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30. How Immanuel Lutheran Communities Prioritized Technology to Future-Proof their Community

April 26, 2024
Amber Bardon, Teryn Waldenberg

In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Amber Bardon, has a noteworthy conversation with Teryn Waldenberg, Chief Financial Officer at Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell, Montana, about how prioritizing technology future-proofed their Senior Living community.

Discover more about the technology solutions Immanuel Lutheran Communities utilizes and the benefits their residents and staff gained through ILC’s IT partnership with Parasol Alliance.

Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.

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Amber Bardon (00:05):
Welcome to Raising Tech podcast. I’m your host Amber Bardon, and today our guest is Teryn Waldenberg from Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell, Montana. Welcome to the show, Teryn.

Teryn Waldenberg (00:15):
Hi, thank you.

Amber Bardon (00:17):
Great to see you today! I’m so excited for you to join the podcast episode and talk a little bit about your technology journey. To start us off, can you tell our audience who you are, what you do, what’s your role?

Teryn Waldenberg (00:29):
Sure. So I’m Teryn Waldenberg, I am the CFO at Immanuel Lutheran Communities. We are a life plan community, single site non-profit in Montana. We have 123 skilled beds, that includes rehab, long-term and memory care. And then we’ve got 106 independent living and assisted living apartments, 40 entry fee apartments and then 24 more memory care beds. So we’re a good size, I would say

Amber Bardon (00:58):
Teryn, One of the facts that I love to tell our clients about ILC is that there’s only two CCRCs in the whole state of Montana, so you are in a pretty unique position. I know that ILC has some plans to grow, but as far as what you can offer the community in the area that that you’re in, I think it’s really unique and it’s really been a pleasure getting to know you and getting to know your community. And of course I love coming on site to Montana, my favorite place to visit out of all of our client sites.

Teryn Waldenberg (01:21):
Yeah, it’s pretty great here. We like people to come visit us too. And it’s also pretty nice that there’s only two of us in the state of Montana and the other one is approximately eight hours away.

Amber Bardon (01:33):
Yeah, so you’re definitely in a unique position. Teryn, you like many of our clients are the CFO and you are overseeing technology which is very common for technology to fall under the CFO role. So to start off with, can you give us some insights on how do you balance your role with technology and being the CFO? How does that play out for you?

Teryn Waldenberg (01:52):
Well, I was pretty lucky in that when I started it did not report to me and so I was really able to kind of stabilize my finance team and my staff. And we are at a point where I’ve got an amazing team that can pretty much run with the day-to-day operations of you know, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable accounting. And that allows me to kind of step away and focus my attention elsewhere. Also, our new early learning center reports to me, same thing, we hired an amazing team lead there, our director, she’s able to really run with it. And so while yes it does to take some of my time away, I have the ability to be able to kind of not be so immersed in all of that. And then the same thing now with having Parasol as a partner of ours in it. I don’t have to be in the weeds nearly as much as I probably would have. So I feel like I’ve got a really, really, really great team of people who help so that we can all function at our highest level.

Amber Bardon (02:52):
Thank you for that insight. Teryn, can you share what are some of the biggest challenges from a technology standpoint that are facing ILC both in terms of let’s talk about the employee side first and then let’s talk about residents next?

Teryn Waldenberg (03:06):
Sure. So I would say that we would hear issues with just basic functionalities. People not able to fax or print or just standard parts of their job. You know, the phones weren’t working or whatever it might be. We had a strategic assessment done by Parasol and that is largely what the employees were saying was we just need our basic functionalities during the day to work for us. And you know, that’s an ongoing challenge, but something that we’re really focused on kind of cleaning up our infrastructure so that we can address those the right way instead of just band-aiding issues as they come up.

Amber Bardon (03:40):
And what specifically have you seen? Is there any examples you can give us of specific challenges?

Teryn Waldenberg (03:46):
Specific challenges would be phones, you know, voicemail not working or faxing, printing, doors not working properly. There’s any number of issues that are just kind of impede the employee’s abilities to just do their job in an efficient manner, and  sometimes it’s MatrixCare not working properly or they can’t use the link that’s on their desktop or any number of just standard issues.

