Technology Is The Secret Sauce For Residential Services

Technology Is The Secret Sauce For Residential Services

“Mise en place” is a French culinary term for having everything in its place to ensure ingredients are ready when needed. The same approach is being used—albeit with different ingredients—for health and human service provider organizations investing in technology to complement their residential treatment programs. The new array of technology goes far beyond billing and clinical records – we have smart home designs, assistive technologies, voice-activated home or personal assistants, and virtual reality services.

I heard about some of these new technology options—and their effect on the consumer experience—in the Future Of Residential Treatment: How Technology & Innovative Program Models Are Redefining Service Delivery Models session at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute last month. The session featured several representatives from Sequel Youth and Family Services—including John Stupak, chairman—and Theresa Jenkinson, vice president, strategic initiatives, Inglis. The two organizations are using technology for innovative programming in two very different ways—to change the consumer experience in a residential treatment center and to enable consumers to receive long-term services in the community instead of a residential center.

The key to implementing technology in provider organizations small or large is to start slow, build a team of supporters among the team, and ensure that the technology benefits daily responsibilities, said Marianne Birmingham, MS, CMUP, regional director of compliance and quality, Sequel Youth & Family Services. Sequel, which was founded in 1999, employs about 4,000 people and serves about 9,000 consumers with 39 programs that include residential treatment, community-based services, autism, education, and juvenile justice in 20 states.

The Sequel team uses a variety of technologies to enhance the consumer experience in residential treatment centers. They have created cubicles equipped with laptops consumers can use. They also use cameras in the facility to monitor residents, to ensure safe and secure interactions with consumers, and to allow staff to learn from interactions with consumers for training purposes. The organization uses Skype and FaceTime to encourage more family contact with consumers. They also discussed several technology innovations on the horizon including virtual education and training, virtual reality for the treatment of anxiety and stress, and gamification of treatment and planning.

John Stupak, chairman of Sequel Youth and Family Services, encouraged his colleagues to embrace technology, which might require stepping outside of their comfort zones. His advice: The best approach is to start slowly and build momentum by showing how technology complements team members and improves the efficiency of daily responsibilities. From an operational perspective, technology investments should help streamline access to data that informs and enhances clinical decisions. He shared the organization’s 10-year software vision as well as its ultimate plan to enhance data collection tools (including electronic health record, appointment software, customer relationship management, and surveys) to a more robust enterprise with the addition of an application programmer interface that acts as a platform to connect programs.

At Inglis, the team is using technology to help consumers live more independently in the community. Inglis, founded in 1877 as the Philadelphia Home for the Incurables, was one of the first organizations in Philadelphia to offer residential medical care for the poor. It is now the largest private developer of affordable, accessible housing for consumers with disabilities, operating 11 housing communities with 383 units and a six-year waiting list (see Who’s Waiting & Why).

Ms. Jenkinson gave an interesting example: Customizing commands for voice-activated home and personal assistants like Alexa. To illustrate, she talked about programming Alexa to turn on lights in an apartment for a person who is quadriplegic with the commands “mom” for kitchen and “John” for bathroom. These technologies, found in smart homes, have empowered residents and saved money as demonstrated during a smart home pilot from 2016 to 2018, she said.

Building on this success, Inglis plans to open 23 apartments (out of 47 total units) in the summer of 2021 that will be equipped with smart home technology and an additional package of tech supports. This project—the Inglis Methodist Gardens housing community—is a $16.4 million joint venture between Inglis and Methodist Services funded by a $4 million grant from Aetna Better Health Pennsylvania. Inglis plans to include adapted technology services in all future housing developments, said Ms. Jenkinson. This technology, which enables more self-determination for consumers, also helps provider organizations meet their goals in value-based reimbursement contracts.

My key takeaway from the session was that technology offers a competitive advantage to organizations serving consumers with complex needs. But it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The technology that offers the best return-on-investment for one organization is not going to be the same for the next. The technology needs of organization will be as diverse as the strategy. Or to quote Mr. Stupak, “Technology is not the goal—it’s the means to achieving that goal.”

For more on technology and strategy, check out these resources – Making The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Technology Budgeting & Planning and Everything An Executive Needs To Build A Successful Tech Strategy: An Exclusive CEO Roundtable Discussion. And for more on using technology to improve your value equation, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Going From Tech Tolerant To Tech Savvy: How Managerial Staff Can Directly Impact The Adoption Of Technology
  2. The Five Key Competencies Of Technology & Reporting Infrastructure
  3. Best Practices In The Shift To Virtual Health: How To Integrate Digital Treatment Tools Into Programs & Treatment Models
  4. Managing Your Team To ‘Tech Savvy’
  5. 4 Keys To Make New Tech Work
  6. Do It Now!
  7. An Executive Guide To Strategic Partnerships That Last: How To Leverage Technology Investments For The Long-Term
  8. When New Contracts Mean New Technology: 4 Things To Remember
  9. Using Virtual Care To Improve Your Value Proposition: Best Practices In Integrating Technology Into Your Community-Based Program
  10. Training Is Key To Getting Tech ROI

Get more on this topic on October 28, 2020 at The 2020 OPEN MINDS Technology & Analytics Institute in Las Vegas in my keynote address, Forecasting The Future Of Complex Care Shaped By Technology.

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