A Digital Transformation in Nursing Homes and Geriatric Centers

Hanna Harzman, 
CEO of the Keshet Association for the Elderly

The challenging period in which we have been operating, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic and to this day, is characterized by distance and longing, anxiety and fear for the future. During these months, in which we came to understand the value of friendship, we experienced the sense of togetherness, learned to appreciate the staff’s commitment to the residents, and took pains to accommodate the families who felt cut off. We learned that existential anxiety increases feeling of loneliness, even if the residents live in a protective home that cares for them. The need of frail or immobile residents for interest, constant attention, meaning and things to do becomes stronger.

The environment in which we operate at the various institutions, under the constraints of a period of external lockdowns and internal closure of homes to protect the residents from infection, has become quite hostile to institutions, and led to the increasing tendency to advise the frail and elderly to stay in their homes and not move to alternative housing facilities, even though these may be more suitable.

The changes in the business environment in which we operate require us to create an innovative business model based on new digital technologies in order to survive.

Institutions that are unable to harness the digital revolution for their own benefit and improve their competitive position will lose their place in the industry.

Both public and private institutions must undergo significant and continuous organizational change while utilizing digital technologies, to become more efficient, more effective, and offer a new and more attractive resident experience.

Competitive institutional advantage will be achieved primarily through a process of digital transformation. Before starting the process, however, it is important to examine the abilities and the willingness of the staff to embark on the process, which for some individuals poses a threat and creates a sense of helplessness.

First, it is very important to establish an organizational culture of innovation and constant support for innovation at the institution.

How should we, the institution’s managers, respond to innovative ideas from the staff?  Are we willing to take risks in innovation processes?

How satisfied are the residents? How satisfied are their families with our service?

How open are the families to change?

What are the technological skills of the residents families?  

What technological skills does the staff have?

What is the effect of technology on staff turnover?

Has the institution formulated a digital vision?

Is there a clear strategy to implement the vision?

Does the team share the vision and understand its significance and importance?

Do the institutions constantly examine external occurrences of digital transformation at other institutions?

What is the level of staff readiness to learn and try? (It's important to examine this initially in small projects.)

Managers should see themselves as digital leaders in the institutions.  They must create the digital vision. Their leadership and guidance has a crucial impact on the new services that will be created on the basis of digital products for the benefit of the elderly and their families.

A geriatric institution that has a clearly defined vision and digital strategy which has been communicated in all its wards, and where the issue of digitalization is high on the list of priorities of the management and the board, an institution that recognizes opportunities to change its organizational DNA while adopting innovative digital models and innovative digital tools, can shake up the whole industry, leverage its business-marketing position, and give itself a significant competitive advantage.

The involvement of employees (doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, auxiliary staff, maintenance, administration and others) is a necessary condition for the success of the digital journey. It is important to communicate the plans and their practical significance to the staff.  Efforts must be made to explain the vision, and ensure that it is clear to everyone involved in the process. While management sets the priorities, it is important that the staff understand which projects will be implemented and which will wait for the next budget, what the decision-making processes were, and what was defined as more important in terms of priorities.

The relationship with the information systems manager is extremely important and communication must be understood. The management must be familiar with concepts in the field of IT in order to understand the challenges of the digital journey.

A clear definition of the intentions and the desired outcomes of the digital transformation is vital for evaluation of the process and its implementation.

The digital transformation must serve the institutions on several levels:

Communication and updates for families – Today, more than ever, families demand regular updates and open channels of communication with the caregivers.

Streamlining of outputs and work processes – A shortage of manpower necessitates the use and assistance of technology for reporting, internal control over the performance of tasks, professional monitoring, transfer of information among the staff, and information storage.

Consultation and management of work processes – The COVID-19 pandemic proved that processes and consultations can be managed using new digital methods, such as Zoom, and they were transformed to meet the needs of coordination and remote work with full synchronization and significant savings of time.

“The changes in the business environment in which we operate require us to create an innovative business model based on new digital technologies in order to survive.

Institutions that are unable to harness the digital revolution for their own benefit and improve their competitive position will lose their place in the industry.

Process analysis based on cumulative data – The data that accumulates in institutions is of great importance for process analysis, medical and professional information that can be analyzed and studied in order to build new future tools. Research using cumulative data and sophisticated technology will make it possible to achieve better results in the future.

Mental games and exercises for residents – The evolving technology makes it possible to create mental games and exercises that help to improve the cognitive abilities, experiences, and enjoyment of the elderly, and alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Saving lives and monitoring health – Advanced technology can save lives and provide solutions for continuous patient monitoring as well as smart prediction capabilities.

The vision in an age of change, epidemics, wars and a fluctuating economic situation in the wake of political changes requires adaptation and updating where necessary.

The level of organizational flexibility, the methods and work processes employed by institutions and by their IT managers and employees, are the factors that will facilitate the implementation of advanced digital processes and innovation. The greater the extent and the degree of application of the processes, the higher the organization’s chances to leverage itself and deal successfully with future challenges will be.


In the article in the next issue – Smart wards at nursing homes and geriatric centers: from theory to practice.

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