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Future of senior living business success depends on getting the right tech

A comprehensive electronic medical record doesn't yet exist to take the industry into care coordination

Savvy financial officers at senior living facilities know that the key to the future of their business is care coordination. Trouble is, financial officers can’t unlock that future because the technological key, a comprehensive electronic medical record system, is not yet available to the senior living market. One provider, though, is trying to change that.

The recent merger of Emeritus Corporation of Seattle, Wa., and Brookdale Senior Living, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., created a national full-spectrum senior living solutions powerhouse with enough scale to gain the interest of large technology players, said Steve Tarr, Emeritus’ former chief information officer who is leading the technology strategy transition at the newly formed company through the end of November.

The merged company, doing business under the Brookdale brand, now has more than 1,100 communities in 46 states. To maximize their business model of being a full-service senior living solutions company, it needs an EMR system that connects business functions internally, makes clinical connections to and between physicians, hospitals and patients, and offers technological conveniences for residents and their families, said Kellie Murray, an Emeritus human relations executive also aiding in the merger transition.

It’s a lot to deliver, acknowledged Tarr, and while there are small-scale EMRs for senior living, no traditional EMR vendor has a product that can offer the sweep of solutions Brookdale is looking for.

If Brookdale can get the comprehensive solution it wants, it will make money for the company, Tarr said. It will make residents (and potential residents) happy because being able to offer comprehensive technology solutions connecting them to caregivers and family will make their lives easier. Having comprehensive technology will allow Brookdale to be a care coordination partner with physicians and hospitals and families, potentially being able to identify issues before they necessitate more expensive care. And such a technology solution will cut operating costs, Tarr said.

As things stand today, from an operational perspective, said Tarr, “it looks like we’re in a different century.” Not having a comprehensive EMR solution means Brookdale and other senior living facilities are missing opportunities, said Tarr.