CareSafely CEO Raj Shah discusses the role of technology in helping seniors and employees stay safe at skilled nursing and senior living facilities. Raj discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the daily lives of seniors and their caregivers and how digital technologies can improve safety and infection control programs.
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CareSafely at AustinUp Conference 2020
ROLE OF INNOVATION IN SENIOR CARE
Age & Innovation Summit 2020
Panel Session Highlights
Char Hu: The goal of our panel would be to discuss what is the role of innovation post-pandemic or even during the pandemic. Did that fast check our development of new technologies and services to older adults, specifically around bridging gaps from labor shortages, care standards, life-enhancement, safety protocol, and, finally, remote monitoring. Next, we’ll move to Raj Shah. He’s the CEO of CareSafely, another amazing company on the absolute leading edge of this response that we have and I’ll let him explain what he’s doing.
Raj Shah: Hi, folks. Good to be here. And thank you also for organizing this important conference. Theresa, as well. And I’m just like y’all passionate about just seniors. My background is really around safety. I spent the last seven years helping the food industry stay safe in terms of E. Coli, Salmonella, all the different things that could affect the consumer food supply. So, when COVID hit, I wanted to take a step back and think about how we can help seniors with safety issues, especially related to infection control. That’s what CareSafely is all about. I am really excited to be on the panel with you guys.
Char Hu: Great. Raj, we’ll get into this later. But you’re tackling something that my facilities, we’re sound living, we’re sort of now having become very familiar with pandemic and this technology is showing how we can start to magnify and improve on that care delivery.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON SENIOR CARE
Char Hu: If we start to zoom out and look at it, the first question, we have to address, unfortunately now, I wish we didn’t, but it’s COVID. So, I’m gonna put myself in the perspective that a lot of listeners or a lot of viewers right now might be thinking about which is “I have a loved one. They’re an older adult. They need care.” COVID did not stop that. They’re either receiving care in their home with the caregiver, or unpaid caregiver, or a paid caregiver or a senior living facility. So, I’m just gonna throw it out to the panel. I’m that person. I’m the one who has an older adult. How are either senior living facilities out there coping with it, home care technology companies, or home care companies coping with it? And how does your, and more importantly, how does your technology help improve through the care delivery right now that we’re receiving, millions of older adults are receiving? So, throw that out there to the panel.
Raj Shah: I can go first real quick in terms of the senior living shard, you know this better than anyone, managing one. It’s having a devastating impact if you’re in a senior care facility, the lockdowns, inability to see families, etc. And it’s really, really difficult for all parties concerned. One of the things we’re doing, as part of CareSafely, is basically what we realized was – the response has been almost heroic, but not necessarily strategic and systematic. And so we went back to the drawing table and thought about “Okay, what does this organization or any organization need?” They need a strategic way to think about all the risks related to COVID infection control. The first point, which is really making sure you understand where the risks are in your facility. It’s not just about testing. Testing is just one portion of the overall picture of what an organization has to think about. So, what we’re doing is helping senior care facilities make sure they understand all the risks, create action plans to reduce all those risks, mitigate them or close them down completely. And continue the compliance and auditing of all the things whether it be COVID checks, it could be the PPE inventory levels. Whatever it is, to make sure that we have an effective response so that we can get the families reunited with the loved ones as quickly as possible. And that’s sort of a really important part about the mental health of the seniors as well as to the families to reconnect them again.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO FOCUS ON CARE, NOT PAPERWORK
Char Hu: I want to transition a little bit, Raj. I am going to be selfish and I am going to talk about my role as a senior living facility operator. We own dementia communities just north of Austin. This has been changing regulations between the county, the city, and the state and it has become this huge administrative burden. My team is beyond stressed out and that’s not even to do with what the daily operations of well-being are. How do you see technology, and it can be yours, it can be any, but would love to understand how you see being able to solve this compliance issue and then get back to resident care. Like, get back to operations and why we do this. Tell me, is that a role that you see for what you do and beyond?
Raj Shah: Yeah, definitely. If you think about the current way most senior care centers are doing this, it is typically paper-based audits or checklists, spreadsheets, emails, and Power Points to manage your entire risk control. You know, I come from the technology world of 25-30 years. If you think about EHR systems, ERP systems for manufacturing, we have been automating the workflows for 20-30 years. And this industry needs to think about how we fundamentally automate all these workflows, especially as it relates to infection controls because that literally is a difference between life and death for the patients and residents and the employees themselves. So, what we’re working on essentially, and we just launched a few weeks ago, is to automate that entire process. So, you first start with an assessment. What are the 80 different risk areas in an assisted living facility or in a memory care facility? And we get all this content from CDC, CMS, and Department of Public Health. We aggregate all that content and then we have an industry panel that looks at all this content. It’s – these are right, you know, topics to cover from the risk area point of view. So, that’s the first step – is to understand what exactly is going on in my facility, what are all the different things I need to think about, not just the testing and the visitor check-in and check-out. Yes. Those are the important parts. There are a lot more areas one has to think about, in terms of stakeholder communications, staffing, all the different aspects of managing the response. The second is, of course, managing these risks and making sure that someone is accountable to closing these risks down. When you start doing emails and paper-based stuff, it just gets lost and everyone is super busy. What we found is about a 50% reduction in all that administrative stuff that they have to do with managing the risk control so you get back to caring more carefully. So, we’re essentially trying to help with this, just minimizing all the administrative paperwork and being much more comprehensive and complete and strategic about the managing of the whole risk process.
