Technology Makes Top Ten Senior Living Trends for 2011

From Senior Housing News comes this article about technology. Click here for full article.

I highlighted things that stuck out for me.  One thing they failed to mention was the safety piece.  The barriers to entry into this “senior monitoring business” are very low.  With many companies, safety is a marketing buzz word.  I like the mention here of industry standards and the economic value of such, however, the life safety benefit of standards is the real deal.

Technology – Monitoring Networks, Apps, Devices and Systems Integrators

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your monitoring …..Through gadgets, apps, networks and the cloud! During 2010, a trickle of vendors released new monitoring systems and delivery options. The flood gates are going to bust open as the economy heals and companies are looking to invest and expand into high growth markets. Look for continued announcements and product offerings from old and new technology companies as well as acquisitions and roll ups of related products and services for the senior care market. Some products will be “me too” products that will provide additional market choices but few, real new features. Who will win? We’re betting on well designed products that are simple without feature overload at reasonable prices.

One of the areas that will start to accelerate in 2011 is systems integrators working in local markets to deploy various monitoring systems that employ industry standards  ***See UL2560 article here *** . If vendors work within established standards, the costs for deployment and support have a higher probability of being adopted faster than those that are built upon proprietary technology. These systems integrators will need to provide better service than the Geek Squad but also know about concepts on senior living design and general contracting besides the technical nature of deployment of these networks. What are we forgetting? The most important features: selling and servicing seniors and their children. How many local GC’s are ready for this? If you said very little, you’re probably being generous. The costs of a design and tech make-over may make your stomach turn at first but if amortized over an additional 5 years in the home versus assisted or skilled care, it will seem like a bargain.  In a society of instant gratification, that will be a hard sell.

So what about safety?  It seems most folks are interested in the fire alarm.  When it comes to the “wireless nurse call” system, a standard of mediocrity exists.  If the “emergency call system”  is ever used to save a life, shouldn’t it be designed to do just that. . . . in all conditions?   If a component fails, the power goes out for several hours, the annunciator panel becomes disabled, etc., it should still be capable of saving a life.  See Tel-Tron’s website for the real deal solution.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. “

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. “

Ralph Waldo Emerson

turn·key / ˈtərnˌkē/• n. (pl. -keys) archaic a jailer.• adj. of or involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use.

We’re not big on talk here at Tel-Tron, we sell turnkey solutions and actually provide the same.  Every project that Tel-Tron partners in embodies the idea that the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.  Tel-Tron has been the leading manufacturer of emergency call systems for decades but we don’t stop participating at the end of the production line.  Tel-Tron provides the highest quality and most consistent turnkey solutions because we ensure that the equipment we took so much care to design and manufacture actually gets implemented in the way it was designed.  Tel-Tron project managers, trainers and support staff are with your team from the moment you buy the system to ensure that shortcuts aren’t taken, steps aren’t missed and that you always get the same consistent quality that allows you to concentrate on providing the best care to your residents.

I’m sure many of you have been involved in projects where fingers get pointed, excuses are made and it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who assumes responsibility for anything, the Tel-Tron turnkey solution for emergency call systems couldn’t be more different.  Many of our competitors use dealers, electricians, general contractors or maybe even the subcontractor doing the fire alarm system to act as the responsible entity for their emergency call system needs.  That subcontractor may then subcontract the job out to someone else when they get busy installing fire alarms.  The end result is layers of incompetence.  Tel-Tron project managers only manage projects that include Tel-Tron emergency call systems, they test every device, they ensure your staff is properly trained; they coordinate integrations with other vendors and are at your community ensuring that the transition to your new system is as seamless and unobtrusive as possible.

Our project management team ensures that everything from system design drawings, pre-requisite installation requirements, training, reporting and every other aspect of the system installation and operation are all handled by the same team of experts that are always accountable to you.  We’ll provide you with updates, project schedules, integration documentation and even coordinate the meetings with any other technical partners that need to be involved.  With decades of experience, industry certifications and an ownership mentality regarding your investment there is no need to look any further than your team at Tel-Tron.

Put us to the test..  Let us know what’s important to you, how you wish it worked, or just paint us a picture of the destination and then turn us loose to ensure your vision gets fulfilled.  We let our actions do our talking and can’t wait to show you how different things can be when Tel-Tron provides a true turn-key solution for your senior living community emergency notification needs and more.  Look for our blog next month on the advantage of Tel-Tron’s distributed regional presence and how we leverage those resources to manage your installation with Tel-Tron factory certified project managers for less than many of our bloated competitors while still providing services they can’t or won’t.

