Welcome back to Raising Tech, a podcast about all things technology and senior living. I'm your host, Patrick Leonard. Today we're going to talk about something that is all over the news these days and a lot of people are talking about, but we're hoping to put our own perspective on it. We're gonna talk about generative AI and in particular ChatGPT of course, and really want to talk about the implications ChatGPT has on senior living community operators. So with that, I'm excited to introduce our listeners to our guest today, John Middlemore, who's actually our Director of Engineering here at Parasol Alliance. John , welcome to the show.John Middlemore:
Thanks for having me, Patrick.Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely. Thanks for being here. So to start things off, before we dive into the topic today, John , do you mind just giving our listeners a little bit of background about your yourself and kind of career in it?John Middlemore:
Absolutely. I am coming up to 30 years in it. I'm a bit of a dinosaur in the IT world. I actually started out in mainframe computing 30 years ago and punch cards and stuff like that. Over the space of 30 years, I've worked in pretty much in every industry, finance, transportation, healthcare , state and local government. So I've pretty much covered all the bases and all the industries.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. And senior living of course is now your favorite, I'm sure.John Middlemore:
It's absolutelyPatrick Leonard:
Awesome. So to dive into our topic a little bit, for those who aren't familiar again these days, everybody's familiar in some sense, whether it be the best information they're reading about it or hearing about it or not for better or for worse, but for those who aren't as familiar, can you summarize for our listeners what exactly is this concept of generative AI and why is it making such a big buzz right now across the world?John Middlemore:
Absolutely. So basically there's a number of AI algorithms out there. Generative AI is based on something that the AI algorithm has been trained on. Unlike traditional AI systems that are designed to recognize patterns and make predictions, generative AI creates new content in the form of images or audio, text, etc. and most of those in the recent ones around this are cause of ChatGPT.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, absolutely. So outside of ChatGPT, AI is being used in many forms already and I didn't even realize it myself until I started to really dig into this. That whole concept of ChatGPT and really understanding a little bit more about the concept of generative AI and AI in general. It's been around in many forms for a while now. I think that people like myself might not have even realized it. So can you describe a little bit about those common use cases and how these are different than the concept around ChatGPT itself?John Middlemore:
Yeah, I would imagine the biggest one that everyone actually does know about, even though they probably don't realize it, is self-driving cars. So that's probably the biggest use that's known throughout the world. Most people don't associate it with AI, but it is actually a form of AI, basically AI in cars. It observes speed direction of over cars and it identifies specific actions regarding its surrounding items. So it sees a car obviously breaking in front of it. The AI knows that puts on the brake of your car and stops you. If it is on a highway and it's judging distance and speed, it'll speed up, slow down once it judges how far a car in front is or someone falls in front of you or someone slammed on their brake . So that's probably the most popular form of AI. Again, obviously people may notice AI in security cameras, right? Facial recognition, everyone has an iPhone today. You take out your iPhone, you put it up to your face, it recognizes your face and and that unlocks it. That again, is a form of AI.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, absolutely. And even Alexa, Siri, these are all things leveraging AI on every day . It's been around for while , but it's really just getting a different formats now . So thanks describing for us .John Middlemore:
Yeah , absolutely . I just don't think we normally realize in our day to day interaction with them as being AI devices.Patrick Leonard:
Sure. So let's bring it back a little bit to the senior living industry use case here. Again, there's a lot of buzz out there, negative, positive, trying to, you know, tow this line between how to best leverage this. So particularly as it relates to senior living communities itself and there's already a lot of compliance regulation around the senior living industry. So can we dive into, first let's talk about the positives. What are some of the positive use cases for senior living community staff members and even residents to leverage the power of something like a ChatGPT or generative AI?John Middlemore:
Yeah, I think we touched base on some of these in the previous questions. So smart home devices, monitoring, alerting in the home, digital voice assistance . And like I said earlier, you know, opening your iPhone, those are all positives in the senior living community. Obviously in the nursing sector as well. You know, AI is helping diagnose and prescribe medicines, etc. So you can see a doctor on , on your phone, right, on an app. And part of that initial consultation is AI based , right? You answer questions, it decides where you , what those answers are, where they lead you to and it directs you to a specialist or a general doctor , etc. So that is all based on AI in the background, deciding on your answers, where to direct you.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, for sure. And I know just my world of , from a marketing perspective, I know a lot of people are leveraging it to a certain extent. I know I've used it to even provide outlines for some content that I'm looking to write up, but I know I do have to be careful in what this thing's spitting out and telling me, right? Cause it's not at all useful. It's not replacing the human touch and the power of human writing by any means I have found, but it , it can just be a thought provoker, it can provide an outline. So I know a lot of marketers in the senior living space are talking about those use cases a little bit as well. Now on the flip side of things, <laugh> , if we play a little bit of devil's advocate around generative AI and ChatGPT certainly can be used unfortunately just like a lot of things in a negative way that might impact the senior living community operators and their residents. So can you talk a little bit about that and really what folks should be weary of when leveraging a tool like this at their community?John Middlemore:
So because it's a learning system, any piece of data that you input into ChatGPT or other AI programs, it basically stores that information forever and it then uses that information to provide answers for anyone else who asks questions. So in this case, you have to be very careful what data you give it, right? So you, you have to be, make sure you don't give it any personal data, anything like social security numbers, banking, even medical history. So whatever you tell these AI systems, they will store that information forever. ChatGPT most of its answers are actually based on information it already gathered and ended in 2021 . So it's not an online system. So it's not learning, it's not gonna provide an answer for data it found yesterday. So it's storing that data, it will store that data forever. So whatever information you give out, it will be out there in the general public globally, forever. It's not gonna get deleted and it's not going to be secure because the system itself uses that information to give you the answer. So if you, you know, specifically gave it John Middlemore's security number and then someone else in the globe said, "Hey, can you tell me what John Middlemore's social security number is?" ChatGPT would give you the answer.Patrick Leonard:
It's a little scary to think about <laugh>. So with that in mind, k ind o f talking about, you know, how w e can use it in a positive way. Some of the things to be weary of in t he negatives, are there steps that senior living community l eaders should be taking to make sure that their staff and their residents are protected from these negatives while at the same time giving them the freedom to kind of leverage the power of this tool?John Middlemore:
Absolutely. Communities already have policies in place around usage through email, especially medical records obviously compliant to HIPAA regulations. Entities should have a policy, a written policy in place, on the use of any of these AI tools. And it should have the staff educated in their use so they can use them safely and in a way where they're not giving out sensitive information.Patrick Leonard:
That makes sense. And so along that same vein, are you aware of any type of training or other resources available to folks who don't know where to turn? Cause I imagine many senior living community leaders out there, you know, may have a framework like a lot of us are working knowledge of things to be cautious about or things to leverage in a positive way. But as far as actually creating these policies and developing a training program so that people are using it the right way, are you aware of any resources available out there? Is it something you should reach out to your IT department or where would you turn if you were someone who wasn't as savvy in this area as yoursel, for example?John Middlemore:
I would actually turn to a company like Parasol Alliance. We're very much head of the game on this. We already have an in-house policy related to ChatGPT and we're very much able to help with training and policy creation for these communities.Patrick Leonard:
Director of Engineering here, folks, you heard it first do it a little sales pitch for us here on the episode. It wasn't even me so <laugh> . But yeah , whether it be Parasol Alliance or whoever your current IT resource is, definitely a great place to start. It sounds like if you don't have a policy around it already, definitely put something in place and develop some formal type of education and training for your staff and residents. So that's great. So I guess at this stage in the game, John , are the concerns around the potential risks and the negative outweighing the positives at this point? In your opinion , should communities be considering restricting their staff and residents from having access to this tool altogether at this point? Or do you think that's a little extreme?John Middlemore:
Yeah, I think that's a little extreme. I think like any emerging technology, you have to be careful and you have to make sure that you do have a policy around it. You also have to make sure that you do train your staff as well. But I think with all technologies, they all have benefits and they all have downsides. It's having the ability to actually pick out where and when in the cycle of the emergence of the technology that you need to use it and how you need to use it and adhere to a policy as that technology grows, right? So the policy today for these items is going to be a lot different than in 10 years time. When it's more mature, it's more widespread and we're probably using it in everyday life. But any technology, you know, email has been around for close to 30 years in one form or another. We still today have policies around email with every company that we work for day to day . We should have policies even at home when we're using Google or any other kind of email to protect ourselves. But also to , you know , in a work environment to protect the company, to protect the staff and residents or customers. It's important to have that policy.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah , that makes a lot of sense. I guess looking towards the future and where this thing could possibly go, I know it's impossible to predict, but if you kind of got your crystal ball out, what do you think's next in this space? I mean, I've heard things as crazy as reproducing music is happening right now. A new Beatles song came out from John Lennon h imself that was reproduced through this tool. So it's just crazy to think about. It seems so advanced already, but there also seems to be so little regulation around it. So from your opinion, what's next? Where are things going in the short and long t erm as far as g eneral AI and ChatGPT?John Middlemore:
Yeah, again, I , something you touched on earlier about marketing, right? I think you'll find in the next few years a lot of companies will start making commercials in the normal sense. They're going to use this to make a commercial. Movie companies are going to make , use this to create movies. So we may be seeing less actors in the future and we'll see artificially generated actors, music as well. We're probably going to see this a lot more in our daily lives where , you know, self-driving cars, we're probably gonna get delivery systems for companies like Amazon and that are powered by this and we don't have people in trucks anymore, you know, delivering this to our door. I think as far as the regulation of this goes, I think it started outside of the US already, I was reading an article the other day that in Europe they're already putting rules around this . I think maybe Europe sometimes is ahead of the US in that respect. So I would imagine that first we'll be adhering to any regulations that come out of Europe will probably follow those regulations in some form or over that. Normally what happens a lot in technology anyway because they have strict data regulations in Europe more so than the US. So I think we're definitely gonna see a lot more regulation and we're going to see a lot of things in our day-to-day life. You know, when we go to McDonald's, we order a burger. We may not see people there anymore making that burger. It'll be the robot in communities that we work with. I know we've been to trade shows and that they're already having robots that deliver food and that to residents. So I think very much so more of that in the short term and long term .Patrick Leonard:
Now you got me hungry for a Big Mac, John.John Middlemore:
Made by a robot.Patrick Leonard:
<laugh> <laugh> .John Middlemore:
I actually read that there is a McDonald's somewhere in the US, I don't know where it is , but it's fully staffed with AI and robots and there's no people there. So it's amazing how fast this technology is actually getting out in the world in a practical purpose. Far more so than maybe that's happened previously. I'm old enough, I can remember cell phones when they were like bricks and you had to carry them around in on a wheel transport device. Cause the battery is that low. Relatively speaking, it's taken 20, 30 years since the smartphone came on board . The speed of technology advancement and getting into our daily lives has increased. So I don't think it will be 30 years before we see the full impact of AI. It's likely to be in the short term .Patrick Leonard:
Crazy to think about.John Middlemore:
Well, John , thanks so much for your time today. I think this discussion was great. I personally learned something in it as well and I know our listeners will. Are there any final thoughts or words of wisdom even that you wanted to instill on our listeners before we part ways today ?John Middlemore:
I would just say technology as a whole is beneficial to us all. But like anything in life, we need to make sure we have safeguards and security in place around them. And I think that's, again, where companies like ours come in to play, right? If we can go out and do the research and make sure that people don't have to do that and then advise accordingly.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, absolutely. It's a full-time job in itself.John Middlemore:
Well John , thanks again for taking the time to educate our listeners today on this topic, and listeners, thanks for tuning in for another great episode of Raising Tech! If you have any feedback at all on this episode or topic idea, or want to be on the episode yourself, please reach out on our website at www.ParasolAlliance.com. Have a great one!
