Elderly care reform puts technology on the table
After a two-year investigation, the Royal Commission on the Quality and Safety of Care for the Elderly made 148 recommendations for reforming Australia’s elderly care system.
- Australia needs a rights-based elderly care system.
- The system needs stronger governance.
- The conditions and capacities of the workforce must improve.
- A better system will cost more.
Technology reform has been identified as an important part of building a new and improved elderly care system. Epicor software ANZ Regional Vice President Greg O’Loan said the technology recommendations put forward in the Commission’s final report were encouraging.
“It is important to recognize that these recommendations aim to bring a universal standard to the care of the elderly,” he said. “We are pleased with the number of technology-driven recommendations that have been put forward – in particular, an entire section of the report looks at improving care for the elderly through data, research and technology – but we we ask if the additional investment of 452 million dollars to meet these improvements is not up to what is required. “
Recommendation 34 states that “The Australian government should implement a category of assistive and home modification technology in the elderly care program which provides goods, aids, equipment, technology and services. that promote a level of independence in the tasks of daily living and reduce the risks of living safely at home. “
O’Loan noted that some home care providers are already implementing smart technology in clients’ homes to help with care delivery.
“By providing user-friendly technology, as well as training and support, this type of technology will become increasingly important as the number of home care recipients continues to increase over the next 10 to 20 years. We need to be ahead of this curve, and residential care facilities for the elderly have some catching up to do. “
O’Loan accepted the report’s mention of the major problems and limitations of the current technological infrastructure and architecture of elderly care, saying he looked forward to these issues being addressed. These include the varying use of digital record keeping for clinical and administrative information management, including My Health Record.
“While these recommendations are encouraging, there is still room for improvement, and we would like to see more deadlines brought forward. For example, by 2024 we would like to see a new common senior care program that combines all existing resident, respite and home care programs – providers would then benefit from a solution that would provide a client record. unique while being able to support operations. and funding for all categories of elderly care, ”he said.
“Additionally, we would have liked to see fully operational data governance and a minimum data set in place by July 2023, facilitating data sharing, integration and interoperability. This allows software solutions to integrate through open-source APIs, providing reports for quality metrics, prudential requirements, and other thoughtful reporting requirements. “
Numerical workforce and capacity
Commenting on the final report, PwC Australia Richard Ainley, Healthcare Partner, said there is a significant opportunity to improve the consistency and frequency of quality care experiences across the sector, especially in two key areas:
- A skilled workforce for the care of the elderly will be essential for the transformation of services, with an emphasis on a holistic and person-centered approach.
- Digital Transformation: Includes digital tools, from those that support day-to-day operations, to digital technologies to facilitate virtual communications.
Ainley says that while Commonwealth reform will be the key to enabling change, ultimately it will be up to providers to transform the way elderly care is experienced by older Australians and their families.
“While many of our leading elderly care providers and their staff provide exceptional care, reform must make this experience available to every older Australian.
Ainley said the focus should be on building organizational capacity that can withstand a range of reform scenarios.
“To meet consumer and community expectations, the industry must go beyond compliance to take a strategic and systems approach to quality that promotes continuous improvement rather than minimum standards.
“A high performing, engaged and skilled senior care workforce will be critical to the success of the new senior care system. Yet labor supply remains one of the most pressing concerns for providers and policy makers, further exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Establishing and maintaining compliance with the new regime will be one of the most pressing issues facing suppliers today. Particular attention should be paid to financial, quality and risk management, as well as to reporting. “
Ainley stressed that digital capability will be the key to the future success of elderly care. “Along with new innovations, we need to master the basics. For many vendors, major investments are needed first in infrastructure and basic systems to ensure safe care, compliance and sustainable businesses, ”he said.
Coviu Founder and CEO Dr Silvia Pfeiffer believes telehealth can play a critical role in ensuring our older Australians have timely access to GPs when and where needed.
Recommendation 63 suggests expanding access to specialized telehealth services to also include older people receiving personal care at home. The recommendation requires that elderly care providers who provide home care have the necessary equipment and clinically and culturally competent staff to support telehealth services.
“Requiring elderly care providers to provide the necessary equipment and personnel to benefit from telehealth is a step in the right direction towards a future-proof and digitally transformed health sector” said Dr Pfeiffer. “What is surprising, however, is that the demand for telehealth services is limited to medical specialists. In the midst of the pandemic, we have seen many general practitioners and other healthcare professionals successfully offering their services via video telehealth. Millions of telehealth sessions have helped protect our seniors from potential infection where the likelihood of coming into contact with an infected patient was high if done in person. Why then does the report only mention specialized telehealth services as a recommendation for expanded reimbursements?
“Certainly, the provision of general and paramedical health services through telehealth is just as important in reducing exposure to harm. In fact, video telehealth for these primary care services can even lead to faster access to care as needed for older people who may have difficulty finding a caregiver to take them to the general practitioner, physiotherapist, etc. the dietitian, dentist or psychologist.
Dr Pfeiffer commented on Commissioner Pagone’s suggestion based on recommendation 56, which refers to experimentation with a new model of primary care, of which telehealth would be a part, for six to ten years.
“Why do we need to test this? The pandemic has given us enough data to confirm that it [telehealth] works to provide timely, clinically appropriate and results-oriented care. We cannot wait another 10 years to integrate video telehealth into the standard way of providing health care to our seniors, ”she said.
“Video telehealth solves existing problems related to lack of timely access to general practitioners and paramedical health professionals when / where needed, reduced mobility and [can] addresses language barriers, geographic boundaries and plays a key role in supporting patient mental health.
“In order to expand access to subsidized telehealth services and ensure that providers have the necessary equipment and knowledgeable staff to support them, telehealth needs to be holistically integrated into the elderly care system. . If integrated holistically, we will be able to improve healthcare delivery for older Australians, improve skills and reduce time / work pressures on elderly care workers institutions, allow more clinicians to serve more aging citizens, as well as implement funding agreements to offset costs for patients. “