Char Hu: And full disclosure. I should say, this is sort of like the old school commercials like the Hair Club for Men. Not only am I the CEO, but I’m also a member. Through this panel getting to know Raj a little bit and we’ve decided to deploy his solution in our community and the reason is everything he said was right. We have to do this manually. We’re counting paper which drives me nuts. I’m sort of known around town as the elder tech guy and I’m relying on paper. And I was like “Man, there’s got to be a better way to do it.” I could not start another company. Luckily, Raj already did it, and what it allows us that we just had these administrative and compliance burdens that are really no joke. And so, I think that compliance, and we’ll get to this later when it comes from a labor perspective.
LAWSUITS & MORE REGULATIONS COMING
Raj Shah: I came from the food industry and over a 10-year period of food safety because of all these things like E. Coli, Salmonella, all the things that were happening consumers demanded much better regulations, much stricter enforcement. And over that 10-year period what happened was the Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act. Walmart said, “If you want us to stock stuff on our shelves, you’ve got to be certified and really focused on safety and go through the third-party certifications.” I believe that’s going to happen to this whole senior care industry over the next five years, seven years. We’re going to have to get much stronger about safety, about compliance, about trading your workforce. I have some numbers. Let me throw a few numbers out at you all. If you think about these caregivers, the frontline caregivers in the industry, these folks do some amazing things, incredibly hard work of taking care of seniors, right? Whether it’s at home health or if it’s in a facility, really hard literally back-breaking work. The injury rate of a senior care worker or caregiver is two times higher than working in a construction site and two times higher than working as a coal miner. Just think about that for a second. They’re two times more likely to get injured on the job than working in the construction site or in a coal mine. Eight times more likely than working in an oil and gas mining area and extraction industry. So, we’ve got to do a better job as an industry in terms of both for the workers, and because what they do affects, of course, the resident patients as well. We’ve got to do a better job as an industry in training these folks. If we don’t, the compliance folks will come following, whether it be from the government or other places. And the lawsuits have also started going up quite a bit. There’s a lawsuit that just, about 55 lawsuits have opened up in the last few months, related to some of these issues around safety. So, compliance is going to become a bigger and bigger issue and the industry has got to get in front of it, otherwise, they will get steamrolled by it.
MOST DANGEROUS JOB IN AMERICA
Char Hu: Yeah, Raj, thoughts on, through the workforce that we have now and what the technology’s role will be. I got a couple of audience questions I’ll get to.
Raj Shah: These are great interesting points on that. One additional thought around the caregivers. So, these caregivers make 12, 15, to 18 bucks an hour, high, high turnover rates, 50-80%. So, one of the biggest challenges that COVID has created is essentially a shortage of employees, workers. We have talked about this, how hard it has been. You just hire new folks. One of the things we have to do from a safety and compliance point of view is to make the employees themselves feel very safe about working there. Right? I saw an article in The Washington Post recently. It said, “Working in long-term facilities is now the most dangerous job in America.” Which it shouldn’t be, just shouldn’t be. We have to do better. And so I see the need for the additional training much better than we currently have in the industry, much better ways of giving them comfort that we’ve got the systems and technologies in place to not just manage patient and resident safety, but also their own safety. We’ve got to give them that comfort level, to reduce their fear about getting COVID or others aspect of it. So, that’s the other area that we’ve got to think about. It is not just from the patient’s point of view, the resident’s point of view, but also what do we have to do for our own employees and staff members as well to keep them safe.
KEEP SENIORS & CAREGIVERS SAFE 100% OF THE TIME
Raj Shah: For the company, I mean my goal is essentially is to, and it sounds kind of bold, but it’s literally to ensure that every senior is safe, every caregiver is safe and compliant and so that the seniors get the full care that they deserve because the caregivers get the right training and the right procedures. Our thinking about this is basically we want to ensure that the caregivers have 100% of the knowledge, to make the right decision 100% of the time. And those are really important decisions whether it be medicines or whether it be, you know, factors of daily living, whatever the activities they have to do, they do that with the best training and the best understanding of what they need to do. So, our goal is to keep everybody safe.
Char Hu: Yeah, and I think what we’ll see for those who are in the industry if there are anybody’s on the call. I mean we’re going to be saddled with a lot more compliance issues when it comes to any sort of infectious disease. It is a nightmare to manage. Being able to put this on the back burden, but also encourage, I’m getting back to the labor problem of encouraging training and the system prompts you, you know, training for washing hands. How do we prove that we did that? I can’t believe that that’s something that now we have to think about, but it is a real problem, right? Solutions like this help us do that.