Welcome back to Raising Tech, a podcast about all things technology and senior living. I'm your host, Patrick Leonard. So today we're gonna talk about a very interesting solution for gait training, mobility and falls prevention, which is always a hot topic for senior living communities and I'm excited to welcome and introduce our guests to the listeners today, who's Craig Hillman from GaitBetter. Craig, welcome to the show.Craig Hillman:
Thanks, Patrick, glad to be here.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome, we're happy to have you. So Craig, we've met a few weeks ago at one of the LeadingAge conferences out in Maryland and you know, you're immediately struck by the GaitBetter team as you walk by the booth, as you know they have the treadmill going and kinda the virtual reality experience, which of course we'll dive in more today. But can you start things off before we get too far into it by giving our listeners a little bit of background about yourself and GaitBetter?Craig Hillman:
Sure, happy to. So I actually, I'm relatively new to senior living and I would say kind of health tech in general. My background actually is engineering. I actually was in what's called the software simulation space for a long time. That way to describe it is reliability of electronics, making sure that that iPhone in your pocket doesn't fail when you don't want it to. But I had a great time in that space. Actually founded a company, sold it just before Covid, God bless, and right around the same time met the CEO and founder of GaitBetter, Hilik Harari. And kind of initially he was starting his company. I had just stopped running my own company and kind of offered to be just an informal advisor, help him kind of reach for the stars so to speak. And really over the 18 months I had a chance to talk to Hilik. I was really inspired by him and really inspired by the technology and what it was doing in Israel. All the amazing things, the outcomes, the embrace of the technology. He would share with me really just emotional inspiring letters from spouses of people who had been on GaitBetter spouses who had not left the couch in six months, who were worried who wouldn't leave the apartment because they were worried about falls, they were worried about walking and really just having a transformational outcome. You know, without pills or without taking a class for like 12 months or longer. After kind of talking to Hilik for 18 months, I kind of looked around and said, you know what? I'm in a time of my life. I really would like to be inspired to help people to do good things. So I literally begged him to let me on to GaitBetter and bring that technology here to the US and that was about two years ago.Patrick Leonard:
Wow, that's awesome! Thanks for providing that background. It's always fascinating to me to hear how people get into this crazy senior living space and where they've come from and what they've kind of built and worked on before. So thanks for providing that background. So for those who aren't as familiar with the concept, can you educate our listeners a little bit more about what is gait training? Why is it so important? Specifically in the use case of senior living communities?Craig Hillman:
I'll take a step back and what's been really inspiring is so, I have a PhD and I'm not doing that to be a humble brag, but really to kind of give you just a little bit of insight, I was trained for a brief moment to kind of do research and so joining GaitBetter you know, it was inspired by a lot of research coming out of Tel Aviv University and other institutions around the world. So you know, in my free time late at night, I would kind of read some of these publications and really became kind of inspired by what I learned, not just for GaitBetter but really in for my own health and hopefully as I describe it, for the people living in senior living communities and people helping those seniors in living communities. And what I found was the best way to describe it is walking is one of the best cognitive tasks you can do. So it turns out that walking in the real world is very cognitively demanding and the way they explained it when they explained it, it kind of made sense, right? Which is you are multitasking like crazy when you are walking, you know that whole thing Mom says "don't chew gum and walk at the same time." That's because you're thinking about all these other things while you're walking. You're going to distract yourself when you're chewing gum. But when we just normally walk in the real world, let's say you're going, I don't know, you are gonna take your kid for an ice cream cone. They've been really good that day. They ate all their dinner, even if they had Brussels sprouts, you're going to take them for an ice cream cone on that walk. What are you thinking about? So you're walking, you're already doing motor planning, you're thinking about where you're putting that feet, you're thinking about where your son is in 3D space. There's somebody approaching you, you're actually doing a mental prediction because you're seeing where that person's walking and where they will be in the future. So you don't run into them. There's audible distractions around you all the time . You're thinking about how to get to that ice cream store. So you're using working memory and what you're going to buy when you get there. It's an amazing amount of mental energy and because it's multitasking, it pushes all that activity to the front of the brain and so what ends up happening is as we age, unfortunately the part of the brain that ages the most is that same part that handles what they call executive function or really that multitasking capability. We lose that ability to multitask as we age. And this is why we struggle with gait, and this is why we fall because when we get into a situation where we cannot handle all these kind of motor and cognitive tasks simultaneously, the brain will, for lack of better description, shut down. It will decide not to do certain things. So you might forget where you're going, right? The working memory might fall away, you may run into somebody, right, because you weren't predicting where they would be accurately. But also you can lose that motor planning. So you plant your foot incorrectly and then you will fall. In fact if you ask an older adult. So, two things, are really fascinating: one is the overwhelming majority of falls in otherwise I would say healthy, older adults. A. They fall while they're moving, they fall walking up the stairs, down the stairs, walking on flat ground , but they're typically moving or walking. And if you ask them why they fell , they'll tell you I wasn't paying attention. But it's not their fault, it's what's happening in the brain. So realizing that walking is really a success of walking is really a cognitive task. That was the inspiration behind GaitBetter. How do I retrain the brain so I can reduce fall, I can become more confident and stay mobile for a longer portion of my older adult life. That was kind of the genesis of GaitBetter.Patrick Leonard:
Amazing, thanks! That's really interesting. And the way you kind of walked us through that journey from start to finish really kind of clicks and I think it makes sense to a lot of people at the same time. I don't think I ever wanted brussels sprouts and ice cream at the same time as much. So thank you for <laugh> . Thank you for triggering my hunger as well, right <laugh> . So that makes sense from a conceptual standpoint now. So going back a little bit into the the GaitBetter solution, can you tell me a little bit more how you bring those concepts and kind of the science behind everything you just described to life through a tangible product and solution for communities?Craig Hillman:
100%! So, imagine you're this researcher so figured out that, I mean again this , it's more than just them, right? It is I think a pervasive awareness understanding among people who are experts in this area. So we know walking is a cognitive task. So how do I create something that's gonna be useful to older adults? So what's great about this team, they're gerontologists, they're neurologists, they're physical therapists and they all kind of got together in the room and they brainstorm. You know, we used to brainstorm in the same room before Covid for antiquated idea. So they all brainstorm, right? And they also, the neurologist came the table with an awareness of kind of what they call the neuroscience of aging. So if I'm going to retrain the brain, if I need a brain exercise, what are some important key aspects in order to retrain the brain successfully? And so it's quite fascinating Patrick. So the first is as we get older and it has to do partially with like how are the connectivity between the different parts of the brain, we are less able to skill transfer or to transfer skills from one activity to another. And the best example I'll give you is, let's go back to your son who likes to eat brussel sprouts and ice cream. So your son's gonna be the next Mike Trout , amazing baseball player. So his coach is most likely teaching him certain skills that your son will be able to transfer onto the field, like how to catch or hit or whatever it is . As we get older, we lose that ability. And a good example of that is they did a big study about how, you know, older adults are supposed to do crossword puzzles to stay cognitively sharp. Well they found out if you have an older person, you have them do lots of crossword puzzles, they get really good at crossword puzzles . That's it. So number one, if I want to retrain the brain, I have to put it through an activity that is similar to what experiences in the real world. That means I need to be walking and I need to have cognitive challenges that are almost exactly the same as the cognitive challenges I experienced in the real world. I have to do motor planning , I have to hear sounds, I have to see things coming towards me, I have to have a destination. So that's really important. The second is they find out that neuroplasticity, which is, I will admit an overused word unfortunately in a lot of health tech , but in order to really form those new connections I need to have an elevated heart rate. I won't get into the whole physiology, but when I elevate my heart rate, there's actually a synergistic almost effect in terms of neuroplasticity. If I am sitting on my rear end, you will not see as much of a neuroplasticity even if you're doing the exact same thing that if you were walking or even just kind of at elevate heart rate. So there's a couple other kind of key things, but those are the two important things. So realizing that they came together and decided to utilize kind of we'll call semi-immersive virtual reality in front of a treadmill. So what does that mean? So GaitBetter works with any existing treadmill. It is not a treadmill, it just works with any existing treadmill and what they do is they have a camera. They put a camera in front of a treadmill and it watches your feet as you walk on that treadmill. And then it presents these disembodied feet that represent the movement, your gait movement onto a TV screen in front of you. So if you lift your left foot, the left foot on the TV screen moves, you move your right foot, the right foot on the TV screen moves. And so these disability feet are in a virtual reality environment. And so they, as they walk through this environment, we give them a number of motor and cognitive challenges that very much are applicable to real world . So you start off with a map, you're going to that ice cream parlor. So you have to remember how am I going to get there? Is it two lefts and a right? Is it two rights and a left? You have to remember that, and as I'm walking through this environment, it can be a crowded, noisy environment, it can be a gentle quiet environment. We actually adjust it based upon people's cognitive capabilities. For example, it's like wait, look you don't give somebody who's lifted weights for years a 200 pound bench press. We start them off slowly. We do a very similar thing here. And then again we give them these kind of cognitive challenges. They have to see people coming, they have to overcome herbs and puddles. They have to, they hear noises like planes and birds and cats and dogs and people, all the stuff you would see and we do it in a very methodical and structured way. So it's almost like strength training. Again, I'll go back to that analogy. By the time they've gone through well 15 sessions, those new neural connections have formed and they're much more confident walking in these real world environment.Patrick Leonard:
That's amazing. You're hearing more and seeing more about virtual reality. You know, the more I talk to people about virtual reality, the more you experience and you know, go to conferences and read about it. There's so many different use cases for it now than we just kind of typically think of, or at least I did had a bias towards what virtual reality meant . And there's the gaming experience side of it, right? There's the educational side of it, there's the experiential side of it and this is a whole new for me concept and use case for it that just seems so advanced in so many different nuances from a technology standpoint. How did we get here? What's kind of the background of where we came and how we got to this point where we can actually use this in the way that you just described as an end user to experience all those different things .Craig Hillman:
GaitBetter concept really has been about 15 years in the making, right? Wow. And so it , that kind of speaks to there's all these different use cases of VR but if we really think about it, the idea of VR has been around now for probably over 20 years, but it takes a while to kind of launch. And so I want to say really going back as far as like 2008, 2007, the team that eventually would develop the predecessor for GaitBetter was already thinking about this whole neuroplasticity and you know, what is the best tool to drive these new neural connections and deciding that virtual reality was the best approach. They actually tried a fully immersive approach first rather than the TV screen which we call semi immersive. They actually tried using the goggles, but goggles don't work really well if you're trying to hit some of those key neuroscience facts about aging. Number one is I need to be walking, I need to be walking because I need to be doing the same thing I do in the real world, right? We struggle with skill transfer and I need an elevated heart rate. I need to be moving somehow. I need to be maybe breathing hard a little bit. So when they tried kind of virtual reality, they're ran into two big problems. The one is, if you wanna laugh, type in "VR walking" into YouTube and watch the thousands of people running into their children into the wall, into the kitchen counter. So, if you can't see where you're going, you're not going to be very good at walking. But also older adults really struggle with that single focal plane that you're forced into when you have VR goggles. So VR goggles definitely have, there's some amazing research out there on what they can do, especially from like a pain management. But most of that is geared towards younger adults. When you move into older adults, after about 10, 15, maybe at most 20 minutes older adults start getting nauseous. They get dizzy because again the eye is not used to just looking at a single focal plane and it's forced into that situation with the VR goggle. So we looked at the VR goggles but eventually kind of knowing some of the limitations, that's how we chose the semi immersive instead.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, and it makes a lot of sense because even if you're on a treadmill and walking and not using this solution just simply looking at a television screen or you know, whatever it might be in front of you, it seems to be a similar experience from its simplest form that someone would be accustomed to or used to. It's just doing a lot more obviously for the person.Craig Hillman:
