The deployment of technology in intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) support services is taking consumer services down a different and exciting path. While in much of health care, technology deployment is often limited to electronic health records (EHRs) and telehealth, in long-term services and supports (LTSS) there is a broader array of services. Some of those tech initiatives include assistive in-home technologies, remote monitoring devices (e.g., wearables, smart home gadgets), and mobile tracking applications (see Are You In A ‘Technology First’ State? What Does That Mean?). Our 2019 survey of specialty provider organizations found the top three most commonly adopted technologies by I/DD provider organizations were EHRs (80%), followed by fundraising tools and technologies (66%), and referral tracking/database (63%) (see The Tech-Enabled Provider Organization: The 2019 OPEN MINDS Health & Human Service Technology Survey)—lagging behind other types of provider organizations. However, remote monitoring technologies were deployed by 43% of I/DD and LTSS provider organizations, compared to primary care (24%), child (13%), and behavioral health (10%).
We got an upfront look at technology deployment in serving consumers with I/DD during The 2020 OPEN MINDS I/DD Executive Summit session, Leveraging Technology To Improve Services For Consumers With I/DD, with Nick Filarelli, program director of Core Services of Northeast Tennessee and Delcie Bean IV, chief executive officer of Paragus Strategic IT, Inc. Core Services, a non-profit organization, provides a comprehensive set of services for individuals with I/DD throughout northeast Tennessee including nursing and health care; respite care; supported living and assistance with activities of daily living, and supported employment. Through a grant funded by the Tennessee Department of Human Services, the organization also collaborates with education agencies to provide pre-employment transition services to students with an individualized education plan to improve employment readiness skills, social skills, and independent living.
In 2017, the organization was accepted into the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Enabling Technology pilot to test a variety of technology solutions in Core Services’ supported employment and supported living programs. As a result, Core Services has gone through a digital transformation, deploying technology to promote consumer integration in the community.
In the supported living program, Core Services utilizes solutions as simple as a smartphone paired with Bluetooth headphones and an app to provide scheduled notifications on the job. By receiving pre-set customized reminders, a consumer can receive notifications throughout the work day, easily dismiss the alerts, and complete the task without the assistance of direct support staff. Consumers who previously required a job coach on site can now complete an entire six-hour workday without intervention—independently clocking in and out, taking lunch breaks, and successfully completing all required tasks.
And in the home, Core Services uses a variety of assistive technologies to promote independent living. Using a “smart home” style strategy, individuals with physical limitations or other disabilities can independently control lights, open and close doors, request assistance, see visitors at the door on video, all through enabling technology. Safety is also ensured through remote monitoring of sensors connected to smoke detectors; on doors, cabinets, and refrigerators; or under the bed, as well as wearable devices to detect anything out of the ordinary or allowing the individual to request help as needed.
If your organization wants to expand its adoption of technology in providing LTSS, how do you get started? Like all technology strategy processes, I recommend you start with your strategic plan and develop a technology strategy from there. Your service lines, your payer mix, your market position, and value proposition all shape the types of technologies that are needed to improve efficiency and effectiveness. And from that strategic perspective, we have developed a best practice model for technology needs assessment and selection (see The OPEN MINDS Strategic Technology Assessment and Strategic Technology Assessments: When? Why? & How?). Mr. Filarelli and Mr. Bean offered three key guideposts for moving to more tech-enabled service systems—start with the end in mind, don’t be afraid to adapt, and form a technology task force.
Start with the end in mind—The first mistake executive teams make is starting with a technology solution and letting the solution guide strategy. Adoption for adoption’s sake isn’t a viable strategy and likely won’t serve your organization well in the long-term. Rather, Mr. Bean advised, “First, think about the problem you have and want to solve—then work backwards. Far too often, organizations pick a solution without asking, what will the technology do for us?” There isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to tech adoption. The problem (and the solution) will be different for every organization (see Making The Right Tech Investments For Your Organization: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Technology Budgeting & Planning and Riding The Technology Wave: Be Better, Not Obsolete).
Don’t be afraid to start small and adapt—Finding the right technology doesn’t have to mean choosing the most expensive, complex solution with virtual reality or artificial intelligence—and it also doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Mr. Bean explained, “For most organizations in the health and human service space, the first step can be as simple as taking a small solution off the shelf and customizing it or adapting it to make it applicable to the problem you want to solve.” Technology innovation isn’t “all-or-nothing,” the key is to start where you are by leveraging the resources you already have (see Do It Now! and 2900+ Tech Solutions & 50,000+ Apps—How To Select The Treatment Technology That Fits With Your Strategy).
Form a technology task force—For a tech strategy to work, Mr. Bean cautioned, “It should not be driven by the IT department and it also should not be solely driven by the leadership team.” Forming a technology task force or committee is essential to understanding which tech solution is the right fit for your organization. Adequate representation is key—the committee should include any stakeholder involved in the organization, executives and other organizational leadership, as well as the direct support staff who will use the technology solution, and the consumers it will impact (see 4 Keys To Make New Tech Work and Going From Tech Tolerant To Tech Savvy: How Managerial Staff Can Directly Impact The Adoption Of Technology).
For more on ramping up your tech strategy, check out these resources in The OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
And for even more, join us on August 27 at 1:00 pm EDT for the web briefing, Options For Managing Staffing Costs – Productivity Management, Outsourcing, Technology Solutions, And More, led by OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Ken Carr.