make money charging for that medication administration,” Carle says. “They don’t want to give up those revenues, since most of their profit margin is in ancillary revenues. But the reality is, people will pay for that until there’s a better option; if people can get this machine at home, they’re going to do that.”
- Documentation: Many senior living employees spend a considerable amount of time on documentation. Recent innovations, like personal digital assistants and tablets, like Apple’s iPad, have helped make that documentation process more efficient, says Carle. But he suggests that more could be done in this regard. For example, Carle envisions a system that allows nurses to speak into hand-held documentation devices instead of entering information manually.