Resident/Client Technology Support and Training White paper
The purpose of this white paper is to aid LeadingAge members and other aging services organizations in understanding the different support, training, and potential business models for resident/client technology.
1 Purpose of White Paper and Executive Summary
1.1 Purpose of White Paper
1.2 Executive Summary
2.1 Resident/Client Technologies
2.2 Resident/Client Technology Services in Different Care Settings
3 Models of Resident/Client Technical Support
3.1 Staff Based
3.2 Volunteer Based
3.3 Third-Party Contracting/Outsourcing/Referrals
4 Models of Resident/Client Technology Education and Training
4.1 Staff Based
4.2 Volunteer Based
4.3 Third Party Outsourced
5 Benefits of Providing Residents/Clients with Technology Support and Training
5.1 Reduce Social Isolation/Feelings of Loneliness
5.2 Reduce Depression and Increase Quality of Life
5.3 Increase Resident Engagement and Satisfaction
5.4 Reduce Staff Burden/Workload
5.5 Reduce Number of Complaints and Time to Resolve Issues
5.6 Marketing Advantage
5.7 Facilitate Access to Health and Supportive Services
6 Potential Long-term and Post-Acute Care (LTPAC) Provider Business Models
6.1 Built into Rent/Monthly Fee
6.2 Billed Separately
6.4 ROI of Technology Training and Support
7 Planning for Providing Technology Training and Support Services
7.1 Vision and Strategic Planning
7.2 Outcomes, then Business Goals
7.3 Connectivity Offered/Available
7.4 Hardware Considerations
7.5 Software Considerations
7.6 Considerations for Patient/Resident/Client and Family-Facing Solutions
7.7 Organizational Readiness
7.8 Operational Planning and Alignment
The purpose of this paper is to aid LeadingAge members and other aging services organizations in understanding the different support, training, and potential business models for resident/client technology.
This white paper from LeadingAge CAST, “Resident/Client Technology Support and Training,” is intended to aid LeadingAge members and other aging services organizations in understanding the different support, training, and business models available for resident/client technology.
Many technologies can help facilitate health and wellness, safety, social connectedness and engagement, lifelong learning, leisure and entertainment activities, and assistive devices for residents. The white paper covers two types of technology:
- Resident/client technology owned by residents/clients and
- Resident-facing or client-facing technology offered by aging services providers.
This white paper helps explain the different support, training, and business models available for resident/client technology.
Increased Engagement and Quality of Life for Older Adults
A primary benefit of providing technology training and education is to enable older adults to use technology to connect with loved ones. Social isolation is considered both a risk factor for and a result of depression. Internet use among retired older adults reduces the probability of depression by 33%. When older adults know how to use technology tools, they can better engage and contribute within their communities.
In addition, knowing how to use technology tools enables older adults to benefit from telemedicine, telehealth, virtual healthcare visits, and remote patient monitoring.
Return on Investment for Aging Services Providers
Training residents in using technology offers many benefits to different stakeholders—residents/clients and/or their families, payers, care providers, etc. Financial savings are a potential benefit. Tech-savvy older adults can also give aging services providers real-time feedback on resident satisfaction levels. Providers with strong tech programs can gain a marketing advantage among prospective residents who expect tech solutions to be available.
The return on investment (ROI) to aging services providers depends on several factors, including the service delivery model, the payment model, the technology, support services, and costs. This white paper shows how to calculate ROI by stakeholder and assess the business case for person-centered care programs that serve older adults with chronic conditions and functional limitations.
Visioning and strategic planning are a critical first step to an effective training and support program. The best business model for your organization would be a value-added technology training and support tailored to your residents’ and clients’ needs—a program that they would use and find valuable. One successful approach among older adults and aging services professionals is a train-the-trainer model, with online and physical materials to train field ops.
Teams Focused on Human Connection
The white paper recommends that to find the most-effective trainers, you must identify the best human connectors in your organization. Third-party technology education and training specialists are likely better education partners than your IT staff. Your marketing team may be the best ally for getting residents excited about and using the program.