It's a great point. Who has not seen a TV in front of a treadmill, right? Right . This is not a scary new thing. You're gonna be very familiar. Now, most older adults aren't typically on a treadmill or not really walking at all. This is part of the problem. So we also provide small safety system. It helps in two ways. So one, we find that senior living staff that are worried about putting, it's, I guess I'm thinking everyone would find understand this is kind of amusing. On the one hand a lot of these new senior living communities have these amazing gyms. We've all seen them. They're gorgeous, they have the latest technology. At the same time senior staff are very nervous about senior living residents as being on that same treadmill. So we have a very simple little safety system in place. So when the person gets on there, I mean we're going to challenge them, right? We're asking them to do things beyond what they normally do that's intentional. Just like you get stronger and weightlifting because you're lifting weights that are heavier than you would lift in the real world. Same basic idea. We're going to give you cognitive challenges that are heavier than what you experienced in the real world. And so in case you're worried about like stumbling or something like that, while you're on this treadmill, we have a little safety system to keep everybody safe and confident in terms of that training activity.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, that's fantastic, and obviously a really crucial piece I imagine of the considerations that were taken in implementing this. And so as I think about this, I think about at the community level, how is this being spearheaded? Who's kind of taking it upon themselves to work? Is it in more like the rehab, physical therapy side of things? Um , or where does this tangibly happen in the senior living community? And then build upon that, not to ask too many questions at once, but as my mind keeps racing, I imagine there's a whole lot of data and insights that you're able to collect from what is actually being experienced for each individual person during this process. Can you talk a little bit about those two things and how that all ties together is being used to kind of ensure healthy and safe residents are patients who are utilizing this?Craig Hillman:
So it's a great question. I think we're still figuring out Patrick, what is really the most effective implementation for our senior living customers. We definitely have those that place it within a rehab gym and it's being supervised by trained clinicians like physical therapists or physical therapy assistants, and that's been very effective. There are limitations there. Not every senior living resident is going to physical therapy. If they're going to physical therapy, typically they need or they're looking for a doctor's referral. Some rehab gyms are relatively small in some of the communities some don't have at a treadmill, and then there's obviously you get into the whole like cost and reimbursement kind of situation. They can't use, you know, they can only use GaitBetter for a certain amount of time or a certain number of sessions. There's some restriction and it tends to be reactionary. Somebody maybe has fallen or maybe has had a stroke, then they'll get access to the GaitBetter system. You know, in some senior communities it's more on the fitness side especially what we've been hearing is a lot of operators have these gorgeous gyms. They're great about attracting new residents, but once they're in, they don't really get utilized too much except for maybe a couple operators here and there. And so they, you have this under utilize asset, you've spent a ton of money on these wonderful pieces of equipment, nobody's going in to use them, and it goes to speak a little bit, you go back to that whole gamification, it is the other real strength about GaitBetter. I mean you have the clinical aspect which is really just really powerful in terms of the numbers that come out. But there's also the gamification side of things. It's fun. You can watch yourself improve your score. It's a game very much geared towards older adults. There's no explosions or space aliens or gore. It's really right at their speed. And we've seen, especially for certain residents who are not joiners, they don't wanna really do anything get attracted and they come back. They really utilize this facility. So it's a long way of saying, I don't really know. Sometimes it's the rehab gym, sometimes it's the fitness gym. They can go in either location. We make a small change to the operator screen so it's a little more push button for the fitness gym because nobody's really there just the resident or the gym supervisor. We're in the rehab environment. We make it a little more, they have a lot more levers they can pull because they're clinical experts. And then you're right. What's really also nice about this intervention, let's say compared to classes is, we really can track each person's progress. So it's great. We have table, we have graphs that really show, I did this actually my, one of my motivations for joining GaitBetter was my father-in-law, a Vietnam veteran had a massive stroke four years ago and then in , unfortunately it's now also on medication that increases his risk for falls . So we decided to put him on GaitBetter and you know, after 3, 4, 5 sessions really got into the score how far he had walked, whether he was walking farther than the time before, whether he was walking faster and he really could see it. It was all being displayed in front of him and it was all something that me and him would review once his session was done, how much better he had done compared to the previous time period. So, it's right, the gamification really provides a wonderful motivational aspect to it.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, I love that and I'm glad you touched on there is a gamification side of it in addition to the clinical side as well. Being able to tie in something that's both mutually beneficial as from a clinical perspective as well as something that even socially and just fun and engaging in that sense. You can do both those things at the same time, especially in the senior living setting. I mean that's the ultimate goal. So that's fantastic. Thanks for touching on that. So from a curiosity standpoint, are there a lot of other solutions like this in this space? I mean I know we talk about all these different things maybe and I can think of some solutions that are trying to combat some of the false prevention, of course, is a hot topic. There's different solutions but as far as tying it all together in this sense, is there anything else out there that you all are aware of or coming against in this space?Craig Hillman:
Oh, 100%. What's interesting, of course, is what does fall prevention mean? How do you initiate fall prevention? So it's really quite fascinating. I would say most of the efforts in the technology space around fall prevention is around what I'll more describe as fall detection or fall prediction. So, for example, there's a wonderful company that has a scale that you stand on the scale and based upon I think how you balance, they'll predict whether or not you're at risk for falls. There's a couple of camera systems they'll put in somebody's room and kind of observe how they move or whether they're moving in a certain way. In fact, I was just on a call with somebody, there's even like a mattress or almost like a pad you can put on a bed and depending on how somebody is rolling, you can predict where they're fall. We don't see a lot on the fall treatment side in technology really kind of obviously the detection or prediction, but not so much on the treatment side. And those that are on the treatment side, they have some value. But it , from what I've seen in literature, right, they provide a similar value to existing interventions. So how do senior living communities deal with falls? They really deal with them in one of three ways. They offer classes that's typically for the more from like independent living typically maybe a little assisted living. So you're talking about like Tai chi or Steady or these group classes where they work on balance for example, a lot, there's what's called multifactorial interventions. So they'll look at the resident and look at their medication, whether they need glasses, so their eyesight, their hearing, making sure there's no rugs, making sure the room is well lighted, those kind of things. And then there's physical therapy. But we find, and again it goes back to that whole neuroscience of aging. What you find is because all those interventions typically A. are not really hitting the cognitive, not really acknowledging that cognitive is really a key, if not the key aspect of successful walking and the skills or the activity they're introducing does not really correlate with real world . Again, a great example is Tai chi . Tai chi , wonderful exercise, but again you're kind of standing still, you're not really walking these what are called meta-analysis or these studies of studies, there's one that comes out every three years, has hundreds and hundreds of studies on fall prevention. They find it actually doesn't really matter what it is, physical therapy , multi-fold, factorial, these different types of fall prevention classes, they all have a fall reduction rate of about 25% across the board. Whereas GaitBetter approaches close to 70%. I mean this is why I'm so inspired to where for GaitBetter, why I'm so inspired to reach out to these senior livings because I really do think it's going to be a game changer. And the game changer is that it's really based upon the fundamental whys of why do we fall.Patrick Leonard:
I love that and you , you simplified it for me in my mind because again I think you put it great when you said there's fall prevention, there's fault detection. This is really fault treatment because you're doing something physically and cognitively to help prevent this in the long run that isn't just simply, okay, walk more or work out more or do this specific activity. This is combining everything in one to really address the root issue. So I really appreciate that perspective. I think that's a great thing to kind of end on. But before we wrap up, I do want to give you an opportunity, I think this was such a really educational session for me. I think our listeners are really gonna enjoy it as well. I think you speak very well to this solution and the impact it has on your living communities. But before we wrap up today, is there any other final thoughts that you want to make sure that you share with our listeners or any other types of words of wisdom that you might have before we part ways today?Craig Hillman:
Maybe one, and I hope no one takes offense, I'll apologize ahead of time .Patrick Leonard:
Uh ohj , here we go!Craig Hillman:
So, GaitBetter has been very successful in Israel, but something like 90 plus percent of the Israeli population have access to GaitBetter. It's really become the standard of care. If somebody's at considered a risk of falls or they themselves can kind of self-refer, they can go almost anywhere in Israeli society to experience GaitBetter. It can be in a hospital, in an outpatient clinic at a senior center in a senior living community gym all over the place, and we do, to be very transparent, we hear some concerns from the senior community here in the US. They find it potentially maybe too risky or a little scary to put one of the residents on a treadmill to force that resident to do some challenging physical and cognitive tasks. It could be just we're litigation kind of nervous here in the US possibly, and so I tell them it's that, listen, the risk is far lower than you might expect and the benefit is so much better. One thing my Israeli colleagues like to talk to me about in the US is we need to be a little more willing to make that jump, make that leap and we'll see really significant benefit. So that's what I would tell you. I'm getting old or I'm hope , I think I'm still young, but you know, I feel those aches in the morning and then I'm sure they'll just get worse as I get older. So right, they're handling people, they're handling our parents and our grandparents and they , those who want to know that those parents and grandparents are being kept safe, and I think the mentality because is, well, keep them safe, I don't want them to do anything that looks scary. I'm going to kind of almost put them in a cocoon. But you also have to realize there's this use it or lose it aspect to our bodies and our mind. We have to challenge ourselves on a daily basis when we really kind of end going in the wrong direction, and so I think GaitBetter is a very effective way of challenging. It doesn't take too long 15 sessions and they're done. So I'm not asking, we're not going do it every day , but when you see that leap and you see those results, I think it'll be just an overall benefit to the community and and to the staff as well.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. Well that's what it's all about. Well Craig, thanks so much for the conversation today. I personally learned a lot. I think our listeners will too. So thanks for taking the time out of your day to tell us a little bit more about your story and about GaitBetter.Craig Hillman:
My pleasure. Hey, thanks for having me!Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely. And listeners, thanks for tuning into another episode of Raising Tech. Hope you picked up some valuable information you can take back to your organization today, and if there are any topics you want to hear about in particular or want to be on an episode yourself , please feel free to reach out on our website at www.ParasolAlliance.com. Have a good one!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Patrick Leonard, has a thought-provoking conversation with Craig Hillman, the Senior Vice President of US Operations for GaitBetter, about how GaitBetter's cognitive and mobility training solution are preventing falls in Senior Living communities.
