At Country Meadows, quality care and a family-like atmosphere are two attributes that will always remain constant. But as the world changes, some of our work behind the scenes has to evolve as well. One particular department that has had to stay on top of several aspects of this health crisis is our Information Technology Department, whose hard work helps to make the Country Meadows one of the best independent living communities available for seniors in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Between relaying messages to families and residents through quick communication and developing new telehealth services, there is always a project in the works to help make the daily experience for our residents the best it can be. In fact, technology plays such a large role in daily life at our senior living community we even dedicated a recent blog on the top social media tips for seniors.
Randy Hanson, Vice President of Information Technology, has worked at Country Meadows for over twenty years. Throughout his time at Country Meadows, Randy has been an integral part of the development of the IT department and keeping Country Meadows up to speed on technological advancements. Here, Randy discusses why IT is so critical, what he sees for the future of IT in retirement communities, and why Country Meadows is considered one of the best independent living communities for seniors today.
Tell us about your position within Country Meadows:
I started working at Country Meadows in March of 2000 and currently lead the IT team ensuring that all of our programs are running properly and that all of our information is secure. I am also in charge of strategic and operational planning for the department. My team and I prioritize technology initiatives and coordinate the evaluation, deployment, and management of those systems throughout the organization. With advances in technology occurring so rapidly, we are able to make recommendations and implement systems that allow our co-workers to focus more on resident care versus administrative work.
My position allows me to tap into many different areas of technology, as well as the business and industry in general. I am involved in everything from providing wi-fi access to our co-workers and guests to helping to implement a new medication management and EHR system. I’ve also been able to use technology to assist with management of health records and co-worker records, occupancy statistics, safety and security at our campuses, resident safety in our memory support neighborhoods, resident engagement and activity, care coordination, and last but not least, telemedicine.
Another important aspect of my role is keeping up with changes in technology and the industry. The acuity needs of our residents as well as their comfort with technology is constantly changing. Our department works hard to identify new trends and systems that can both assist our caregivers and keep our residents engaged and connected. It’s important for us to develop these aspects as one of the best independent living communities in the area, as it allows us to offer top quality programs to our residents.
What training did you undergo for this role before Country Meadows? What prior roles have you held in this industry or others?
Before I worked for Country Meadows, I attended York Technical Institute and graduated with a degree in Specialized Business. Prior to this role, I held several other positions within the IT department. I started as a help desk technician, then became the VOIP/Network Administrator, Director of Information Technology and finally the Vice President of Information Technology.
Why did you decide to pursue a role within this industry?
I wanted a career that would give me the opportunity to be creative and innovative, but also allow me to build relationships and help people. I knew senior living had a great future. From the beginning it was evident that Country Meadows was blessed with a team of incredibly smart, talented, hardworking people; and I wanted to be a part of that. Each and every one of our co-workers (and really everyone that works in this industry) is extremely dedicated and works hard every day to make the lives of our senior population better. This is one of the reasons that Country Meadows is considered one of the best independent living communities. And I love the fact that what we do touches people’s lives in a personal way.
How does your role contribute to the overall Country Meadows experience for residents?
Technology can’t take the place of every administrative task we rely on our co-workers for, but it does streamline processes and provides them with more time to focus on caring for our residents. The more time our residents have with our care teams, the better their experience is. While this is probably one of the larger areas of impact, we’ve also impacted their experience by using technology to secure our campus doors and help them feel safer. Beyond safety measures, we’ve also been able to work on implementing systems that help coordinate their care. This includes setting our teams up to use telehealth so that they spend less time traveling to and from their physician’s office, ensuring timely evaluation and diagnosis of medical conditions. We are also helping residents stay active by streaming exercise classes via TV or iPad. Using iPads for brain games and other activities that help them stay mentally sharp and providing internet that allows them to stay connected to their friends and family whether it be through e-mail, social media, or Zoom, Skype and FaceTime calls has also been a big part of my departments’ role over the last several months.
What about your role are you the most passionate about?
I am most passionate about developments in technology and how they can help our residents and care teams. I am also passionate about using technology to lead Country Meadows to the highest levels of efficiency and security. Although it can be challenging, I truly feel my purpose is to keep our company safe from a technology perspective while enhancing the resident and co-worker experience.
Where do you see your position evolving in the future? And do you feel there will be a similar shift in the industry as well?
There are so many changes occurring right now, both in our industry and with technology in general. Artificial intelligence or AI technology has become part of our everyday life and will likely have a large impact on assisted living and healthcare in general over the next several years. Not only will it allow us to implement brand new technology, but it will be a great addition to some of the systems we are already using. In addition, the growing shortage of caregivers is pushing senior housing to view technology in a new way—as a vehicle to support a more tech savvy population and optimize workflow to do more with less.
I think that in the future the core of my position will likely be the same, but that my team and I will be helping to develop/implement more systems as things evolve change. I think that we will also be looking to provide more options for our residents as the baby boomers and senior population, in general, are becoming more comfortable with technology and look for more of it when choosing a care facility. I also think that this will be an industry wide shift and something that everyone will be dealing with in the months and years to come.
How have the challenges of COVID-19 affected the day-to-day at Country Meadows, especially considering your role as VP of Technology?
As it has been for everyone, COVID-19 has been a game changer for us. Many of the things that we offered as amenities have become essential. Offering video chat calls was once a bit of a perk, but for the last several months it’s been the only way our residents could see their loved ones face to face. We’ve had to quickly increase the number of tablets that we have in our communities and make sure that we have the right accounts or systems in place to be using them frequently throughout the day. We also made a quick shift to using one of our TV channels to stream exercise classes, spiritual life services, and other activities to help keep our residents engaged. We’ve never done that before, but helping to come up with unique ways to keep our residents active was something that quickly became a part of my role.
We’ve also made the switch to using Zoom and virtual meeting rooms in lieu of large group meetings. This has allowed us to stay on the same page while limiting close interactions and reducing the spread of COVID.
In addition, we increased the number of telehealth visits that are being done as most doctors’ offices were shut down and limiting resident exposure became a top priority. Finally, tracking of symptoms and potential exposure has been crucial and has been a top priority for the best independent living communities in the country. We’ve worked to develop ways to track any potential exposure using technology so that are teams can easily access the information.
Why do you consider Country Meadows to be one of the best independent living communities for seniors?
I really feel that Country Meadows has a great reputation for a reason. The biggest one is that they are a family owned and operated business, and you can really feel that. They create a culture of caring, not only for our residents, but for our families and co-workers as well. They take great pride in what they do and make sure that everyone they bring on board feels the same way. They instill in all of their co-workers the importance of treating each resident like their own grandparent or family member, and I really think that’s the difference. Our caregivers, and everyone really, are full of compassion and genuinely love our residents. Country Meadows prides itself on finding ways to say “yes” and empowers all of their co-workers to do this for residents. The result is residents that are happy, well cared for, and feel like they are a part of the family. Of course, you would expect this from any of the best independent living communities out there, but Country Meadows takes service to the next level by adding that family touch.
In your own words, what is the Country Meadows mission?
The Country Meadows mission is to provide a place for seniors where their daily lives will be enhanced. Whether it be through meeting care needs, engagement, education, etc., Country Meadows wants to make life better for our senior population and help set the tone for the industry.
Country Meadows is considered to be among the best independent living communities in the area. With retirement communities in Pennsylvania and Maryland, our campuses provide a wide variety of services for the needs of our residents. These services range from memory support to assisted living care or personal care services, and independent living. If you or a loved one are searching for the right senior living community, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about Country Meadows and all that we have to offer.