Thoroughly vetting all vendors is important to ensure they have knowledge of the technologies you need to use. Vendors must have experience working with older adults with lower technical competencies, as these populations have higher support and training needs. Vendor availability and bandwidth are also critical.
The white paper suggests levels and models of resident/client tech support and technology training. It also covers tips on how to plan for providing technology training and support services.
This information is meant to assist in understanding the different models of providing technical support and training to residents/clients, but it cannot possibly include every model option that is available. Potential technical support and training partners mentioned in this report are only illustrative examples and have not been independently evaluated or endorsed by LeadingAge or LeadingAge CAST. Please use this information as a general guideline in understanding technology support and training options. Where appropriate, we identified provider case studies.
For purposes of this white paper, we are defining resident/client technologies as technologies that help facilitate health and wellness, safety, social connectedness and engagement, lifelong learning, leisure and entertainment activities, and assistive devices. Common household appliances are not considered resident/client technologies, whether offered by the provider or owned by the resident/client. Below are examples of the various categories of resident and resident-facing technologies:
- Health and Wellness: Telehealth, medication adherence devices, daily check-ins.
- Safety: Personal emergency response systems, pull cords.
- Social Connectedness and Engagement: Group video chat, tablet apps, voice assistants.
- Lifelong Learning: edX.
- Leisure and Entertainment: Smart TV.
- Assistive Device: Screen reader.
The embodiment of resident-facing technologies can take many different forms. The most common include but are not limited to the following:
- Desktop computer
- All-in-one computer
- Smart TV
- TV set top box
- Fixed touch screen
- Captioned phone
- Smartphone, wearable
- Head-mounted gear
- Voice-activated assistant technology
- Pull cords
- Gaming consoles
Also included are general connectivity and peripheral devices needed, like networks, routers, printers, scanners, etc.
For most resident-facing technologies, a stable broadband internet connection is required or recommended. Some low-tech or assistive devices may not require connectivity, but the majority do have a connectivity requirement.
There are a few ways a resident can connect to a broadband internet connection:
- Hard wired connection (e.g., digital subscriber line or DSL, ethernet network, coaxial cable, or fiber optic modems).
- Wireless/Wi-Fi network (personal home network or campus network).
- Cellular network (4G, 4G-LTE, 5G).
- Satellite dish, usually in rural areas.
Each type of connection has its own benefits and limitations. For example, a hard-wired connection is typically the most consistent and stable when compared to a wireless option. Yet a Wi-Fi or cellular connection offers more versatility in where and how the device is used.
There are many different technology applications that can support programmatic activities for older adults within a senior living community or community-based setting. One example is a chronic disease management program that uses a telehealth kiosk in a senior housing community to support a resident’s health and wellness. Another community-based example could include a program that uses the Microsoft Kinect device to encourage senior center participants to engage in virtual sports as part of a wellness program.
Aging service providers that provide tablets or smartphones to residents are advised to have a mobile device management system.
Most resident-facing hardware will require minimal physical installation. For example, technologies that use pull cords and fixed touch screen TVs will require an installation on a fixed wall. However, technologies that use a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone will not require a physical installation at all.
On the flip side, mobile devices do not require a physical hardware installation, but the initial set-up and installation of all the different software and/or applications will likely be more demanding.
As a result, many aging service providers that provide tablets or smartphones to residents have, or are advised to have, some kind of mobile device management system to help facilitate and manage the installation, update, management, and/or removal of software applications. Without a mobile device management system, a provider will need to manually install, update, manage, and uninstall the desired applications, which is very cumbersome and time consuming.
Technical support, often called tech support, refers to services provided to users of technology products or services. Technical support may be delivered by phone, e-mail, in-person, remote access support software, live chat, help/self-help website, or other tools where users can report an issue. Technical support/troubleshooting may also be provided in the resident’s home or off campus.
