Australia’s ageing population is placing unprecedented pressure on the acute and aged care sectors. Older Australians in residential settings and their families and carers are proactively seeking improved residential aged care experiences that include timely access to doctors, nurses and other health professionals and genuine respect for end-of-life choices. However, it is difficult for facilities to cost effectively provide access to optimal health care in settings in which residents live, particularly where residents receive a capped public aged care subsidy.
Developments in consumer-directed care and an increased focus on consumer choice with websites such as My Aged Care are changing the way individuals and their carers access services. ‘Digital inclusion’ has been identified as a developing trend in healthy ageing. The consumer empowerment movement is driving much of the change. As the baby boomer generation begins to move into aged care, their demand for high quality and technologically advanced care is increasing. This group is significantly more IT ‘savvy’ and more prepared to articulate the kind of care that they want. Service providers are beginning to both differentiate themselves and improve business productivity through the use of innovative technologies.
There are a range of technologies that can be strategically deployed to improve access to medical and nursing services for aged care residents, to reduce unnecessary transfers to acute facilities, and to improve business outcomes. Technologies can enhance the quality of aged care by:
- immediate access to real-time client data to improve responsiveness, and better access to decision making tools
- better communication between staff, residents and families
- faster access to care teams and better assignment of staff and clinicians to care tasks
- improved care experiences for care providers and consequent improved morale and retention, particularly the enabling of real-time collaboration where providers are in different locations
- increased personal care attendant confidence to manage medical conditions.
Access to real time, high-speed care delivery platforms and innovative systems can also provide tangible financial and operational gains for aged care providers through improved efficiencies and provider collaboration. These include:
- improved quality of care through data capture, feedback and analysis that inform cycles of quality improvement
- minimising the duplication of investigations and tests
- reduced error and risk
- the dispersal of technology gains through other organisational units where the provider is providing care in sectors beyond residential care
Investment in technologies
Investment needs to be made in technologies across the entire continuum of aged care – from community care to residential aged care – in applications such as medication management, assistive technology and information system delivery. The four broad domains where the greatest opportunities lie are:
- Electronic care management (residential care)
- Improving broadband internet access (residential care and community care)
- Technology-based solutions for living at home (community care)
- Assistive technologies for community care organisations (community care)
As exciting and thought-provoking as some of these ideas may be for consumers and service providers alike, they also come with various challenges including:
- What improvement in our facilities should we prioritise?
- How do we know what products are out there?
- How do we choose a suite of products?
- How much will it cost and over what time period?
- How do we advertise improvements in the consumer experience to consumers?
Contact Larter to discuss your ideas. We can support you develop policy, strategies and plans that work in context. We can also assess health need, secure funding and deliver and evaluate strategies.