Discover how GaitBetter is being used to reduce the risk of Senior Living residents falling by 70%, according to their studies, and how it's boosting seniors' confidence and physical strength in Senior Living communities.
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
Welcome back to Raising Tech , a podcast about all things technology and senior living. I'm your host, Patrick Leonard, and today we're gonna talk about a solution that we've mentioned and talked about before on the show, but it's been quite a while. It's becoming more and more commonplace in senior living over the last couple years. And that topic is virtual reality. So virtual reality, as I mentioned, has become more and more utilized these days and there are also a lot more and more use cases for this technology as well than what people might traditionally think of. So with that, I'm excited to introduce our listeners today to Dr . Ellie Giles , Founder and CEO of Virtual Apprentice. Dr. Giles, welcome to the show.Dr. Ellie Giles:
Well thank you for having me. I'm excited to talk about virtual reality and senior wellness.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome, thanks. We're happy you're here. So to kind of kick things off, Ellie , do you mind telling our listeners a little bit about your background and yourself and why you founded Virtual Apprentice?Dr. Ellie Giles:
Sure, I'm happy to do that. So, I started off for 30, over 30 years as an educator teaching special education and working as a school administrator. I moved on as I became an empty nester onto new horizons, not because I didn't love teaching, but because I think it's always important to challenge yourself. So I moved on to economic development within our county and help build up a new entity within our county for economic development. And through that became totally excited about workforce development. The county named me as one of the first CEOs of that program. It's the largest workforce development entity in our state. So I got to really understand career pathways, good ways of getting individuals into jobs and sustaining jobs and what were the barriers for jobs. And I became a little frustrated because I wanted to get people into jobs quickly and found that using technology was the way to go, and particularly virtual reality because virtual reality really can create that workplace environment without having risks and can become competency based . I put out a proposal to my board and to the county council. They were not as willing to adopt virtual reality as quickly as I was, but I could not let the concept go. And so I started my own business and I have had some real success within the training, bringing all of my background together to do that. During the pandemic, nobody wanted to put goggles on their face, as you can just understand. And so it gave me an opportunity to take a look at virtual reality and what capabilities are for other areas, especially looking at social good. And one of the things that we looked at was senior isolation. We were all feeling isolated. And my mom motivated me a little as she was very isolated, being in Florida and I'm being in Maryland. And so I started to look at how I could use virtual reality to support seniors.Patrick Leonard:
I love it. Thanks for that background and it is such an interesting background because I think a lot of people, when they think of virtual reality in a sense, think of, I don't know, maybe the gaming world or the experiential world, which is obviously a piece of what you're talking about here, but approaching it from an educational background I think is really, really interesting, particularly with its use case, you know, with staff and in the education sector itself, but also in senior living, the potential to to train staff on certain items. So can you dive into those different solutions and a little bit more as far as what you're seeing are the biggest impact in the solutions that you offer, and particularly how some of those relate most readily to senior living communities?Dr. Ellie Giles:
Absolutely. So I'm really glad you asked that question because it gives me opportunity to do some myth busting. Virtual reality was developed for gaming and for entertainment and it's truly marketed that way. And so it is not really getting the experiences that it can get and the capabilities it can. Virtual reality is just what it says, it is a simulation of reality, but it is totally immersive. It creates such a sense of presence that it improves retention by 90%. People go back and do the training again, we have huge competency development. It mitigates risk. If you're doing any kind of development training that has any kind of risks to it like a construction site or working in electricity, you're, you can learn without having that risk involved. And the other nice thing is it is saves a lot of money with consumables because you're not now utilizing all kinds of consumable equipment while you're learning, it's all virtual 3D assets, but you can manipulate it, you can practice with it over and over again and you can create all kinds of learning opportunities. Adults love to learn by doing. Adults love to learn within the context of their learning. Virtual reality provides all of that. So it's not just for gaming, it's not just for kids. In fact, I always tell everybody virtual reality, get out of the game and that instead <laugh> so that instead of gaming it, let's play. Let's get in there and really use the attributes that it has.Patrick Leonard:
That's great. Yeah, thank you for that. And I got to experience it firsthand at conference LeadingAge Maryland a couple weeks ago, able to try them on and I was in a shark tank, with some sharks <laugh>, and it was quite a crazy experience, but there was multiple different modules I could select. And I imagine that's just again, a small piece of what you all offer. Can you tell me a little bit more about the experiences that you are offering, sort of templated kind of out-of-the-box solutions that you provide and programming for your clients and how do you balance that with any potential? I don't know if there's custom programs that you all offer as well. Tell me a little bit about like kind of the experience development and how clients engage with that.Dr. Ellie Giles:
Great. So what we did after I had met with my mom and my, I grew up on the bay boating, when I talked with my mom, we used to share memories of that. So creating that was one of my first experiences was being back down on the water with the boats hearing and letting her be able to sit in her home. She's not very mobile anymore, but be on the water again, which gave her such pleasure. So that really was how it started. Then I hooked that idea and was accepted into a tech collaborative through Johns Hopkins and NIA to continue to build out that platform. And one of the , the whole mission was to mitigate loneliness, create environments, create experiences where seniors could then have spontaneous conversations about their shared experiences. So that is really my goal. We keep the experiences fairly short because the outcome is conversation and interaction not being in the goggles. So knowing that is what we're moving for , we've created experiences that are senior friendly. So you know, first I should say there's two components when you develop VR. One is the user's experience and the other is the content that we actually do. So we really wanted to focus in on both senior friendly user experience and a senior friendly content. So everything we build, we build on our own, we do all our own filming. And so to answer your question, we do have some that are already there that we can keep adding to, but we're also free using our own 360 photographer and our own editor to create whatever customized programs are needed. I wanna just go into a little detail about what I mean when I say senior friendly, if that's alright. So first thing we did, and again, I'm , this is all being guided by the, the geriatric program in Johns Hopkins. So we really work very closely with the experts in the field to understand where some of the challenges would be using VR with seniors. So technology as a whole tends to be a challenge for seniors. If you've got a lot of controllers or novel experiences, it takes the fun out of it. Like anything, when you have a long learning curve, it takes the fun out of it. So we wanted to avoid that. Everything we have in the goggles is eye-gaze activated , so there's no need for controllers. You literally put it on, there's a screen to select kinds of experiences you wanna do and then you can just look at it and activate it. We avoid the need for internet because we download it directly into the headset. So it has its own little processor and we slow down the refresh rate because the goggles are developed for gaming. So it refreshes very quickly. We slowed it down so it doesn't refresh quickly and it eliminates any kind of dizziness or balance because there's not as much going on. We then started to look at what was content that was out there and you can have, you know, YouTube videos or some 360 videos that are already out in the universe, but they are way too fast. They tend to be shot like from a drone. So you're looking down, going down a waterfall, going around a corner. And so they weren't real senior friendly and that was the reason why we decided to move to develop our own content. Our original content was digital and we now are doing all real filming. We've, we've gone down toward D. C. And Baltimore, we have tour guides and there's more interaction, human interaction, which is something that we've found that the seniors are appreciating more and having to see people while they're there, not just things, all of our experiences, the longest experience is five minutes because we don't want, again, you to be looking at it like TV, you wanna be in there, you wanna look around, enjoy the experience, take off the goggles and talk about it, interact with others. So we've really tried to keep our experiences engaging but fairly short.Patrick Leonard:
That's awesome! So that's the first time I've really heard virtual reality described in that way and I think it's really impactful. I can see a lot of potential pushback for people who aren't as familiar, thinking, well I don't want my loved one just sitting with a VR headset all day and just being consumed like a another device, you know, or tablet or tv. So it's really cool to hear that they are purposefully and thoughtfully built into these bite size type of experiences so you can take it off and have that conversation. So it's really interesting to me. Can you tell me what have you seen as far as in the communities, how people are putting that to practice? Are they working with life enrichment or activities coordinators? These are kind of group activities and experiences where they go through something together and chat about it or does it just depend on the situation, maybe individual family members in the rooms with the resident or they'll take turns and then talking about it? Or what have you kind of seen from your end of how this is actually practically used in that way?Dr. Ellie Giles:
So all of the above. We mostly are serving senior centers or whether it's residential or day programs. And one of the things that we provide with every experience are facilitation guides. My background in counseling, I can bring out some facilitation guides. So even if they had the experience, just things that start facilitating conversation if needed. I have to tell you, 90% of the time we just get unbelievably incredible spontaneous language. It's new, it's fun, it brings back memories. And so we tend not to need the facilitation guide, but we do provide that for individuals. I also wanted to let you know that one of the things we're doing within our study is we're really taking a look at level of engagement and spontaneous language. So as right now we're really collecting a lot of research in the goggles. We are able to track eye gaze and we are with a heat map technology, being able to watch where the eyes are. Are you really enjoying the 360 of this environment? Are you looking straight ahead like watching tv? And then we're comparing those that are higher engagement and the spontaneous language to really verify does virtual reality really increase social engagement and mitigate loneliness? And what is the variables that are gonna have individuals really take place and engage in the 360 environment. And that's really some of the data we're collecting right now.Patrick Leonard:
Thanks for that. And so another thing I love , um, you use the term MythBusters, you're busting some myths related to virtual reality now, which is super helpful in educational for us. And part of the purpose of having these types of discussions with our listeners is to kind of understand those kind of burning questions for people who aren't as familiar with, in this case, virtual reality and can kind of answer some of the questions for. So another item that I thought about was, again, people are starting to be very, you know, there's more and more studies coming out. People are always very hypersensitive of screen time. They're hypersensitive about how much time they're spending on their phones, looking at the computer screen during the day, looking at the TV set during night. So this just reminds me know , again, it's broadest term of another screen. So for those out here thinking well what is the impact on my eyes or just adding to another screen time, can you talk a little bit about the applications or protective measures taken into the development of the technology in the VR headset to kind of mitigate any of those potential risks or problems?Dr. Ellie Giles:
So going into VR, the context of it being screen time , I'm gonna do a little pushback on , because I think it's not really screen time. You are having an experience, you're going someplace with that. Your mobility or social setting or whatever barriers are there prevent you from doing so. If you wanna go to Hawaii, you just can't go, you get to go to Hawaii when you wear those goggles or if you wanna look at art or you wanna listen to classical music that brings back memories or even see pictures of family, all of those things can happen within VR. So we're not really looking at it as a screen time issue because you're going places virtually, but you're experiencing it, you're getting a visceral response from it. It's visual, it's motion, you have a gyroscope in there so when you turn your head the environment moves with you. There's really a very strong sense of presence while you're there.Patrick Leonard:
I love that. Yeah, I , I experienced it myself. I put on , I was amazed at how just any head movement in any direction, it was just a continuation of a 360 view. There was no lag time, there was no confusion. You really felt fully immersed in the experience itself. So I love that, again, busting another myth as it relates around screen time, because it really wasn't. So I want just raise that up as kind of a question cause I'm sure again people who aren't as familiar might might be thinking that. So thanks for kind of clarifying and talking through that a little bit more.Dr. Ellie Giles:
And screen time is passive, this is active.Patrick Leonard:
You know, I think how far VR has come just in the last couple years alone and everything that has happened in this space and I'm constantly learning new things about it and you've educated so much today. But from your perspective, you know, where is VR and I guess it's kind of lifecycle of its potential. We've come so far so quickly it feels like, to me at least, I'm sure you have different perspective, but is there still a lot left there as far as innovation goes? Are there things that we should be expecting to see just from virtual reality in general or your solution alone over the next year, two years, five years, whatever it may be down the road? What's kind of on the horizon as it relates to VR and your solution in particular?Dr. Ellie Giles:
So I started my business March of 2020 just because Covid was getting off the ground and the growth in this industry in just those two, three years has been, I mean, overwhelming. I need to always stay within the networks and the institutions and the research because it changes so quickly. Just like when the computers first enter the world, first emphasis has right now been on the hardware, finding hardware that's robust enough, that's cost effective , that's untethered because you've got lots of hardware now that's hooks up to computers. That's not gonna be an effective tool, especially for seniors. We've gotta find the headsets that work independent and get to that right price point. So Google, HP and a company out of China called Pinko , that company who owns TikTok as makes these headsets, there's Apple who's come out with it there . You know, all of the industries are really fighting right now to come up with the biggest that is hardware, not so much in content. So the content piece is just emerging now, but I really do see the combination of using VR where you're in the experience and then AR, where it's augmented community where you can bring up maps or what you might be looking at as a guide as part of the future of this, where you will be in your virtual environment but be able to be looking at an actual blueprint or an actual schematic or another scene. If you are looking for seniors and they want to navigate a hospital, you might be able to see the floor plan of the hospital while you're really walking it. So those kinds of things that better bring reality and virtual reality together I see is really where the future's gonna be. I just recently was contacted by a new senior center and that's exactly what we're doing for them is we are creating the senior centers under construction. They are looking to rent their housing, but the seniors can't visualize it by looking at a floor plan . So we've created now 3D floor plans where they can walk in and then visualize their for own furniture in there and see what kind of countertops may I weigh . We can switch it real quickly and they can really get a sense of the living space before purchasing it.Patrick Leonard:
Wow, that's amazing. It's hard to imagine, you know, it's something you see out of the movies almost these days, but it's here, it's happening and it's really cool to look forward to those type of things, knowing that it's available through solutions like you and companies like you who are just on the cutting edge of this type of technology to really bring some of this excitement and innovation to the industry. It's really, really awesome to hear. I really appreciate you sharing all that with us. Before we wrap up, are there any final thoughts or anything that you're dying to let the listeners know as it relates to virtual reality or in particular Virtual Apprentice before we sign off today?Dr. Ellie Giles:
I think that the most important point that I really, really wanna get across as we talk about my solution or anyone else's solution is how important it is to address loneliness in seniors. I mean, just recently the Surgeon General talked about that being such a major health risk and the more we've moved with social media and people are not having as much face-to-face time as they used to. The health concerns of loneliness is just so severe that anything we can do to mitigate that and that it just elongates life, it voids depression, it helps with all kinds of other health issues, both physical and emotional. And so what motivates me with this tool is not the technology but the outcome, the social good that it will provide.Patrick Leonard:
That's awesome! That's a great way to sum it up . Dr . Giles, thank you again so much for the conversation today! I personally learned a bunch , I know our listeners will as well. So thanks for taking some time to have the conversation and to educate everyone that'll be listening to this episode.Dr. Ellie Giles:
Thank you, I appreciate it. And feel free to visit our website, www.VirtualApprentice.net.Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely! Listeners, thanks so much for tuning in for another great episode of Raising Tech. I know you probably picked up some awesome and valuable information today, like I did. If there's any other topics you want to hear about or you have a comment on the episode or want to be on an episode yourself, please feel free to reach out on our website at www.ParasolAlliance.com, and have a good one!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Patrick Leonard, has an informative conversation with Dr. Ellie Giles, Founder and CEO of Virtual Apprentice, about how Virtual Apprentice's virtual reality solutions are being utilized to improve education and social engagement in Senior Living communities.
Discover the ways Virtual Apprentice's VR systems are mitigating loneliness and enhancing emotional engagement for Senior Living residents.
Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.
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 um, 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!
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.
Welcome back to Raising Tech, a podcast about all things technology and senior living today. I'm your host Patrick Leonard and we're going to talk about a very familiar topic at issue and senior living today, which is wellness monitoring in Senior Living communities. However, we're learning about a very unique solution today that I'm really excited to educate you all on or rather have our guest educate you all on and I personally just learned about this in the last couple months. And so with that I'm excited to introduce our listeners to Vik Kashyap from Toi Labs to talk to us a little bit about this wellness monitoring idea and particularly about a product called TrueLoo. Welcome to the show, Vik.Vik Kashyap:
Hi. It's a pleasure to be here, Patrick. Thanks for having me!Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely. Before we really dive into this topic, Vik, I was really intrigued during our introductory conversation about your background and your experience. So if you don't mind, can you introduce yourself a little bit and tell our listeners a little bit about that?Vik Kashyap:
Sure. So I am an entrepreneur. I've been building companies mainly in the Silicon Valley area for more than 15 years. But in addition to doing that I also suffer from ulcerative colitis, which is a serious debilitating lower digestive disease, and it was through my experience in treating myself with my condition including developing a new treatment, I ended up publishing about that really got me set on focusing on developing the technology that has become TrueLoo. And I really discovered through that experience the importance of gut health, the importance of our waste and output as indicators to our health. And also turning this science fiction concept of a toilet as being a health monitoring system or device into reality.Patrick Leonard:
Thanks for that background. So can you tell us a little bit more specifically about Toi Labs and TrueLoo, which is, you know, what's commonly known out there on the marketplace? You know, personally when I first kind of Googled your company looked at your website, I was like, oh, it's a toilet seat. It's a smart toilet seat , but it's so much more than that in talking with you. So can you tell us a little bit more about kind of the founding story of it and you know, what problem you're really looking to go after here in this Senior Living space?Vik Kashyap:
Yeah, so Patrick, going into a little more detail, I actually developed a treatment for my ulcerative colitis that helped me not have to have my colon removed. And through the course of that treatment I tried many different things to try to understand how they would have an impact on my health. And what I found is that it's very, very important to understand what's going on with your output as an indicator of your general health and wellness. And so what I decided to do after publishing co-authoring a paper in Science Translational Medicine was to really try to figure out a way to make it cost effective , convenient and easy to capture your output information in a way that doesn't really change how you go about it in your day-to-day life. And so what I developed is a new type of toilet monitoring system that is comprised of a new replacement toilet seat that can be affixed onto any existing toilet in a matter of minutes. And what it's doing is that it's looking at the visual aspects of the stool and urine. These are characteristics that have been known for centuries, even millennia to be very valuable for human health. And if you look at Senior Living communities today and senior homes, they're tracking this information because they know it's so valuable. You know, if someone isn't going to the bathroom, if they are potentially bleeding or have other signs of issues that could be, you know, indicative of something more serious. It's very important to track that kind of information. But today, the way it's been done and being done prior to TrueLoo is that it requires someone to interpret, to actually see that excreta, interpret it in their own particular way (and then in a subjective way) and then record it usually manually into some type of a system. And given the importance of this kind of information, which arguably is, you know , as important if not more important than a lot of other types of vital signs that are being tracked today, what truly does is it helps to create an objective, accurate and timely understanding of someone's output patterns and when they're clinically concerning to be able to report on those. So, you know, for me it was very important to be able to do this because it's such a fundamental aspect of being a human is doing this every single day. Everybody does this yet today there's no way to get any insight or value from this activity that is being done. And so much in the same way that, you know, a lot of people may have been skeptical about wearables and the value, for example, of tracking steps or tracking heart rate. You when you take things that are being subjectively or manually done and you automate them and bring computerization to them. So that's when you begin to see a lot more power, you know, and so that's one of the things that was very important, you know , as we first developed the TrueLoo system.Patrick Leonard:
That's amazing. Sounds pretty complex, but also, you know, the concept is pretty simple to understand I think. But clearly there's a lot of complexities going on in the background. So talk to me a little bit about the perceptions of you know, an older adult or a Senior Living resident who may have this installed in the room. And then also on the flip side, having the conversations with the decision maker to install this. I mean it's such a, I don't wanna , you know, icky for lack of a better term, it could be a sensitive topic, you know, as a lot of things can in the caregiving in the Senior Living world because we get so intimate with our residents on a level learning about their health in , very different ways and servicing them and caring for them. And this is certainly one of those items that falls under that category. So can you just talk to me a little bit about perception from kind of both of those stakeholders in the utilization and implementation of something like this.Vik Kashyap:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, we've been in market with the TrueLoo service since 2021 and when we first came into the market, one of my biggest concerns was the perception and in particular the privacy considerations related to a technology like this. What it comes down to is really education. Because this is such a new technology, there sometimes some misperception about what it is the technology does and also there needs to be some awareness building about what the technology has the ability to do as well for someone's life. And so, you know, I think one of the things that's interesting about a product like this is that it is, as you mentioned in this area of kind of taboo or ick factor where people know it's very important. I mean, look, if you are living in a Senior Living facility, either as a resident or as a care staff member, you know the importance of tracking this information and it's something that is being done today. Now one of the things that I think we have been able to demonstrate is that by using something like this you can actually not have to have uncomfortable conversations and maintain the dignity of the person whose extra is already being monitored. And so today, for example, in the current practice, you have care staff that often ask residents about their stool and urine activity. They often are accompanying older resident and looking into the toilet bowl and then recording information about their excreta, and those things today are not comfortable, they're