In-person technical support is easier to manage on a campus compared to technical support in home and community-based settings (HCBS), due to the aggregation factor on campuses and the travel time required in HCBS. When the support is provided at a distance, especially offsite, the first option may include troubleshooting over the telephone or remote access software pre-installed on the device.
Technical support is typically provided in a tiered approach.
- Level 0 support may include chatbots and ways for users to obtain self-help and retrieve information that requires no outside assistance.
- Level 1 support could filter help desk calls and provide basic support and troubleshooting: password resets and configuring hardware such as printers and scanners.
- Level 2 support may handle configuration issues, troubleshooting, software installations, and hardware repair, including in-house repair or coordinating outsourced repair services.
- Level 3 may provide higher levels of support for the most difficult of technical problems.
Similar to education and training, the level of technical support and troubleshooting can vary depending on whether the technology is off the shelf or provided by a third-party vendor that specializes in resident-facing technology. For example, a vendor may provide a certain level of technical support and troubleshooting as part of its agreement with the provider or end-user.
It is very important to scope out all the items the technical support offering will cover.
It is very important to scope out all the items the technical support offering will cover. It is also highly advantageous to give residents a list of technical support services offered, to manage their expectations.
It is very important to scope out all the items the technical support offering will cover. It is also highly advantageous to give residents a list of technical support services offered, to manage their expectations.
Digital literacy, technology education, and training can be provided to residents in many different ways and in various living settings. Some training programs may occur on a one-on-one basis in a resident’s home or community-based setting. Other training programs may occur in a group classroom setting at the local senior center or library. Virtual digital literacy, education, and training programs can provide remote learning opportunities to residents and older adults.
The education and training needs can vary greatly based on the technologies already available on campus or in the home. For example, a social connectedness technology may already have a user interface that simplifies and streamlines desired activities. As a result, the education and training needs, and burden, may be reduced when compared to off-the-shelf systems. Section 4 of this white paper will discuss the different models of resident technology education and training.
Resident and client technical support are non-mutually exclusive categories.
One potential model to support residents’ and resident-facing technology is to use existing IT staff the providers have on hand. For example, a senior living community may have IT staff who dedicate a portion of their time to residents’ and resident-facing technical support. In most cases, this staff person is providing technical support to staff and residents at a community, but typically only provides technical support to residents during predetermined times, such as during a Tech-Support Hour.
Larger organizations may have a dedicated staff person whose role is primarily supporting residents’ and/or resident-facing technology. Examples of titles for these roles include Director of Client-Centered Technology, Director of Resident Technology, or VP of Community Technology. A staff-based support model is advantageous to building the capacity of current employees within the organization and enhancing the organization’s brand.
Volunteers may also provide technical support and technology training/education to residents or older adults living in the community. Volunteers typically give tier 1 technical support, such as basic troubleshooting and password resets, and elevate the resident to a higher support tier if needed.
Consider using the technology-savvy residents living on campus as technology ambassadors. For example, a senior living provider likely has many residents with a digital literacy level that would enable them to provide technical support.
You may also be able to engage volunteers from the community, such as high school or college students, church groups, and other social groups. Volunteer technical support typically is more episodic and less consistent than other support models, but it can be more effective if scheduled at a regular time. Volunteer-based technical support typically supplements more-formal and higher-level support services.
Organizations that need more support may want to outsource technical support.
Organizations that do not have access to staff or volunteers to support resident-facing technology, or that need more resources or support, or that just want offload these staff responsibilities, may want to consider outsourcing the technical support service to a third party.
Organizations like Candoo Tech and Tech Pals partner with senior living providers and offer that third-party technical support. Depending how the partnership is structured, you or the resident/client may be charged for each service used or a flat fee each month.
A senior living provider that has limited staff or volunteers to support resident-facing technology may benefit from outsourcing technical support. Many metropolitan areas will have individuals or organizations that provide technical support to their local community. One example in the Washington, DC, area is Tech Moxie.
A hybrid model works best if each party of the support team understands the scope of technical support.
