How tech could help fix Australia’s broken aged care system

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How tech could help fix Australia’s broken aged care system

The Australian Government should invest in ICT to keep our ageing populations safer, according to findings in a report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, released on February 26.

There could be opportunities for Federal or State IT service providers should the Government choose to follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

The term technology or technologies is mentioned 26 times in the 107 pages that constitute the Royal Commission’s recommendations for improving the care that at-risk ageing members of society receive.

The recommendations include a push for wider availability of assistive technologies to improve independence (recommendation 34), and requiring every aged care provider to adopt a digital care system (recommendation 68) that would connect with the My Health Record system.

In relation to the latter, the Commission is calling for greater collection of data about both those living under aged care and the organisations that provide aged care services (recommendation 108). The aim would be to provide a better understanding of the demographics and needs of aged care recipients, as well as better insight into the quality and safety of aged care facilities and service providers.

According to The Lancet, the Commission was launched in 2018 as a result of evidence of abuse and neglect in residential aged care. As COVID-19 hit, there were reports of horrific scenes of elderly people being locked in their rooms due to understaffing and apathy in private care providers.

The creation of a National Aged Care Data Asset and effective management of that data would “provide a better understanding of the life experiences, pathways and outcomes of people receiving aged care and the operation and performance of the aged care system,” according to the summary of the Commission’s report.

In order to support this endeavour, as well as bring aged care as a whole into the digital age, the Commission recognised that there would need to be a large investment into ICT infrastructure and calls for an Aged Care Information and Communications Technology Strategy (recommendation 109).

However, the onus is not only on the Government, according to Andrew France, group chief executive of Destined, a company that has been servicing the aged care sector for 15 years.

“There is also a need for individual providers to take on responsibility for their own patch. We are already working with a number of providers who have taken massive steps forward in their use of technology and are seeing it freeing up staff and enabling more time to be spent on care. It is crucial that the investment providers make is in systems that talk to each other so that they do not create further tech debt that will have to be undone in the future.”

The recommendation calls for a strategy that includes many places where channel partners would be able to provide services including universal WiFi internet access to enable assistive tech and the development of a portal that prioritises user experience and provides a single point of entry for older people and care providers.

France added that it is not just about new solutions, “mostly it is about taking existing solutions to an industry that has been slow to embrace technology.” He emphasises a ‘person-centric’ approach for any service providers approaching the sector.

“How do we keep the residents front and centre? This is the key problem the industry is trying to solve. They need to demonstrate an understanding and empathy around the industry - especially the importance of data, its security and privacy.

“The health sector has the highest number of reported data breaches and so ensuring systems that are built don’t leave data accessible to those who would misuse it is vital. Any providers also need to be ensuring that they are building solutions that can be used by individuals who are often not tech-savvy.  The breadth of accessibility is also a consideration as the needs of those in more remote parts of Australia become a focus.”

The promise of technology as a force for good is only real as the investment that is made. Should the Government go ahead with these recommendations, it could provide a great opportunity for the Australian IT channel and result in a better quality of life for those who so often get left behind.

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