MOTOTRBO, Engenius, and the many other mobile ways we can alert your on-the-go staff …

Let’s say you operate a large assisted living property that spans several buildings over several acres.  Maybe even an entire gated community with hundreds of detached cottages and casitas.  Chances are your first responders to emergency call events will be your security staff who typically will carry portable, two-way radios that operate in the 400 to 470 MHz licensed frequency spectrum, possibly using repeaters to span your property.  To annunciate emergency calls to two-way radios, we offer text-to-speech voice and, in the case of the very cool MOTOTRBO, text messages that appear on the radio handset.

MOTOTRBO Licensed 400 MHz Digital Radio

Motorola’s MOTOTRBO™ professional digital two-way radio handsets are rugged, and have LCD screens that can display emergency call alerts. [See http://business.motorola.com/mototrbo/US/docs/MOTOTRBO_System_Brochure_1_08.pdf] The MOTOTRBO technology also provides two independent channels for the price of one FCC site license* (a second channel doesn’t require a second repeater — two channels are supported on a standard 12.5 KHz channel).  A common deployment scenario is to dispatch emergency calls out over one channel, and retain regular two-way voice for security personnel on the other channel.  Since we’re an authorized Motorola Application Developer (we developed a way to interface with our emergency call systems), we can also use Motorola’s Customer Programming Software (CPS) to tailor your MOTOTRBO system to suit your property needs. *Note: A FCC site license is not necessarily required. So-called “dot frequencies” are available (shared amongst many users) that do not require registration.  However, a FCC site license will guarantee no interference from others operating on the same frequency. Consult with Tel-Tron or your local radio dealer.

Two-Way Licensed 400 MHz Analog Radios

What if your security or care giver staff doesn’t carry text-capable digital radios? It is still a predominantly single-channel analog world out there for two-way radios, with many low-cost models to choose from. If your property uses a type that has PTT (push-to-talk) relay and audio inputs at the base station, consider our text-to-speech offering. When there is an emergency call event your radio-carrying staff will hear, for example, “Attention, Emergency Call, Apartment 101.” Similarly, when the emergency call event is cleared or reset, they’ll hear “Attention, Emergency Call, Apartment 101, Clear.”

Engenius Unlicensed 900 MHz Cordless Phone “Radio”

Does your staff need to be able to place and receive regular telephone calls and be in contact with each other over a large area, and at the same time be able to receive emergency calls?  The Engenius DuraFon 1X Long Range Industrial Cordless TM Phone System may be right for your facility. [See http://www.engeniustech.com/telecom/products/details.aspx?id=103.] EnGenius cordless phones allow up to 36 users to share 4 lines, and include push-to-talk radio, call transfers, and text messaging. The DuraFon 1X will also allow users to loudly broadcast to another user, a group of users, or all users. Emergency call alerts may be displayed as caller ID text (e.g., “Emergency Call, Apartment 101) and/or voiced by the Tel-Tron automated attendant.

Unlicensed 900/2400 MHz Cordless Phones

Less sophisticated and inexpensive cordless phones may be used by smaller assisted living facilities (generally low-power and cannot be “repeatered”).  As above, emergency call alerts may be displayed as caller ID text, and/or voiced by the Tel-Tron automated attendant.

Onsite Pagers

Unlicensed Pagers (those things from the 1980’s) are still a popular, low-cost way to alert your on-the-go staff.  Generally the transmitter base is powerful enough to reach across a large building.  Pagers are just one-way devices, without any voice capability.  Emergency call alerts may only be displayed as text messages on the pager screen.  [As a staff convenience, we also offer a popular “reminders via paging.”  For example, a particular caregiver may receive a page that states “Mary Jones, Apartment 101, Doctor Appointment, 10:00 am.”  [See http://www.tel-tron.com/scheduledreminders.php ]

Cell Phones

Nowadays, it’s a sure bet that your entire staff carries a personal cell phone. Most properties of course ask their staff to keep their personal cell phone in a locker while on the job to minimize distractions.  But some members of your executive staff may desire to be informed of emergency call events via a SMS text message on their cell phone.  We offer a high-degree of programmability when to send alerts; frequently Executive Directors only want to receive an SMS text if an emergency call event is not cleared within, for example, 10 minutes.  Such alerts can also easily be scheduled: the ED receives the alerts during the day, the Associate ED at night. [See http://www.tel-tron.com/ethernet.php ]

In summary, whatever mobile device your staff carries, we probably have an off-the-shelf way to alert them with Tel-Tron emergency call alerts.  Check out our website for other device examples (such as the Cisco IP phone).  [See http://www.tel-tron.com/cisco-phone-radio-paging-mobile.php ]

Throw out that PC based system and get in the CLOUD!