A technical support program can have a hybrid model that is structured as a combination of the above approaches. For example, a mixture of staff and volunteers may provide the basic level 1 tech support. Staff or a third party may provide higher levels of technical support. A hybrid approach allows for additional human resources to support residents’ and/or resident-facing technology.
Staff can also provide staff-based technology education and training. If you are fortunate enough to have staff with expertise in technology training and education, this option may be viable. Some organizations may create a “computer instructor” or “technology training” role. However, this role is usually not a common one for staff. Having a staff member dedicate a portion of his or her responsibilities to support training and education is more common.
You may also leverage volunteers, such as local college or high school students, to provide technology training and support. Students tend to be more short-term; however, existing volunteers may be willing to provide more long-term technology training and education. Organizations like Cyber Seniors may help you identify a more-structured approach to using students to provide technology training and education.
A third party usually can provide a high-quality training program proven effective at other senior living communities.
Certain organizations and individuals can provide resident-facing technology training and education, such as Senior Planet from Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), Senior Savvy, and others. These services usually come with a fee. However, some are offered for free through grants or free online access. One advantage of using a third party for technology training and education is that a third party usually has the resources and expertise to provide a high-quality program that has been proven effective at other senior living communities.
The residents’ or resident-facing technology vendors may also provide short-term or ongoing training and education for their technology. Make sure to ask your resident-facing technology vendors what training and support they provide.
A hybrid training and education model can be a combination of the above approaches. For example, you may have a computer learning center that is staffed by internal staff, volunteers and/or a third party. A hybrid model is advantageous for organizations that want flexibility in providing training and education.
Isolation is too often a part of older adults’ lives and can have serious consequences. A 2012 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report to Congress on aging services technology defined social isolation as occurring “…when an individual has limited contact with others, and perceives that level of contact as inadequate.”1 The report considered social isolation as both a risk factor for and a result of depression. Social isolation needs to be addressed when preventing and treating this mental health issue. Social connectedness and engagement technologies can help reduce older adults’ loneliness.
Social connectedness and engagement technologies can help older adults increase their social networks and reduce their feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
The internet has fostered networking technologies such as chat rooms, news groups, and social-networking sites that have created vibrant and growing communities for older adults. These communities provide a multitude of opportunities to interact and engage with others through book clubs, interest groups, and support groups. In addition, many sites offer real-time chat capabilities that enhance the speed and quality of social interactions.
Although these communities will never be a substitute for in-person interactions, many older adults and people with disabilities live far from their family and friends or are otherwise unable to maintain routine contact with loved ones during a hospitalization or a period of institutionalized rehabilitation. In these cases, social-networking sites can help prevent or reduce depression and social isolation by facilitating regular social interaction with family and friends.2
Although well-known social-networking sites such as Facebook do not target a specific age group, some are dedicated specifically to older adults. One study found that social-networking sites keep older adults active and interested, keep them informed of current events, and build mental acuity.
The severity of depression is strongly associated with decreased quality of life, decline in physical and mental functioning over time, and increase in disability. Depression can also affect symptoms of physical health issues such as arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.3
The number of older people with major depression is significant. Researchers estimate that 1-4% of those 60 and older living in the community and 13-25% of nursing home residents are affected, and that 35% of assisted living residents are socially isolated.
Fortunately, many technologies address problems stemming from the complex interplay of depression, physical health, and social isolation. These technologies target specific depression-related problems, including challenges associated with effective diagnosis, lack of access to mental-health professionals and services that results in inadequate treatment, perceived stigma on the part of affected individuals, loss of motivation and sense of purpose, and social isolation.4
Internet use among retired older adults reduces the probability of depression by 33%.
In addition to these problems, the families and friends of depressed individuals often experience their own distinct depression-related burdens as a result of the physical and psychological challenges associated with caring for loved ones with depression.
Internet use among retired older adults reduces the probability of depression by 33%.