not dignified. And to be able to remove that and instead have a system that is 24/7 objectively and in a very private way analyzing this information in my private, you know , it's completely de-identified. It's not capturing any sensitive body parts, it's only looking downward into the bowl with its scanning technology. And then also on top of that, educating both care staff and residents about the fact that look, what is the implications of something like this? What are the benefits that you can get from it? That is really a critical part of the conversation because even though it's something that people may not want to talk about, the reality is if you have, for example, a very unusual pattern in your stool and urine, you know, that could be an early sign of something extremely serious. You know, we typically bucket the issues that the TrueLoo is able to, and to be clear, the TrueLoo is only identifying those abnormal waste patterns. It's not diagnosing any diseases. But if you're to look at the areas where waste, the visual analysis of waste is valuable, we generally bucket them into a few main areas. The first is around intake. Is someone taking off liquid? Are they taking the right kind of diet? You know, that's a fundamental human question and something that should be monitored on a daily basis. The second thing around infections, particularly in a communal living setting where things like gastroenteritis, norovirus, C. diff, other types of viral infections can spread, you know, is there something in the waste pattern that can be able to identify, you know, some signs and symptoms, you know, of these types of infectious diseases. The third is around cancers. And I think most people understand that many, many cancers including for example colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer are extremely deadly. And when you catch them late, these kinds of cancers can be fatal and often are. And the fourth is around trauma, which can be caused, you know, from a variety of different sources. But all of these types of potential issues, they often show up in the waste of an individual. And the ability to be able to automate the tracking of something that today is manually done day in, day out in these settings, really you know, has a significant impact not only on the life of the resident in terms of their ability to have an intervention that has the potential to change the course of a disease and their life, but also has a significant benefit to the care staff and the operators in that they no longer have to do this very unpleasant task and at the, and also reap the benefits of having a healthier, longer living, longer lifespan and healthspan type of resident .Patrick Leonard:
Thanks for that! Yeah, it's always amazing to me the different solutions that people like yourself and companies like Toi Labs are coming up with to address these really critical issues that everybody's kind of banding together to come up with a solution in their own way. But I feel like this is a really unique one that I personally never would've thought about. So I think it's really helpful to kind of shed some life on this today and I think our listeners will get a lot out of this. Can you talk to me a little bit more, you walked us through the use case and a little bit about the information that TrueLoo's gathering, what that's helping to prevent from a health perspective? But can you talk to me a little bit more specifically about what you touched on at the beginning of the actual technology that's powering this thing? How is it actually capturing reporting on these data points that you're mentioning in this automated manner ? Is it a proprietary technology that you came up with? Is it a combination of different of AI automation, you know what , what does that lookVik Kashyap:
Like? Yeah , this is just something that is near and dear to my heart as I am the inventor of this. The technology that's being used is patented. We have have multiple patents that cover the system and what it's doing is that it is capturing using a technology called computer vision or machine vision, detailed information, visual information about what goes into the toilet bowl . And it's doing it at a resolution and in a manner that far exceeds that of the human eye and mind. And we've reached a point in the technology adoption curve where certain types of sensors have come down to a lower cost that allows us to use primarily software to be able to interpret what the sensors are doing in a way that is very valuable and that improves over time. So if you look at a lot of what our technology is doing is it's taking this information that's very granular, it's very targeted and it is analyzing it for essentially biometric or physiological value. And so the challenge associated with this technology is not just technical, it's actually mapping a lot of what the software is doing to the actual underlying conditions of the individual in order for it to provide predictive value. Right now the product, and I wanna be very clear about it, it is not a medical device. We're not claiming that it's going to be diagnosing, treating or preventing any specific diseases. What it is doing however, is that it's identifying when there is an abnormal pattern of the output that requires further investigation and that we have very high level of confidence that requires further investigation. And the way we do that is we actually have board certified physician on our team that establish guidelines that the machine which is constantly improving uses to be able to report on when there are these abnormal issues that require an intervention. In many ways we're doing something that today is already being done or should be done manually, subjectively, sporadically. And we're making sure that it's done completely accurately and timely through a system like this. And I think what's really exciting about this technology is that it's designed in many ways to be forgotten. So unlike many things that require you to recharge or to change your behavior in order to use or remember to use, this is a product that is literally designed to fade into the background. It's not meant to be thought of when a user is using it. It's not meant to be interacted with, it's meant to just fit into the day-to-day life that you already live . And I think that's one of, if not the most unique aspect to this. And we have spent years and millions of dollars designing this product and and service and if there's one key kind of ethos or philosophy that we have when we have built this is that it really doesn't require anything on the part of the user. They ought to be able to get value from it from doing nothing extra. And we try to be very, very ruthless about drawing lines that ensure that this kind of ethos remains. And this to me is the difference between what I see as kind of some of the first generation of products perhaps that was seen in the Senior Living space and what I think the next generation of products are going to be. And particularly if you're dealing with an older adult population, you know, these kind of considerations are paramount and I think that as we've developed the technology that's been kind of a guiding principle for us.Patrick Leonard:
Thank you for that. So another question popped up as you were kind of talking through that from the caregiver or the Senior Living operator side, how are they monitoring this on a daily basis? I mean it certainly sounds way better as you mentioned, and more effective, less invasive than the manual process that's being done today. But with this implemented, what does it look like to monitor? Are there alerts to integrated with other health monitoring electronic medical systems? What does that look like from an ongoing basis and a daily basis and a practical use case?Vik Kashyap:
So going back again to the guiding principles and the philosophy that we espouse, the reports themselves are only produced on an exception basis. Unlike other types of products in this that serve this population, which often provide data that has to be interpreted. What we do is we actually have a clinical team that reviews all of the data that's being analyzed and captured by the TrueLoo system. And we only report on issues where we've identified abnormal patterns that cross a meaningful clinical threshold. And this is a very important point because as we've spent time with our customers, if there's one thing we have found is that they do not need another dashboard or more data to analyze, that's the last thing they need. What they need are ways to help them improve the human care that is so critical to the job that they do today. And to do that and to use machines that can help leverage that is in my mind a true application of artificial intelligence that hasn't really been delivered in this industry. And so when you look at the design of a system like ours, what it's really doing is taking away this unpleasant, disgusting job that care staff have to do today and instead giving them actionable reports that enable them to provide follow-ups and better care to the residents that they take care of. And that is, I think part of the, of the reason why our product has been so well adopted in the industry is that you really have to, in this industry make sure that you integrate into the existing clinical workflows of the staff. And one of the things we found early on is that besides doing this, you know, and providing our reports the way I described , we also need to integrate into the systems that are already used. It doesn't make sense to create a separate dashboard to log into. It makes much more sense to integrate this information into the systems that are already being used, the EHRs that are already being used. And so we have integrations with a variety of electronic health records and think that that's very important because at the end of the day you don't wanna be creating more portals, different login systems for the people who are getting this type of information.Patrick Leonard:
Absolutely. Thanks for clarify that, and I think that's right. I think a lot of people and a lot of innovative solutions today, one of their biggest wow factors sometimes are selling points if you will, tends to be oh we have these, this amazing reporting tool built in or these amazing dashboards. And so it's really interesting and cool to hear you taking a little bit of the opposite approach and it's the same type of approach with, like you said, kind of set-it- and-forget-it type of thing when you install this, but the toilet seat from the end user standpoint and then that kind of flows all the way through to the community and caregiver standpoint as well. It's almost like on an as needed basis, we'll give you the information we need but we'll handle it on the back end in the meantime. So I think that's a really interesting and innovative thought process in itself in today's world.Vik Kashyap:
Yeah, our goal is ultimately for this to be one and done. We want it just to happen without effort, without additional maintenance or effort. That is the North Star that we look at when it comes to enabling other humans to help the people who really need, need the help that they receive .Patrick Leonard:
Well Vik, this has been fantastic. Before I wrap up with any of the thought leaders we have on the show, I always like to ask, I'm always curious about what's next in your specific space and area of expertise and any other final thoughts or words of wisdom you want to impart with our listeners would love to hear it before we part ways today?Vik Kashyap:
So one thing that is near and dear to my heart is what kind of changes are happening in the healthcare system today? And I think what we're trying to do here, and I think something that's an inevitable trend, you know across the country is that health care is moving very rapidly towards a home setting. It's leaving the hospital and clinic where it can be left and is coming into the home and it's gonna start happening faster than a lot of people realize, especially after Covid. And so for us, a lot of the future is about how do we enable a world in which people can get a far deeper level of health care from the comfort of their own home. I think what you see today in wearables and other types of remote patient monitoring tools and telehealth is very, very different from what things are gonna look like a few years from now and it's companies like ours that are really focusing on enabling a much more passive ambient experience that I think are ultimately going to bring in a new way in which people are able to engage with their healthcare. And I think this is going to happen a lot faster than people, people imagine. And I think there's a great opportunity for people in the Senior Living space to combine the human care that they have with these new technologies to build something that's truly differentiated. One of the things that I think is unfortunate is that a lot of the technology promise that maybe happened in the first phase of Senior Living adoption of technology hasn't really happened. But I would just say it's important not to close your eyes and mind to the possibility that there will be some things that really do get widescale adoption in the industry that are coming down the pike.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome, thanks so much for that and thanks again for being here today, Vik. I personally have enjoyed our conversations quite a bit. I feel like I learned something new from you every time. Your experience and your background and your passion for what you're doing is amazing both in the technology and the Senior Living space and bringing those two things together is why we're here. So thank you for everything you and your team does and for all the knowledge that you gave our listeners today!Vik Kashyap:
My pleasure, Patrick, thank you for having me!Patrick Leonard:
And listeners, thanks for tuning into another episode of Raising Tech. I know you've probably picked up some very valuable information today as well, and hope you did. If there are any topics you want to hear about or want be on an episode yourself, please feel free to reach out to us on our website at ParasolAlliance.com. Have a good one!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Patrick Leonard, has a thought-provoking conversation with TrueLoo’s Founder, Vik Kashyap, about how TrueLoo’s smart toilet solutions are changing the way Senior Living communities track their residents’ wellness.