Once upon a time, senior living communities paid someone to be at the front desk 24 hours a day.  They did this because the emergency call system consisted of a panel of lights and buzzers mounted on the wall.  If a resident needed help, a light would turn on and a buzzer would sound.  Someone had to be within earshot of this panel at all times, or calls for help would go unanswered.  Once they heard it, though, alerting the care givers that someone needed help was another inefficient and labor intensive task.

When Tel-Tron introduced pocket paging to the wireless emergency system call industry (100 years ago…) both problems were solved.  Care givers wore pagers and were alerted right away when a resident needed help.  This eliminated the need for panels of lights and buzzers, and the need to pay someone to watch them 24 hours a day.  This was a transformation of the way senior living providers operated their buildings and provided care to their residents.  Really, it would be hard to imagine not having pagers or some other mobile staff device today.

Portion of Auditrak Dashboard

What does this have to do with cloud computing?  Everything.  When Tel-Tron introduced Auditrak.com, another senior living transformation began.  With the release of the ethernet gateway for our CompanionOne product line, Tel-Tron’s nurse call system has completed it’s migration to the cloud.  What is the cloud and how does it help senior living, you ask?  Let me explain. (click here for the wikipedia definition)

In the pocket paging example above, people were slaves to the front desk, because that is where the alarm panel was located.  The “data” they needed to respond to resident emergencies was accessible from only one place – the front desk.  The same is true on PC based system today.

System programming information, resident usage metrics, audit trail reports, maintenance notifications, resident check-in data, even changing resident pendant codes is all located, stored and managed from the personal computer located on-site.  You have limited or no access to that data or functionality from outside the building.  You have limited or no way to keep all of that data backed up on a real time basis.  You have limited or no way to integrate that system with other systems located outside of the facility, such as your accounting, or resident management software.

Worst of all…..Once you buy a computer based system, you are saddled with never ending upgrades, maintenance contracts, having to replace the computer itself every couple years, your staff uses the computer to play games or surf the web (see previous blog about that particular nightmare), Microsoft changes operating systems routinely, loss of functionality during a power outage…  Really, the list of downside risks to a PC based system are endless.  What’s the answer?

Enter the cloud!  Instead of your entire emergency call system being controlled and run by a software program on a local PC, host all of that functionality in the cloud (on the internet).

Your on-site system includes all of the devices in the resident rooms, all of the mobile devices used by the staff, one or more alarm consoles, the wireless or hardwired monitoring infrastructure.  But the activity data, programming information, reporting software, charting and graphing software, trend analysis, and system monitoring is “hosted” offsite.  You access this site through an internet browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari.  Which means you do NOT buy a dedicated PC for the emergency call system.  You use any PC (or iphone, blackberry, ipad, etc) you want, from anywhere you want, whenever you want.

  • There is no software to upgrade on site, ever.  The hosted software is always current.
  • You don’t have to keep back-up disks, or tapes on site.  Your data is always on line and backed-up continuously.
  • You don’t have to worry about your staff breaking the computer, surfing the web, or otherwise messing up the PC.  Because THERE ISN”T ONE.  I know this is a mental leap.  But it is literally transformational to the industry.  Senior living CTO’s, IT managers, even maintenance people are loving the fact that their systems no longer are PC based or dependent.

Sample Report of All Alarms with a "Resident Wait Time" of more than 10 minutes

In addition, once your secure data is in the cloud, you don’t need to run reports any longer.  Establish operating parameters and reports will be automatically sent to you (or anyone else) whenever something occurs outside those parameters.  Two small examples:  Many Executive Directors get a report emailed to them every morning listing any emergency call where the resident’s wait time was longer than 10 minutes.  Regional Operations Directors have this same report sent to them monthly for all communities in their territory.  Regional Maintenance Directors get a weekly report automatically emailed to them of all system trouble items that have occurred, and not resolved in the appropriate time.  I know, that was three examples, but the possibilities are endless.

Last one..any notification can be sent via email, or text message.  Some Operations Vice Presidents want to know right away if there is an elopement activity such as a window alarm, or “screen removed” alarm in an memory impaired section.  Elopement is a big deal these days and an early heads-up is helpful.

I know this is a lot to take in and understand, but having your emergency call systems data hosted and managed in the internet cloud, means a whole lot less headache for on-site staff related to computers, and an almost limitless opportunity for growth and integration in the future.  Just as pagers changed the industry in the late 80s, cloud computing will change senior living over the next few years.  Just browse on over to Auditrak.com and you’ll see what I mean.

I didn’t talk specifically about this, but having a single hosted location for systems data and management is exponentially more valuable if a senior living operator has multiple sites.

One day we’ll look back and say…”Remember when we used to have a PC run our emergency call systems.  How did we ever survive?”

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