Technologies addressing these problems seek to reduce depressive symptoms, improve access to care among affected persons, and improve social connectedness. Some of these are used in provider settings, some are used by patients at home, and still others work by connecting patients and providers. In some cases, these technologies may not only address problems resulting directly from depression itself, but also from health conditions that occur in tandem with depression.5
The use of such technologies can help reduce isolation and depression. For example, a study in the Journals of Gerontology found that internet use among retired older adults reduces the probability of depression by 33%, with the largest reduction in people who live alone.6
Finally, a recent two-year project funded by the European Union and led by the University of Exeter in partnership with Somerset Care Ltd and Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust gave a group of vulnerable older adults a specially designed computer and broadband connection, plus training in how to use them. Training older people in the use of social media improved cognitive capacity, increased a sense of self-competence, and could have a beneficial overall impact on mental health and well-being, according to this landmark study carried out in the UK.7
Technology gives older adults an opportunity to engage and contribute within their communities. Easy-to-use tablet applications can enable older adults to more readily join activities with other community members, such as signing up for a trip or reading the latest community news. Residents can even provide real-time feedback to their communities on the care and hospitality they are receiving. In community settings, seniors can participate in traditional board games such as chess and join in word games via tablets.8
The latest social connectedness and engagement technologies in senior living can help providers gauge resident satisfaction via real-time feedback and input. These tools can make residents happier and more satisfied. Resident portals, custom TV channels, digital bulletin boards, and family member access to community news all directly impact resident satisfaction. Families also feel more connected and satisfied with their loved one’s community.9
Organizations that do not have a formal support and training structure will often end up relying on multiple staff members to fulfill the residents’ technology needs. Often a social worker, maintenance staff, or IT staff member provides support. As result, it is hard to tell how much support and training staff is providing. A more formal process, as described in sections 3 and 4, will help providers to manage staff resources and workload and understand the residents’ technology needs.
As described above, residents are moving in with multiple devices and current residents are purchasing technology at a faster rate than in previous years. If technology support or training is not being provided in some form, the facility will likely get complaints. Having a process to address technical support and training for resident-facing technology will not only reduce the overall number of resident complaints, but also streamline the process for addressing issues.
Communities that provide residents and clients with adequate technology training and support along with connectivity, resident-facing technologies, and technology-enabled services are more likely to be more attractive to today’s older adults, who demand technology. Training and support programs give these communities a marketing advantage among older adults and their families.
Adequate technology training and support along with connectivity, resident-facing tech, and tech-enabled services may give providers a marketing advantage.
Telemedicine, telehealth, virtual visits, and remote patient monitoring are becoming more popular among older adults and providers in the age of COVID-19. Technology training and support enables residents and clients to have safe and timely access to health and supportive services.
Some communities will build the cost of the technology support and training into the resident’s monthly fee. The additional monthly fee may be so small that the resident may not mind the nominal increase. However, some residents may never use the service and may complain about the charge.
Other communities may choose to charge separately for each unit of service, such as for each computer learning class or technical support visit. As you can imagine, while this approach captures each unit of service, it can be a heavy lift from an administrative standpoint.
A hybrid approach may build a flat rate into the monthly fee to cover basic technology support and training but offer specialized support and training for more advanced and technical requests. Or a provider may offer free support and training for its own technology and charge for technology owned by the resident, or it may refer residents to a third party.
ROI depends on the care delivery model, the payment model, the technology, and the costs.
Return on investment (ROI) represents the ratio of the net gains relative to the initial investment over a certain period of time. Subsequently, ROI can be expressed in the following equation:
Providing technology training and support has various benefits, including potential financial gains, to different stakeholders, including residents/clients and/or their families, payers, care providers, etc. However, the financial savings and ROI depend on many factors, including the service delivery model, the payment model, the technology, support services, and of course costs.
The first and most important step in calculating ROI is to consider the different stakeholders, identify the investors/payers, and calculate the gains and savings netted/accrued to each investing stakeholder under each particular service delivery and payment model.
An important component of ROI is the less-tangible satisfaction of residents and families, which over time builds the provider’s reputation.
