Connectivity is a key component of daily life at Emmaus Homes, a non-profit organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities. Clients residing at their 60 homes rely on the internet to keep in touch with family and friends, take online classes and stream their favorite movies. And staff, who visit clients daily, require dependable connectivity to access medical records and applications that are critical to client care. So, when Emmaus Homes started to experience slow and unreliable internet access, they knew it was time to make a change. Little did they know how important that change would be.
A Community in Need of Reliable Connectivity
With homes throughout four counties in the greater St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area, Emmaus Homes provides around-the-clock support services to approximately 200 adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Each home includes coax internet connectivity, which is used not just by residents, but also by Emmaus management staff and support professionals that visit the homes daily to assist clients with everyday tasks including cleaning, taking medications, preparing meals and attending appointments.
Two laptops are in every home so staff and support professionals can manage business functions like scheduling as well as complete required documentation. “There are a ton of different documents that need to be updated online by our direct support professionals in applications that are hosted on our corporate network,” says Ken Lannen, vice president of Information Technology for Emmaus Homes. “For instance, every time they give a client their medication, they have to remotely access an application on our network via a VPN connection so they can log it.”
Like many other organizations, Emmaus used multiple companies to provide connectivity services because there didn’t seem to be just one that could meet all their needs. This caused many problems. First, slow, unreliable connectivity from several companies made it difficult for staff to efficiently complete required tasks, and disrupted clients as they video chatted with family and participated in other online activities.
Second, many residents wanted to install smart home technology to make it easier to accomplish common tasks like turning their lights on and off, but the problematic connectivity services didn’t have the bandwidth to support it. “We were really struggling because we had a very slow connection,” says Lannen. “It wasn’t reliable and wasn’t allowing our clients to do the things they wanted to do.” Third, day-to-day network management and issue resolution was often time-consuming and complex for the five-person Emmaus Homes IT team.
“With some of the providers, when we had an issue, we often weren’t able to open a trouble ticket right away. We’d have to wait for a callback, and if we managed to schedule a technician to come, sometimes they just wouldn’t show up,” says Lannen. For Lannen, all of these challenges meant one thing: He needed one reliable technology partner with reliable connectivity services to match. As it turned out, he already had a partner who fit the bill.
A Partner, Not Just a Vendor
Spectrum Enterprise had been providing reliable, high-speed residential coax internet service to many of the homes for several years, and had become a trusted partner. “Our account manager has brought in teams of people to provide us with guidance and advice,” says Lannen. “I refer to Spectrum Enterprise as a partner, not just a vendor.”
Lannen confided in his account manager about the issues he was having, and his desire to consolidate his connectivity services with one technology provider. His account manager confirmed Spectrum Enterprise could be that partner. The company would be able to provide residential high-speed internet service to the homes they were not already servicing. And because the Spectrum Enterprise network has nationwide reach, they could provide reliable connectivity for new homes in the future, no matter the location. This would eliminate the complexity of dealing with multiple technology providers, and give Lannen and his staff one dependable team to turn to for ongoing support.
Because Lannen also expressed the desire to move many of its critical business applications to the cloud, Spectrum Enterprise could replace the coax internet service at Emmaus headquarters with dedicated, scalable Fiber Internet Access (FIA) service. FIA easily supports bandwidth-intensive cloud applications and would allow office staff to seamlessly share large files with support professionals working at the homes.
A Winning Solution
Lannen decided to move forward, and the solution proved to be a winner. Fast and reliable connectivity supports team members and clients alike. “Not only does Spectrum Enterprise offer more reliable service, they’re a true partner. My account manager is a great listener and always gets us the information we need,” says Lannen. “So, we pay less, and we get better service.” In addition, clients can now take advantage of smart home technology.
“They’re physically not able to flip the switch, but now they can just say something to turn the light on — they don’t have to ask a staff member to do it,” says Lannen. “Those are those moments where your heart just swells up and you’re like, ‘that is wonderful.’“ The Emmaus Homes IT staff is also enjoying the simplicity of working with one partner. “It’s nice to know that if there’s an issue we can make one phone call and get it resolved,” says Lannen.
Staying Connected During Unforeseen Challenges
When COVID-19 first spread in March 2020, Emmaus Homes worked hard to protect the health and safety of both clients and staff. Early on, they made the tough decision to restrict outside visitors to client homes. “Pre-COVID, residents would go to the movies, they’d go bowling, they’d go to worship services,” says Lisa Key, Chief Development Officer at Emmaus Homes.
“Being at home 24/7 was incredibly difficult for them.” To keep their residents entertained, educated, and healthy, Emmaus Homes relied heavily on connectivity. “We worked hard to ensure every home had an iPad so our clients could communicate with their friends and family because they were so isolated for so long,” says Key.
Throughout the lockdown, staff brainstormed new online activities to keep their clients engaged. They tried doing all kinds of new things virtually including pottery, chair yoga, bingo and cooking. Doctor’s appointments also went virtual. The reliable internet connectivity in the homes allowed clients to continue prioritizing their health and receive care in a safe manner via telemedicine appointments.
A Foundation for the Future
Despite all of the increased demand on bandwidth, the Spectrum Enterprise network remained reliable. “Spectrum Enterprise played a critical role in helping our clients stay connected,” says Lannen. Navigating the COVID-19 crisis proved that Emmaus Homes had chosen the right technology from the right partner because through it all, they could protect their clients’ physical and mental health.
“At the end of the day, it’s a wonderful story about how we persevered, survived, and thrived.” says Key. Today, Emmaus Homes is ready to tackle whatever technology challenge comes their way next. And, should they add new homes in the future, they know they can count on Spectrum Enterprise to provide reliable service.
About Spectrum Enterprise
Spectrum Enterprise, a part of Charter Communications, Inc., is a national provider of scalable, fiber technology solutions serving America’s largest businesses and communications service providers. The broad Spectrum Enterprise portfolio includes networking and managed services solutions: Internet access, Ethernet access and networks, Voice and TV solutions. Spectrum Enterprise’s industry-leading team of experts works closely with clients to achieve greater business success by providing solutions designed to meet their evolving needs.