Amber Bardon (04:10):
Yeah, and you’re not the only community that we’ve been working with that we’ve come in and there’s just a lot of struggles and challenges with, you know, as you said, this basic day-to-day technology use. And it’s really frustrating for staff when their logins don’t work, when their internet doesn’t work, when their passwords don’t work, printing doesn’t work and you know, it’s a lot of time spent to correct those issues and it can be a little bit of a challenge because those are not immediate wins, they’re not quick fixes and a lot of times those things have to be done and that infrastructure and and base level has to be built out before we can get to some of the more exciting projects such as switching out your business systems or doing cool things like robotics and AI and things like that. But it is a process to work through that and I think little by little you can start to gain some of that trust and partnership with technology as those things start to get resolved over time.

Teryn Waldenberg (04:58):
Yeah, It’s nice to know that we’ve got a partner alongside us who’s gonna help us to get where we need to be and is already doing so.

Amber Bardon (05:04):
And on the resident side, what are you seeing as challenges that they’re experiencing?

Teryn Waldenberg (05:09):
Wi-Fi access, the ability to stream all the things that they want in their apartments. It’s pretty much what we see. We also have fall prevention technology that we want to use, but we don’t have the bandwidth to do it. So that’s definitely the biggie.

Amber Bardon (05:21):
Yeah, and I’m glad you brought up Wi-Fi. I actually am hoping to do some presentations at some state conferences on this topic because I personally feel there’s a Wi-Fi crisis coming that every community is dealing with this problem of how do we put in comprehensive wall-to-wall Wi-Fi to support all this great new exciting technology that’s coming out. But it’s very expensive and I think the industry as a whole is going to have to figure out how to solve this challenge, and ILC is definitely no exception and we’re working on a Wi-Fi design right now, but the costs of that are gonna be pretty high as you and I have discussed.

Teryn Waldenberg (05:51):
Absolutely, yeah, we’re seeing a lot of these major infrastructure cleanup projects that we, we have are costly, so we’re having to kind of prioritize and spread them out

Amber Bardon (06:00):
When there’s so many different competing priorities for technology, so specifically I know at ILC there’s been a lot of the infrastructure pieces that we’ve talked about. We also wanna replace most of the business systems that you have and a lot of times people really wanna jump to the things that they will see that immediate impact and not take the time to fix some of those backend things. From your perspective, how do you best approach prioritization and building a plan on how to execute all this different technology?

Teryn Waldenberg (06:28):
Absolutely. We don’t know what we don’t know until we didn’t know what we didn’t know and we realized that, so that’s why we had Parasol come in and do the strategic assessment for us to kind of say, “Hey, here’s what you need to look at.” We’ve got all the bells and whistles and we were on all the demos of the things that we can easily implement that people will see, but we knew we needed to focus on the backend. And really we’ve counted on Parasol to kind of guide us through that, and I think that as a team or as an organization, we are all on board with, “hey, we want our basic systems to work” and in order to do that we need to back up and clean some of these background projects up,” I guess.

Amber Bardon (07:06):
What is your advice on explaining how the prioritization works to the rest of the stakeholders if they feel impatient with the pace on which things are moving forward?

Teryn Waldenberg (07:16):
Really just got a lot of catch up and clean up to do. We’re fixing a lot of the issues that we were previously banding we’re getting down to the root cause and fixing that. And that’s really been all that we need to say. I think that there were enough frustrations and headaches that people understand that that is a priority and needs to be.

Amber Bardon (07:33):
Yeah, that makes sense and it is really great once we can start getting some of those wins in and start to see the immediate impact on people’s day-to-day. Yeah. Speaking of that, are there any success stories that you’ve had that you can share when it comes to technology?

Teryn Waldenberg (07:46):
Sure. So as I said, you know, some of this basic infrastructure, it’s not the bells and whistles and the the fun stuff that the employees see or feel or they know that they see or feel. But a few of them that come to mind are first and foremost my favorite is the budget. I could not wrap my brain around what was being presented to me as a budget and what I needed to budget. And if we were double-paying things, I just, it was messy. So getting the budget under control and understanding what’s in it and why and cleaning all that up has been a huge win, both just for my stress level but also for our financials. And that’s been very helpful. We also completed the server refresh, which was needed. Again, not something that anyone really noticed or could see, but a central part of all of our technology working. And then we also finished the policies and procedures and forms and are almost done with our security project, which are also very important, again, non-sexy items but crucial to our IT environment functioning properly.

