Best practices for technology pilots were a focus at the inaugural Ziegler Link•Age Fund Symposium in Chicago last month. Executives Kari Olson (CAST Commissioner) at CAST Patron Front Porch, Trish Barbato at Revera, and Amy Stevens from Avia shared their experience with testing new technology.
 
In “Don’t Call It a Pilot: 4 Tips for Driving Innovation in Senior Living,” Senior Housing News reported their advice for innovations:
 
Create the freedom to fail: Let leaders innovate, and don’t be afraid to stop a pilot, said Olson.
 
Reverse the pitch: Tell technology innovators what you want. Remember that choosing a vendor is just one step in the innovation process, which runs from forming a business strategy through adoption and scaling up.
 
Don't call it a pilot: Barbato calls them "learning sites." Different language is important, as it shows commitment to ongoing innovations. Test within communities that have resource constraints. Make scalability part of initial contracts with technology partners.
 
Take a strategic approach to return on investment (ROI): Consider technology as an investment. Revera evaluates both the actual dollars involved and less quantifiable domains such as resident satisfaction and worker engagement. To help focus a project's goals, consider what outcomes are most relevant to the project's champion. Recognize that financial ROI is a slow process, and build in short-term metrics to show progress.
 
Start small and track data for digital tech pilots, experts advise,” a related article in McKnight's Senior Living, suggested four more tips.
 
Share data: Front Porch starts with small tests, capturing and sharing data internally and externally.
 
Find champions to scale: Stevens noted that many in the C-suite are not recognizing digital technology as an underused asset. Yet often there are champions at the pilot sites. She recommended that organizations look for those champions across buildings. “When you go out to the scaling sites, you have to find the similarly passionate people,” Stevens said. “So many of you are mission-based, and having that ability to tie it back to the why becomes really important.”
 
Involve residents: Front Porch has done so successfully, even having a resident as the project manager for a project that built an app. With 80% adoption, Front Porch is “now getting residents involved in a disruptive way,” Olson was quoted as saying. “It’s this type of transformation that is needed.”
 
Involve staff: Revera looks to its staff’s wisdom. Revera first involved staff members in a competition for ways to improve patient care in 2016, with highly positive results. One pilot project, which installed under-bed lighting in long-term care facilities, brought a 40% reduction in falls, Barbato said. 

About the Symposium

Ziegler is a LeadingAge Gold Partner with CAST Focus and is one of the nation’s leading underwriters of financing for not-for-profit senior living providers. Ziegler also conducts the biennial Ziegler CFO HotlineSM survey with input from LeadingAge CAST.

Link•Age Ventures, Inc. is a venture firm focused on investing in leading companies that provide products, services, and technology to the aging marketplace.
 
At the symposium, Ziegler executives zeroed in on the future of technology in senior living. Partners heard the latest updates about the Ziegler Link•Age Funds, which target companies that are improving the aging experience through innovative products and services.