LeadingAge Magazine · July/August 2013 • Volume 03 • Number 04

Technology: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

July 01, 2013 | by Gene Mitchell

Technology: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Twenty years ago I worked for the American Optometric Association, and in our publications and in the medical magazines I read, there were often articles about the glories of electronic health records and paperless offices. No one was arguing that either innovation was imminent, but at the same time there was a sense that both were just around the corner. Surely by the end of the millennium we would be about there?

Those attitudes were only reinforced when, in the first half of the 1990s, the Internet hit a tipping point and began to fundamentally change the way we did many things, in both our work and private lives.

Looking back on those two decades, I’m disappointed we aren’t further along the road to standardized, easily interoperable health records. At the same time, I know that I’m impatient and want to see good ideas brought to fruition and perfected fast.

In June I attended the Long Term and Post-Acute Care Health IT Summit in Baltimore. Surrounded by smart people with strong backgrounds in both health care and IT, for me it was an interesting chance to look under the hood of a shiny phrase like “electronic health record.” To a layman an EHR seems like a very straightforward thing. How complicated could it be? We have the technology, don’t we? In practice, the technical, legal, regulatory and business aspects of it are kind of mind-boggling.

Even so, based on the many presentations I saw from long-term care providers, not to mention representatives from government, health systems and industry, we are much, much closer to turning the corner on EHRs than we were even a few years ago. It’s true that the adoption rate of EHRs is much higher in the world of hospitals and medical practices than it is in long-term care, but given the progress elsewhere and the pressures on providers in our field, those dreams of two decades ago can still come true. In other words, the “hares” among us should know that slow and steady wins the race.

Our first feature, “Long-Term Care and Interoperable EHRs: A Strategic Match,” illustrates the complexity of the issues involved in data sharing and integration of health care and other services. It includes insights from some providers who will be included in a new series of case studies on EHRs, interoperability and health information exchange that will be published this summer by the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST).

In “Technology Enables Independent, Healthy Living,” read about how providers are using technology to help seniors remain at home or safely return there following post-acute rehabilitation. The subject of the article gives me an excuse to urge you again to view the great CAST video, “Hi-Tech Aging: Improving Lives Today,” both for your own inspiration and as a way to illustrate to those outside our field how technology can make the difference.

The increasing sophistication and ubiquity of wellness programming goes hand-in-hand with increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly technology. Read “Technology Energizes Wellness” to see how providers are using everything from high-tech exercise equipment to social media to bring wellness into the 21st century.

It’s fun to talk about the latest electronic gadgets, diagnostic medical equipment and ever-shrinking computers, but as the experience of one member reminds us, the fun technologies rely on an unglamorous wireless infrastructure to enable the communication that drives the latest technologies. See “Building a Wireless Infrastructure for Better Operations” for the story of how that member upgraded to a top-flight system.

Ever thought about creating a mobile app for your organization, for marketing or patient education purposes? See “App Up! Providers Create Mobile Apps to Help Caregivers” to see how two members have done just that.

Transitions of care is an issue at the heart of many discussions of technology. But solving transition problems isn’t only a matter of better technology. In “Care Transitions Programs Thrive Due to Proactive Providers,” we look at members who are participants in CMS’ Community-based Care Transitions Program, and how they use coaching, education and skill-building to help smooth seniors’ transitions between hospitals, rehab and home.

Editing each issue’s installment of our “People We Serve” series has become one of the most fun parts of my job. In “Honoring Long Lives and Commitments to Service,” read the stories of our members’ remarkable residents and clients, and the people who serve them.

At the end of May we published a special article, in-between issues, on how our members serve the veterans that deserve our gratitude and support for their service. Now, “Serving Veterans an Honor for Providers” has been enhanced with the addition of new material and examples of members that have dedicated themselves to serving this population.

For “Not-for-Profits Balance Special Status and Special Responsibility,” we interviewed the co-chairs of the LeadingAge Not-for-Profit Leadership Cabinet about a hot topic among our membership: How can we best demonstrate the community benefit that we provide, while showing that the tax-exempt privileges we have are justified and allow us to do good work that would not otherwise be done?

Finally, a note about one of our favorite photos: We’re happy to note that Jack Cason, the archer who appeared at the top of our September/October 2011 issue, has again qualified for the National Senior Games, to be held in Cleveland, OH, in July. Cason, a resident at Greenspring Retirement Community in Springfield, VA, won the gold medal in archery in the 2011 games. This year he’ll compete in the age 80-85 group, along with his “protégé,” fellow Greenspring resident Charlie Edwards, who got started in the sport at Cason’s urging. Edwards will compete in the 90-94 age group.