Discover more about TrueLoo and their unique approach for monitoring wellness parameters to identify important changes in residents’ health.
Welcome back to Raising Tech , a podcast about all things technology and senior living. I'm your host, Patrick Leonard, and today we're gonna talk about live chat on your Senior Living community's website. This is a technology that's isn't necessarily new, but something that's continuing to be a topic of discussion as we dive deeper and deeper into the digital world, prospective residents looking more and more to do their research online and in particular your community's website. So with that, I'm gonna introduce you to the experts on this topic who'll be able to dive much deeper. Today, we have with us Rob Bills and Marc Cherabie from SiteStaff Chat. Rob and Marc, welcome to the show.Rob Bills:
Hi Patrick. Thank you so much for having us. We're very excited to talk about our service and the industry in general.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. So before we dive into this topic, guys, if you don't mind, could you just introduce yourselves, your background a little bit and your specific role with SiteStaff?Rob Bills:
As Patrick said , my name is Marc. I'm the Director of Sales here at SiteStaff Chat . We've started together in the same class. We've actually been here for just over three years and just, you know , working in this , in the sales division , business to business. My background's always been in some sort of sales role, whether it been sunglasses , in a sunglass kiosk, used to have a sunglass business, telecom, you know, basically you name it, I've worked in it. So I'm always been a sales guy, but been thrilled to, to be here and, you know , love the people I work with and super passionate about the industries that we serve and, and the product that we sell. So thanks for having us.Rob Bills:
Yeah, absolutely, and I'm Robert Bills and I've been with the company as Marc said, we started the same week together about three years ago, and I come from a background of real estate and finance and so sales as well. I was real estate broker for 15 years and in finance for just over five, and so coming into to SiteStaff, here, has been an amazing adventure because we really are a family here and we really are team atmosphere and really we all want to lift all boats and make sure that everybody's succeeding. If we're succeeding, our clients are succeeding, our partners are succeeding, and it's just very welcoming and warm place to be.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome, love that. Thanks for that background and , and a little bit about the SiteStaff family. It's really cool that I didn't realize you all started it the same week. That's pretty awesome, and then on this journey, the last few years together, and who better to talk about this powerful sales and marketing tool than some sales and marketing folks like yourself who've been in different industries over the years. So that's awesome. As we dive in, I'm familiar with your tool, I've been exposed to it over the last five or six years as I've been in this Senior Living technology space. But for our listeners who aren't familiar, can you give us just a high level overview of SiteStaff and what it hopes to accomplish as it relates to senior living ?Rob Bills:
Absolutely. So SiteStaff, we've been around, this is our 13th year and really the impetus for the company came from our CEO, Bill Jennings, who said the buying process is changing and things are starting to be bought online, and he saw that even high-end items, things like senior living where it's a very high ticket item, but also a very emotional item. They're also being purchased online, and so he saw the need to make sure that the human element is always captured in that communication online. And that's why he started the chat. It's, it's now been , you know, 13 years. We've done over a million chats in senior living. We're currently on just about 3,000 websites around North America, and it's about giving the very best website experience to that end user. And whether they're looking for customer service, whether they're looking to actually move in, whether they're looking to volunteer employment, there really is nothing that we cannot capture and talk to them at that human level, give them the information that they need and really make it a human connection that is tremendous for our clients as far as capturing that information, capturing that client at their highest level of interest in their community and then creating that lead that becomes, you know, better lead than any other lead they can get besides a personal referral.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. Thanks for that! You know, I heard some key words come out as you were talking there and the biggest one was human. Obviously in senior livings, that's an important one and, and one that we're all impacted by. It's a human business, it's we're taking care of Senior Living residents and the staff of the communities as well. And I love how you touched on the different use cases at a high level. It's not just for the prospective resident, but it could be for a job applicant or some anybody looking to volunteer you mentioned. But going back to that human piece, it brings up a topic of conversation when I think of chat on websites between the live chat, the human aspect, and then everything going on with AI right now. And I know and more of the automated bots that some people are utilizing on their websites. So can you talk a little bit about those two? What are the differences, how do they kind of work together, if at all? I noticed on your guys' website you have two solutions, kinda the live chat versus the SiteStaff Chat AI. So it sounds like you all are, have entered into that space as well. So can you talk a little bit about those two different solutions?Marc Cherabie:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, so for us, as Robert had just touched on, it's, it's really all about that experience, right? And I think that that's a big shift that you see in the Senior Living industry is experience as a whole, and we always think that the experience definitely starts on the website. There's a lot of emphasis on experience when the resident comes in for a tour or what it's like to live their life there. So it's always about that experience, and so furthermore on, on the live chat versus the AI side, I think we were in a really unique position because we started off as a live chat company. We were really well versed, very well experienced. You know , I've done it for so long, built out our own software, so we had a really great foundation as a live chat company. And then, so developing the AI was just a way for us to expand the experience but also give our clients or our prospects an an additional option, right? Because it's all about options now. So when you really break down the difference between the two, you know, on the AI side it's, it's more of a convenience factor. It's a little bit more geared towards people that might be a little bit more tech savvy or maybe they want questions answered a little bit more quickly and if that's what some of our clients are really adamant about or it just resonates a little bit more with their sales process, they have that option. And whereas on the live chat side, it's gonna be a little bit more of that personal approach, right? It's might result in 8, 10, 15-minute conversations, but those are really meaningful, powerful conversations because a lot of the times, you know, we see visitors come on the website and begin a chat because there's just so much uncertainty. It's not so much about they don't know if they can afford it or they don't know if it's gonna be a right fit, but it's just like what the expectations are, talking them off of that ledge and delivering that experience. So by having both of those, it's just really about being able to be more well-rounded and serve an array of different clients on an array of different websites. And we also have a really unique solution that combines the two together. So you have the ability to have the conversation start off a little bit more automated on the AI side, very easy, just one click through, you know, if somebody's asking maybe about a job application or just a little bit more simple questions of I need a phone number to call or a fax number or whatever it might be. The bot might be able to take care of that, but at any point of the conversation they can click on a button and be connected to a live human right away immediately, within, within 10 seconds. So it, it's a way for us to merge the two great solutions together and create an experience that really just falls in line with whichever the visitors is wanting, whatever works better for them, really give them an option to choose.Patrick Leonard:
I love that. Thanks for clarifying! That makes a lot of sense. I can perfectly see the two use cases separately and how they work together and it makes a lot of sense because I know there are certain things that AI automation, robotics, just the whole concept could sometime it's still new, it can seem scary to some people, but I think there are some very specific use cases like you just mentioned, that it makes a lot of sense and still having the option for the human elements to talk to someone live one-on-one is the best of both worlds in my opinion. So thanks for shedding some light on that.Marc Cherabie:
Yeah, absolutely.Rob Bills:
Yeah, it's really just about giving that end user every option that they want for communicating, and if we're able to do that, then you're able to capture that user at a far more efficient rate than what you're usually getting with other calls to action.Patrick Leonard:
Definitely. So along that same vein, taking a look at the live chat side of things, from my understanding, if I'm a Senior Living community and I want to engage with SiteStaff live chat, we'll be leveraging the power of your team to engage with visitors to the website directly. So how are you ensuring that your team is set up for success to offer kind of a personalized solution and responses as an extension of the senior living community operator?Rob Bills:
Absolutely. Great question, Patrick. And it's one we get often and it really is about creating what we use is called a knowledge base. And we work with the community to build that knowledge base out and it really gives us all the answers that we're looking for. You know, after 13 years we have a really good understanding of what these visitors are , what type of questions are going to be asking. And so we really mold that knowledge base to give us every answer to the majority of questions that are gonna come across that conversation, down to, you know, floor plans, pricing, amenities, even cross streets, you know, nearest churches, nearest hospitals, things like that. So that when we start that conversation with that visitor, that visitor has no idea that we're a separate third party that's not actually sitting at that community because we have so much knowledge, we really are just like a receptionist sitting at the front door of that community. We're just the virtual receptionist at their website, which we could really consider their new front door and their virtual front door. And oftentimes the problem is that a lot of these communities and the operators don't view their website the same way they would a physical location. They don't see the power in treating it the same as that physical location, and by treating it the same and by engaging with that website visitor, you're really giving yourself far more opportunity because you're going to get a lot more website visitors walking through that virtual front door than you'll ever dig walking through your physical locations.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I love that analogy of your new front door or your virtual front door. I've never heard that before. That makes a lot of sense. And it's so true the day and age, given that it sounds like this solution makes sense for everybody, but if I'm a Senior Living community who hasn't dove into this yet, how do I know if it's a right solution for our use case? What does that process kind of look like?Marc Cherabie:
That's a great question. I mean, really on the basis of it, it's if you're not at 100% occupancy and have a really long wait list , we're a really great fit for you. But what I always tell a lot of the prospects that we speak with is, you know, not all live chat is the same, right? I mean, live chat on the surface seems like it's a great fit for everybody, but really about implementing the right life chat solution, just like it's about hiring the right CSD at the community, having the right employees, you can hire somebody who you think is gonna be a really good fit for your team, but if they're not, it could be very counterproductive. It can affect your, you know, your brand, the overall experience and do the exact opposite. And that's what we always talk about is making sure you're hiring the right solution. And the reason that we feel like we're the right solution is because we are very industry specific, which is extremely important because we could bring over our level of expertise, we could bring a lot of experience that we have and act as kind of a, almost a consultant for a lot of our clients as well. But ultimately we do work for them, we are trained by them. So you're never gonna get the same experience with, you know, one client that we serve with another client because those two communities are so different. So just being pliable and and being able to make sure that we're trained by them and mimicking their process, we can all sprinkle in a little bit of what we think. I think that's really what makes us unique and allows for us to be very successful. But we can also speak with the proper verbiage, obviously showing that empathy , understanding that what the visitors going through, what their families are going through, and be able to connect that way and then really be able to, you know, move that conversation forward. And we can do it at all hours of the day, right? I mean, your website never closes. You can access it at 24/7. So we want somebody available there at 24/7. We think that that's really what puts that community above everybody else if they're able to deliver that service and you know, set them up for success. So, you know, really in a nutshell, if you're looking at, especially in this day and age, right, where staffing is such a challenge that so many communities, so many businesses in general are really going through, you know, allows for us to, you know, at a fraction of the cost, have somebody that's there at all hours to really alleviate a lot of the stresses that those employees at the community levels face. So we really want them to focus on selling, that's ultimately what their job is. We don't want them focusing so much on follow ups and trying to get a hold of these people, let our team take care of all that on the forefront, deliver only the qualified leads, and then pass along the rest elsewhere. So hope that answers your question. I know I can kind of go on a tangent a little bit sometimes.Patrick Leonard:
