The senior care sector may not be known as an early adopter of the latest technologies, but with Canadians over the age of 65 outnumbering children under 15 for the first time in history, the industry will need to become more innovative if it hopes to keep up with an aging population.
PointClickCare is a homegrown company trying to help the sector do just that. For more than 15 years, the Mississauga-based software developer has been transforming the traditional senior care industry through cloud-enabled platforms so it can keep up in an increasingly digital world.
“Senior care is really one of the last industries to embrace technology, but we’re trying to change that because technology plays a huge role in how we deal with our aging population in Canada,” Mike Wessinger, cofounder and CEO of PointClickCare, tells ITBusiness.ca. “People over 65 consume just shy of 40 per cent of all healthcare resources, but they make up only 13 per cent of the population. That number will rise to 17 per cent very soon and that will blow up the economic model of how we deliver healthcare. So how do we solve for that? By using technology to deliver higher quality and more connected healthcare at a lower cost.”
PointClickCare’s tablet-oriented technology helps care providers connect, coordinate, collaborate, and work more efficiently while reducing costs and maintaining regulatory standards. Its core cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) platform, for example, allows caregivers to record and track health assessments, manage medication schedules, and communicate in real-time with other team members such as physicians and pharmacists. It also integrates billing and payment modules so finances like accounts receivable, accounts payable, claims, collections, and trust account activities can be easily managed.
“It’s the simple things that work. By giving caregivers who work at facilities like nursing homes, assisted living spaces, and hospices, tools for collecting real-time data and easier ways to track patients, they can do their jobs better and maybe save the system money,” Wessinger explains.
Getting the industry to adopt technology may be less of a challenge than teaching the people in it how to use the tech, however. The average age of a registered nurse in Canada in 2016 is approximately 46 years old according to Statista, an online statistics and research portal, while those 50 and older represent more than 40 per cent of the nursing population, says the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Similarly, Statistics Canada reports that most senior caregivers are between 45 and 64 years of age, meaning that roughly one in four caregivers are seniors themselves.
Many of these older generation caregivers are wary of using technology, or find it difficult to learn how to use it, but PointClickCare wants to make the experience as simple as possible.
“We know that the average age of nurses and senior caregivers are late 40’s, 50’s, so we make sure that the platforms we’ve developed are easy to learn and use. If you can’t make life better for the person actually delivering care, you’re not going to see a lot of adoption, and then all benefits go out the window. We can’t make a caregiver’s job harder or more complex because then we’ll never be successful,” says Wessinger. “With that being said, though, a lot more people are tech savvy these days. I’d say almost everyone in the workforce knows how to use a smartphone and some form of social media, so we try to create an experience that is similar to the tech and platforms they’re already using today.”
He adds that the PointClickCare platform also helps seniors stay independent for longer and manage their own care while also better engaging families, friends, and other support systems.
“If you give seniors still living at home a tablet that is set up to send them audio reminders of when to take their medications, this could cut back on the number of hospital admissions for forgetting to take meds, taking the wrong meds, or taking too many meds,” the CEO continues. “Our platform shares information with family members and caregivers approved in the system, and sends them notifications when the senior takes their medication or if they forget to make monitoring and checking up easier. For example, there are around 300 people that are living at home independently and not in an institution right now because we gave them the tools to do it, and that makes me incredibly happy.”
While Wessinger emphasizes that PointClickCare is not a medical device company, its cloud-based platform supports external devices like wearables and acts as a central hub for senior healthcare. And while it is also not a security company, it has placed a special importance on ensuring its platform, and the data it collects, is secure.
“Security is crucial for us, especially considering that we have about 15 million patient records from all across North America in our database and how much sensitive information those include, like social security numbers,” he stresses. “We have an entire internal team dedicated to monitoring risks around the clock, and we also get ethical hackers to try and hack our systems to check for security vulnerabilities. Someone once told me that our servers get attacked every 15 seconds, so we can’t stand still on this.”
Looking forward, PointClickCare is planning to continue its growth in senior care facilities across North America, and hopes to move further into the independent home living space.
“We’re providing simple tools so caregivers can do their jobs more efficiently at a time when there is a growing number of seniors, and also giving people the tools to age in place with minimal assistance. We’re really putting all of our research and development into helping people age in their preferred setting, and most would choose to stay at home for as long as possible. We’re going to make those dreams come true,” Wessinger concludes.