When calculating ROI, one should only include the gains that accrued to that particular stakeholder minus all expenses, relative to that stakeholder’s own investment/cost.
ROI to residents/clients and/or their families can be calculated as follows:
For private pay patients and their families, for example, the financial gains of technology training and support are improving connectivity, engagement, and satisfaction, as well as reducing depression and other negative health aspects. The gains may also include saving unnecessary repairs by third parties. The patient’s and family’s expenses are the monthly out-of-pocket cost of technology training and support services, plus any needed repair costs.
ROI to payers can be calculated as follows:
However, it is highly unlikely for third-party payers, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), health insurance, or long-term insurance, to pay for technology training and support services.
ROI to care providers can be calculated as follows:
The care provider who makes investments in information and communications technology infrastructure, resident/client-facing technology, and technology training and support may reap the following benefits:
- Lower costs in delivering services, including higher staff efficiencies and staff travel costs.
- Higher occupancy/volume of residents/clients and potentially higher monthly fees due to marketing advantage of technology, technology training, and support.
An important component of ROI is the less-tangible satisfaction of residents and families, which over time builds the provider’s reputation and higher occupancy/volume of residents and clients.
Once individual investors have been clearly identified, an estimate of the ROI to the different stakeholders can be calculated. The SCAN Foundation has published a white paper on making the business case for person-centered care and developed an ROI calculator. This calculator can help you find the ROI of providing technology training and support.
The business case for person-centered care involves weighing the costs against the benefits in dollars.
This ROI calculator is designed to quantitatively assess the business case for person-centered care (PCC) programs that serve older adults with chronic conditions and functional limitations. PCC programs are ones where individuals’ values and preferences are elicited and, once expressed, guide all aspects of their health care, supporting their realistic health and life goals. This type of care is achieved through a collaborative relationship and decision-making process among the person and his or her chosen supports and medical and social service providers.
As discussed in detail above, the business case for PCC involves weighing the costs of offering this approach to care against the benefits expressed in dollar terms. Benefits accrue principally in the form of avoided medical utilization and potentially in the form of higher revenues. 10
The ROI calculator has many practical features:
- Risk Stratification: The population that is suitable to receive PCC can be segmented into high and moderate risk categories. The ROI will be likely higher (i.e., a higher percentage) for the segment that is at higher risk for medical utilization. The calculator can show how limited the offering must be if a specific return were being sought.
- Potential Revenue from PCC: The calculator allows for PCC program offerings to incorporate possible revenue enhancements in addition to the more probable benefits resulting from reducing costs.
- Slider Bars: This feature allows the user to compute instantaneous “what-if” calculations by changing values of inputs and immediately viewing these new inputs' influence on the ROI.
- Flexibility in Expressing Variables: The user can enter all variables in terms of their convenience—per person, per month, or per year. Hospital admissions, for example, are generally reported on an annual basis whereas encounters with a social worker or nurse practitioner are often expressed on a monthly basis. The calculator automatically converts rates and volumes, no matter how expressed, into a common per member per month measure.
- Scenarios: This feature allows ROI comparisons across different programs as well as varied constellations of input values. For example, the user can create optimistic and pessimistic scenarios and compare the results. Sometimes even the pessimistic scenario can yield an acceptable result for the ROI.
- Accounting for Uncertainty: Admittedly, some key determinants of the ROI are not known with certainty. Therefore, a “Monte Carlo” simulation that accounts for uncertainty with respect to the magnitudes of key variables is an optional part of the tool. This simulation recognizes this uncertainty and displays accordingly a reasonable range of results for the ROI rather than a single deterministic value. The tool also quantifies the strengths of the separate influences each variable has on the resulting ROI.
- Other Metric – Payback Period: In addition to the ROI result, the calculator displays the payback period—defined as the number of months the PCC program would need to operate, assuming a positive operating margin, for any initial investment to be recouped. This metric may be useful for programs involving substantial up-front launch costs.