No tangents are good! That's where we get best nuggets of information and it just sparked another question as you're talking, given that everybody's using this a little bit differently as far as the information that's going back and forth in these chats, it sounds like, you know, your team is answering questions obviously on the community's behalf, but are they going as far as actually booking tours or visits? Are they doing anything post tour or post conversation to nurture these leads? What does that whole lifecycle look like?Rob Bills:
So yeah, some of our technology, we do have the ability to, we integrate it with your CRM system so the leads are sent into your CRMs coded exactly how you want them to code. They are, the transcript is also included in that, which is very important for the sales team to be able to get an understanding of the story behind that individual. But yeah, the other technology that we have is through that integration. We can schedule tours obviously for the communities, but we also have what's called Call Connect. So during our conversation, during our chat with that visitor online, if we've taken that conversation to the point where they're ready to talk to somebody internally at the community, we can connect them directly with that point person in real time through the chat to the community so that they can continue that conversation really capture that hot lead at that point.Patrick Leonard:
Thanks for the clarification there. And so going back again to these different types of use cases and each community utilizing the chat function a little bit differently, can you tell me, and you touched on a little bit before the different use cases from prospects or potential job applicants volunteers, can you tell me a little bit more about the breakdown of what are you all seeing as far as, I don't know if it's a percentage, but just general allocation of who is engaging with chat most frequently. Is it a good mix between the prospects, the family members? Tell me a little bit about that, the audience if you don't mind.Marc Cherabie:
Yeah, definitely something that we're always deep diving into. We would say the big majority is definitely the adult child, especially on the chat side, and for a lot, a lot of reasons, a lot of the times, you know, if it's an adult child, you know, coming in crisis mode, they're like, I need to pull my mom in a new home, I have 48 hours to do it and I live across the country. I mean, there's so many different scenarios, but typically we do see that it's an adult child, but now we are seeing a lot more seniors just chat on their behalf and doing a little bit more of their shopping there. So it's definitely a big mix between that. But I would say definitely the adult child is probably the majority, but we've almost seen it all I would say.Patrick Leonard:
Talk to me a little bit about if I'm a community ready to put this on my site and start chatting today, what does that process look like from implementation? What resources need to be involved, timeline, training and ongoing support needed? Can you walk me through a little bit of that so our listeners can understand if they're not using this already, what that might look like?Rob Bills:
Wow, that's pretty clear .Rob Bills:
and then to follow that up, sorry, Patrick, but so we have a monthly review reviews, we have a whole client success team here because we have 96% retention rate of our clients. It's very important for us to make this all about a relationship, not a a one-time, let's check us out, see if you like it, but we really want to become a integral part of your operations, of your sales cycles so that we really do not become any kind of budgetary item. We really become a revenue generating item and really an appendage of what your systems are already doing. And so through our client success team, we're gonna have monthly reviews where we're constantly going through transcripts, we're making sure that our messaging is correct, we're reviewing our leads sent over, we're making sure that they are actually closing and going places. So it's a process, it's not, you know, one and done type thing. We really do value our clients, and we want to be always in a relationship with them. And that knowledge base that I spoke about, you know, it's a living document, it's always changing. I mean , they're gonna have staffing changes. They may be having a move-in special of some kind or some big event. Those are things that we want to know about, and so they have the ability to go in and make those changes on their knowledge bases as well as just obviously communicating with us and getting those changes done. But it , like I said, that living document, it's gotta always be reviewed. Our data, our stats, our success always needs to be reviewed as well because we wanna make sure that we're adding value at all times.Patrick Leonard:
Yeah, I love that it's true partnership and that makes sense. There's probably so many little nuances in communication changes happening, you know, so frequently in a Senior Living community obviously that of course you want your people on your front line , on the SiteStaff team who are responding, answering questions through your website to visitors to be up to date and all that, to be able to provide the best possible service. So yeah, I'm sure we've only scratched the surface on the depth and having to be proactive about that. So that's fantastic that there's such a , a great process for that. So, what's next as far as the world of web chat ? I mean, it's come such a long way over the years, but from you all's perspective, you know, where is it going next? What can we expect? Anything exciting or, or new and innovative we can be expecting to see coming down the pipeline in the future if we're looking at the crystal ball?Marc Cherabie:
Yeah, I mean definitely there's always , I mean there's always innovation, right? There's, you know, our CEO always says, "if you're not growing, you're dying." So there's always ways for us to, you know, create new products. What's really wonderful is that we've completely developed our own technology, our own software on the back end . So it's completely proprietary and that gives us a lot of options and ability to, whether it be create new products that are, you know , customized for whatever, really whatever, the industry needs or to be able to integrate alongside other software, we have the ability to do it. But, you know, for us the the most important thing is the feedback that we receive from our clients, right, you know, what do they need? We're going into more of a mobile world, right? So we're working on a lot of changes on the mobile side to be able to implement a seamless mobile experience, be able to continue messages via text messaging, right? Or WhatsApp messaging or, or really anything in social media is another part where I think the Senior Living industry is gonna continue to head in. So, we want to make sure that we can manage those leads too, whether it be on Instagram, Facebook Messenger, which we do now for clients and really just be able to continue changing with the time. But for us, we always are gonna stay true to our beliefs and true to our core value. Meaning it's not just going to be about being the new shiny toy or be able to have all these products that just to be able to charge our clients more. We want to make sure that everything that we're offering has a tangible value and a way to measure it, you know, so that starts off with, with the leads that we send, right? It's not just about, "hey, we have this new product that can generate you a thousand, a thousand more leads a month." That might sound great on the surface, but it's something that I think, you know, we know that not really going be more productive. It's not gonna ultimately result in more move-ins a better experience and ultimately more top line revenue. So we'll always have you know, our core basis for how we do and how we help our clients. But in terms of advancing with technologies and, and finding different ways to be able to, you know, work alongside call centers, marketing teams to create really an all-encompassing solution, we'll do it. We're also working on a really great marketplace as well. The marketplace is gonna, you're gonna look at it as kind of a one-stop shop . So not only would it be like a directory listing service where clients can go and view all the different clients, their pages, the amenities, but it's a way that different vendors of all of all sorts. So it'd be, you know, food vendors, medical device equipment, anything can all go on there and, and have a marketplace where they can share a little bit about their company, share about their prices and kind of create that competitive atmosphere. But that's a little bit down the road. If I tell you more, I might have to kill you . So , I won't shed too much of those secrets, but that definitely a lot of really great changes that are coming in the pipeline for sure.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. I appreciate that. We don't have to spill all the beans, but thanks for a little sneak peek . Well guys, any other final thoughts before we sign off today? This has been great information and I know I personally learned a lot. I'm sure our listeners will as well. Is there any other final thoughts before we part ways?Rob Bills:
Really, I just like to always talk about the fact that one of the reasons that we're so very important is because a lot of your clients, a lot of clients, a lot of these operators are spending a lot of money in marketing right now to drive that website traffic. And often times they're very successful in that. It's wonderful to see these clients, you know, 5K, 6K, 10K or 15,000 monthly unique visitors coming in. And what I like to talk about is that is wonderful, but now it's time when they get to your website, it's time to turn that monolithic number into that individual and be able to engage with that individual and tell their own story and really let them experience a little bit about what your community's all about. And so that's why I think we're so very important is we're able to turn those big numbers into that individual, which just creates, like I've said before, the highest quality lead that you can get besides a personal referral.Marc Cherabie:
Yeah, I would say for me , just to kind of spend on that a little bit, you know, a lot of, a lot of Senior Living communities are , they're tied up. They're so busy, they think that they don't have the time to be able to implement this, and we totally understand that. I think for us, what we always ensure for our clients is that we will make the onboarding as seamless as possible. We'll take care of with as much as of it as we can to really limit the amount of time that you're spending. But even that small investment of time that it might take for the, you know, seven to 10 business days at an onboards is going to save you a lot of time in the long run. It's not nearly as time consuming as a lot of our prospects think that they are. And another thing is, how can we entrust another vendor? We can sit here and talk all day about, you know , why you can trust us and our experience and all that kind of good stuff. But for us it's really about hear it from our clients, test it out yourself, you know, see what it's like and allow for us to have that opportunity to prove it. You know, we really are about guaranteeing an ROI and making it as risk free and as painless for all of our clients as possible. If they're not finding any value, if they're not getting a return on investment, they won't pay anything until they do. So we really make it as simple as possible to, you know, make the entry point , very seamless, and so for us, it's just about if you allow for us to earn that opportunity, if we can earn that opportunity to serve you, we can guarantee and and be very confident that you will be happy in all aspects of the service. So that would be just another final thought for me.Patrick Leonard:
Awesome. The personal guarantee, you heard it here!Rob Bills:
First written into every contract, it's literally written into every contract ROI guarantee. So we're not producing, we turn off our billing.Patrick Leonard:
Love it. Well, thanks again guys, for taking the time to be here with us today. This was a lot of fun, it was super educational for someone who personally thought they knew a thing or two about this topic, I certainly learned a lot. So I know our listeners will as well . Thanks again for being here.Rob Bills:
Thank you for the opportunity, Patrick. Great seeing you .Marc Cherabie:
Thanks so much. We appreciate it.Patrick Leonard:
And listeners, thanks for tuning into another episode of Raising Tech. Hopefully you all picked up some valuable information today. Is there any topics or you want to hear about anything in particular or be on the episode here yourself? Please feel free to reach out on our website at www.ParasolAlliance.com. Have a good one!
In this episode of Raising Tech, our host, Patrick Leonard, has a great conversation with Rob Bills and Marc Cherabie from SiteStaff Chat, about how SiteStaff Chat offers a human-powered and empathetic approach when communicating with website visitors.
Discover more about the benefits SiteStaff Chat provides Senior Living communities by offering a personal touch in interacting with potential residents, their family members, potential employees and more.
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