LeadingAge Magazine · March-April 2017 • Volume 07 • Number 02

Technology, Progress and Convergence

March 15, 2017 | by Gene Mitchell

A preview of this issue of LeadingAge magazine.

In the 1990s I worked for a national association of health care providers, at a time when 2 of the hottest topics in health care management were electronic health records (EHRs) and the paperless office. Both were promising ideas, and a lot of optimistic things were said and written in the health press. There was a sense—especially as this was also the era when the Internet quickly made itself a regular part of our lives, revolutionizing the way we communicated and accessed information—that these developments would quickly take hold and simplify delivery of services.

Gene Mitchell, editor
Gene Mitchell

I can’t speak for everyone’s office, but it seems that the quest for paperlessness, though it’s taken longer than I expected and is not complete, can be fairly put into the win column.

The goal of an easily interoperable EHR in every person’s pocket, however, has been much more difficult to achieve. For a variety of technical, regulatory and structural reasons, the progress toward seamless recording and exchange of health data has been a slow slog rather than a march to glory, and there is still a long way to go.

So I was struck by something Peter Kress said to me when I was interviewing him for the Vision column in this issue. Referring to a frustrating decade of slow progress in implementing EHRs, he said, “I think we’ve been in an absolutely necessary state of chaos. The investment of the last 10 years probably accelerated the ability for viable solutions to start emerging now.”

Kress is vice president and CIO for Acts Retirement-Life Communities, West Point, PA, and has been active in LeadingAge’s Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) for a long time. He’s been in the middle of our field’s efforts to deploy EHRs, and has certainly felt the frustration of many providers who wish the process would just reach a successful conclusion. As he said later in that interview, he believes we’re on the cusp of a “convergence of technologies” that will change the way we do a great many things.

That note of optimism is a good way to launch this issue, themed “Where Services Meet Technology.” The process of adopting technology to better serve seniors, to streamline operations for providers and to do both affordably is halting and difficult, but LeadingAge members are working at it one hopeful step at a time.

It’s worth remembering that while this issue tells the stories of some members wrestling with technology adoption, LeadingAge CAST is a treasure-trove of in-depth information related to technologies for aging services. CAST’s valuable technology selection tools, white papers and case studies are a great starting point for providers.

In our feature, “Making the Most of Electronic Health Records,” we ask whether providers are using these products to their fullest. We look at some examples of providers who have not only adopted EHRs but use their more sophisticated functions.

Telehealth Brings Promise and Challenges” offers examples of how telehealth technologies can overcome geographic distance (for community-based services) while improving communication and service delivery in residential settings.

Will that “convergence of technologies” include robots? Some providers are betting it will. Read “Long-Term Care Gets Its Feet Wet in Robotics” to learn how some providers are piloting robots for conferencing and data collection.

When I first came to LeadingAge, articles about technology and seniors often focused on introducing computer basics like email to seniors who had no personal experience with computing. Today, more and more seniors know exactly what they want their technology to do, and expect providers to keep up with them. Learn how our members are meeting the needs of residents (computer-savvy and otherwise) in “Helping Residents Embrace Technology.”

Our last two issues included articles on ageism and what our field needs to do to end it. Three LeadingAge members are so inspired by this battle, they contributed their own takes on the issues involved. Read “Ageism: Three Perspectives.”

Each year, Fellows of the Larry Minnix Leadership Academy use the “study circle” model to help them address thorny issues in our field and build their own leadership chops. Read “Leaders Use Study Circles to Test and Stretch Their Capacities” to see what the newest Fellows learned from the experience.

We’re approaching the nominations deadline (April 30) for the annual LeadingAge Awards (start writing those nominations now). This year, the roster of awards will include a new category. “New Award for Health Equity Added to LeadingAge Awards” will tell you about the new Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity.

Finally, the latest installment in our popular “People We Serve” series, “Honoring the People We Serve,” tells the stories of remarkable residents, clients and employees that make LeadingAge members’ work worthwhile.

- Gene Mitchell is editor of LeadingAge magazine.