Amber Bardon (08:46):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s worth noting that when we started working with you, all of your IT equipment was all beyond end of life. So it definitely probably helps you sleep a little bit better at night knowing that some of that’s been updated and refreshed and there’s less chances and less risk of things going down.

Teryn Waldenberg (09:01):
Absolutely. I sleep much better at night just knowing that Parasol is here.

Amber Bardon (09:05):
What can you tell me is next? What are some exciting projects that are on the horizon for ILC with technology?

Teryn Waldenberg (09:11):
Well, like I said, I don’t know if it’s exciting to many people, but for me it is, and I’m sure for you Amber and your team it’s just kind of getting that basic infrastructure cleaned up and up to date and Wi-Fi in place so that our residents can, you know, stream whatever videos they want to and really just getting us into a good spot. Like I said, we watch demos and we see all of the fun bells and whistles. If we don’t have the technology in place for them, we can’t implement them properly. So getting us there is really our next big step.

Amber Bardon (09:45):
Can I also mention the EMR transition that you’re undergoing? Because that’s pretty exciting.

Teryn Waldenberg (09:49):
We are transitioning our clinical business from MatrixCare to PointClickCare, which our clinical team is ecstatic about and I think the Parasol team is pretty happy about that as well.

Amber Bardon (10:01):
Yeah, definitely. That’s always a fun project to do and it’s so much work, but I’ve never had any client who regrets it. The only thing they say is we wish we would’ve done it sooner. So it’s really exciting to be able to have a system in place coming soon that’s gonna have so much more advanced technology and clinical decision making and the ability to support data-driven decisions. So definitely looking forward to that.

Teryn Waldenberg (10:21):
Absolutely, and I will say that I have been through a major conversion and I was terrified about the thought of transitioning and still am a little bit, but I sleep much better at night knowing that you have done so many of these and that we have you guys kind of guiding us through the process so that we’re not gonna drop any major balls and I think it’s gonna be a smooth transition.

Amber Bardon (10:43):
Teryn, I know we’ve talked a lot about, you know, the basic infrastructure and some of the projects we’re going through with business systems. Is there anything that you can share that is sort of like a, an innovation, a future vision, anything that’s maybe come from Jason, your CEO that you think is maybe down the road with ILC?

Teryn Waldenberg (10:59):
Our leadership team is always looking at new technologies and trying to see how we can improve. And especially with shortages of human bodies to work in the industry. We’re looking at robots for example, trying to figure out how we can reduce our dependency on staffing and so fall prevention technologies, AI, smart home technologies, all kinds of fun things. So I think we probably sit in on one to two demos a week, I think, <laugh> technology demos.

Amber Bardon (11:30):
Teryn, is there anything that you would like to share with our listeners that would be like lessons learned or what you wish you would’ve known? You know, in hindsight with around technology in general,

Teryn Waldenberg (11:40):
Like I said, we did not know what we didn’t know and hiring somebody who really felt focused on the partnership of we wanna walk alongside you in your IT journey and we are going to help you get to where you need to be, we want to see your end goal and we’ll tell you how to get there has been a huge game changer for us, not somebody who is just kind of our help desk and walking us through fixing some of these issues or band-aiding them. IT is a huge deal and we needed to be focusing on it as such. And so I would say if you don’t have a really solid team, team effort for sure, and a good focus on your IT and your infrastructure, it’s something that you should start paying attention to.

Amber Bardon (12:27):
Thank you for those words of advice, Teryn. If our listeners wanna know more about ILC, where can they find more about your community?

Teryn Waldenberg (12:34):
Our website is www.ilcorp.org. We are on Instagram, we’re on Facebook and we recently hired a new director of marketing, so I’m sure we’ll be all over the place before we know it.

Amber Bardon (12:46):
Thank you and thank you for your time today, Teryn!

Teryn Waldenberg (12:48):
Thank you for having me!

Amber Bardon (12:49):
Listeners, if you would like to give us feedback on this episode, if you have an idea or a topic or a partner you’d like to submit for a future episode, you can find us on our website at www.ParasolAlliance.com. Thank you for listening!