- Threshold Analysis: The tool provides the ability to conduct threshold analysis, whereby the user can query the calculator on questions such as the following: What is the maximum amount that can be spent on PCC so that the program does not lose money? Or for a given cost of delivering PCC, how effective must it be in reducing certain events such as hospital readmissions in order to generate a required (hurdle) level of ROI?
To access the calculator tool, visit The SCAN Foundation.
Visioning and strategic planning are essential, as is viewing the technology as a way to reach business goals. When planning a strategy, consider the following:
- Care settings.
- Target populations.
- Patient/resident/client-facing technologies provided (connectivity, hardware, and software).
- Other patient/resident/client technologies and solutions assessment of needs and ability to pay.
- Organizational readiness.
- Operational planning and alignment, including the team, workflow, and business model.
- Third-party partner vetting.
For successful training and support efforts, start with visioning and strategic planning. Training and support are an integral part of implementing any technology tool meant to achieve specific organizational goals. They should be part of a well-founded overall organizational strategy. Consider the following areas as part of your organization’s initial vision for technology training and support.
Think broadly about care settings, as they have implications on both the resident/client-facing technologies provided and the residents’ own technologies.
Understand the population that your technology training and support program will impact. Different populations of residents/clients, the technologies they use, and those they connect with have different needs and may require different levels of training and support. Having the flexibility to match proper support to the targeted population and that population’s abilities, limitations, and preferences is a key factor for success. See section 7.6.
Build a business case so that stakeholders recognize the value in training and support services.
Instead of thinking of business goals first, start with the potential outcomes of a successful training and support program. Training and support bring increased social connectedness and engagement, which can improve mental, spiritual, and even physical well-being.
Knowing those outcomes, how could you build a business case for the stakeholders, including family members, to see the added value in your new service? Many family caregiver products and services on the market today take this approach. Learning from their value proposition may guide you in designing your business goals and programs for technology training and support.
Your training and support program will depend on how connectivity works:
- Whether you provide connectivity or residents/clients obtain their own.
- Whether and how you pay for it (in the monthly fee or separately).
- The modality (wired/wireless).
- The speed/ capacity, contract, etc.
These aspects can help you decide if the connectivity speed can support some applications the resident/client may be having issues with, such as video conferencing.
The program needs to meet the residents or clients and their families. Include the technologies they have and use that you do not provide, such as routers, printers/scanners, voice-controlled devices, etc.
Similarly, your training and support program design should be informed by the software solutions you provide as well as those your residents or clients commonly use.
It is important to consider how the users interact with the software and the training and support the technology vendor provides. Are there multiple ways to offer education and training and request help to resolve issues?
- Assessment of issues/needs, including special needs.
- Assessment of interest in training/support.
- Assessment of technology competencies/abilities, which can help you identify technology ambassadors and informal technology support volunteers among the residents.
- Assessment of personal preference for receiving education, training, and support.
- Ability to pay (if applicable).
- Provider services and responsibilities.
Identifying key stakeholders is crucial to building out the best possible strategy. Key stakeholders should have a customer engagement or communications role within the organization. This perspective will focus your project on communicating with residents/clients about their needs rather than on the technology first.
Stakeholders play a vital role in the initial implementation of the program.
The IT department and IT professionals should be involved in the group. Additional stakeholders that may be beneficial are executive leadership, activity directors (especially for resident/client-facing engagement technologies), operations management, and business development. It is good to keep your initial strategy group small, and request resources when implementation begins.
The program design will depend on your organization’s IT infrastructure and needs. Typical options include the following:
- Purchasing and locally hosting software on-site at the organization’s data center.
- Purchasing the software and hosting it in a third party’s data center.
- Having the vendor host and offer its own Software as a Service (SaaS).
Each has pros and cons depending on an organization’s size and current IT infrastructure. Some things to consider when evaluating these options are as follows:
Consider the implications of the program design on the existing IT infrastructure, including network, internet access, speed, and bandwidth. Remember that you may need to start your program implementation with updating your IT infrastructure.
