The aged care sector in Australia and around the world, is facing arguably the most significant, critical challenges to its capability and capacity to date.
COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology across the community, but particularly in business settings where maintaining a standard of service remotely is critical.
South Australian-based provider, Life Care, uses Sonitor and ZulaFly’s Real Time Locating System (RTLS) to enable residents in their facilities to remotely call nursing staff for assistance in real-time, either by pressing a button or triggering other forms of sensors.
Its medication management system also links nursing staff with residents’ GPs and pharmacies to improve accuracy and timeliness of medication delivery.
Life Care identified a need for real-time reporting on the system, to flag areas for improvement and monitor metrics such as call response times.
Warren Ortmann, General Manager Corporate Services at Life Care, said the RTLS known as Assist created an incredible amount of data as it tracked resident and staff interaction and equipment movement.
“It was obvious this data held significant potential for improving quality of care and overall efficiency. What was needed was a way to harness this potential,” he said.
“We have also implemented an app-based customer portal that will ultimately synchronise with our finance system, our maintenance system and our rostering system to give customers incredible access to our services and control of how they want them delivered.”
BDO’s Digital & Technology Advisory team developed a Call Response Reporting System which now allows Life Care nursing staff and management to identify trends in resident calls and develop strategies to address call volumes and wait times, leading to improved resident care.
BDO Digital & Technology Advisory Partner Nick Kervin said engaging with Life Care staff and management allowed the team to understand the business, clinical, and technical outcomes that would support improved care for residents.
“This is, of course, the ultimate goal – that any technology solution implemented will result in an improved experience and standard of care for clients and their families,” he said.
Another SA-based provider, ACH Group, is working on ways to use technology to streamline processes to improve customer experience and quality.
ACH Chief Information Officer Craig Carter said the organisation had commenced upgrading its visitor management and nurse call systems when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“The timing was quite fortuitous as we were able to quickly adapt our visitor management solution to meet the needs of COVID screening in reception areas,” he said.
“Under ACH Group’s old nurse call system, when someone pressed the call bell there was no way of knowing the reason for the call. Now with a voice-enabled technology solution, a better and more responsive resident service is provided. Now we are able to understand the reason for the call and instead of making two trips to deliver a glass of water, our staff can respond to the call with a glass in hand.”
“COVID has taught us, and supported by the Royal Commission, just because aged care is a ‘people business’ it does not mean that it can avoid being a ‘technology-enabled people business’.
“It isn’t a case of a few tweaks here and there, we’re literally talking about taking organisations from the caveman to the spaceman and we need to do that in the shortest amount of time possible.”
The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) released its final report into Innovation driving care systems capability late last year.
ACIITC chair Dr George Margelis said: “improved uptake of technology and innovation is critical to assist service providers to deliver the high-quality assistance older Australians want and need, now and into the future.”
Industry-wide transformation is no small task, particularly in a sector where the size, technical capability and available budget can dramatically vary from one provider to the next.
Carter said he now expects the aged care sector to embrace technology at a faster pace than other industries. The pace of technology transformation will accelerate with the generational change demanded by Baby Boomers.
“Our digital transformation program is readying us for the Baby Boomers who want residential care that is less institutional, smaller scale and tailored to different needs including reablement, dementia and palliative care together with more options for short-term shared care to support people to live well at home” Carter said.
“As a technology person it’s a very interesting time to be involved with aged care – there’s a significant amount of change coming and the opportunity is enormous.”