Your technical team should have a few stakeholders as part of the planning and implementation team. The technology vendor could provide you plenty of implementation and troubleshooting support. Internally, your implementation team should be comprised of a technology lead (decision maker in IT) and an implementation coordinator who is able to manage the relationship with the technology vendors, any volunteer groups, and third-party/outsourced training and support providers.
These stakeholders play a vital role in the initial implementation of the program at the very least. You may need additional support technicians internally, but this step comes at a considerable cost if not kept small.
The IT team is a key stakeholder that should be engaged early in the process. Team members may have ideas and be familiar with new solutions. They may also be more enthusiastic when engaged early.
You may need to consider investing in mobile device management software, remote access/support software, and a ticketing system for your technology support/help desk.
To choose your team, identify the people who are the best at making human connections.
Technology can help build stronger relationships and more frequent connections, but the core of the work needs to maintain sharp focus on the human connection. To choose your team, identify the people in your organization who are the best at making human connections. They might be vital to making your initiative a success.
Operations team members will play a key role in implementation success, as they are the most connected to the people they serve. Ensure that operational leadership has buy-in early, and work alongside of these leaders to identify the best people in the field to become your evangelists. The key to engaging field operations—IT, resident technology ambassadors, volunteers, activity directors, and administrative staff—is to understand that they are not salespeople in this role but your program evangelists.
A simple workflow and training model will position your team for success.
Workflows can vary depending on the training and support program’s design. They guide how to request training or technical support; how to investigate, troubleshoot, and escalate issues; and how to ultimately resolve issues or recommend a resolution.
If you can reduce your workflow’s complexity and maintain a simple model of training, supporting, and evangelizing the program’s use, you will be putting your team in the best possible position to succeed.
One successful approach among older adults and aging services professionals is a train-the-trainer approach, plus online and physical materials to train field ops. When your own team continues using the technology, awareness, evangelism, and support can build. As a good first step, ask your activity or engagement staff who use resident-facing technologies the most to be key trainers.
The best business model would be a value-added technology training and support program that responds to your residents’ and clients’ needs and that they would use and find valuable. A successful program can build new public relations, customer engagement, and market differentiation. With the right key performance indicators (KPI), you can determine the value of your investment easily. See section 5 for more details.
It is important to revisit your initial strategy when defining goals and measurements. Your strategy may include multiple goals, such as increasing residents’ connections or adding new ways to stay connected from long distances, building reputation, and creating market differentiation through your program.
Once you determine your program can support each strategic goal, you can derive a simple KPI to measure your success. KPIs may include increased resident satisfaction with IT support, increased use of and engagement with resident/client-facing technologies you already invested in and provide, etc. Setting KPIs ahead of implementation will ensure that you do not lose sight of your goals.
Once the strategy, team, goals, and program design are ready, it is time to choose partners. The team needs to develop a set of detailed requirements to use as criteria to review and select the following:
- The technology training and support program itself.
- Specific training and support services.
- Program model.
- Business and payment model.
- Staffing and partnership needs.
These detailed requirements will in turn help you select the best partners for your program. Partners may include internal champions, resident/client ambassadors, existing technology solution vendors, volunteer organizations or programs, and any third-party training and support vendors.
Vet your training and support vendor to ensure it has all of the following:
- Knowledge of the technologies for which you have support needs.
- Experience working with older adults and people who have lower technical competencies and less familiarity with technology. This population will have higher support and training needs.
- Availability and bandwidth to support your program.
- Scott Code, Senior Director, LeadingAge CAST, SCode@LeadingAge.org, 202-508-9466
- Majd Alwan, Ph.D., Executive Director, LeadingAge CAST; Senior Vice President of Technology & Business Strategy, LeadingAge, MAlwan@LeadingAge.org, 202-508-9463
4. Watson, L.C., Zimmerman, S., Cohen, L.W., Dominik, R. (2009). Practical depression screening in residential care/assisted living: Five methods compared with gold standard diagnoses. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17(7), 556-564.