When replacing IT systems, aged care providers must decide between one that does everything or integrating a series of best in their field, writes Mark Sheldon-Stemm.

The aged care royal commission recommendations have outlined the need for a greater level of information technology (IT) systems in aged care to support decision-making and provide an increased level of care for residents.

To meet the new requirements aged care providers will need to review their IT strategies and decide which systems will best suit their future needs.

Current systems available in aged care

When looking at the current systems in aged care the focus is on clinical care solutions as these provide the basis for resident information and the ability to claim funding.

Having installed, worked with or reviewed most of the current clinical care systems in aged care, the prognosis is not particularly good. Most of them could be referred to as Aged Care Funding Instrument optimisers designed to collect data to maximise funding from ACFI.

There are, however, a few newer systems coming into the market focused on collecting the data to operate a good clinical care system and these operate many levels above most of the current software being used.

Future IT options

Mark Sheldon-Stemm

One thing is clear about the future use of IT in aged care, there are lots of different parts that need to be considered.

Apart from the clinical care system an aged care provider must also have systems to cover such things as medication management, client feedback, advance care directives, hospitality and food services and so on.

Best of breed versus big bang

When changing or updating their systems, aged care providers must decide whether there is one system that does everything or there are systems that are best practice in their area and can talk to each other.

The other consideration is cost. The new world of IT is not about spending millions on new systems where you pay upfront and take ages to install, but rather pay as you go systems that are user ready, affordable and match your income stream.

The best of breed solution is one where the core system is the clinical or care system and it can either link to or pass data amongst other systems that specialise in areas such as medication management, client feedback and so on.

The big bang solution is one system that does all this. 

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

The best-of-breed approach provides the most up-to-date specialised systems while the big bang approach provides a one-stop shop and dealing with the one software provider.

As most of the current systems come to the end of their useful life, aged care providers will have to consider their future needs.

The key decision to make is whether you will you take a best of breed or big bang approach.

There is a lot at stake and decisions such as these are not easily made.

Perhaps the old idiom of “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” is worth considering. And watch out for the sales pitch of “yes, our system will do all of that for you, no problem”.

Our experiences in life should tell us which way to head.

Mark Sheldon-Stemm is an aged care specialist and principal at Research Analytics.

A longer version of this article appears in the current edition of Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (Jul-Aug 2021), which is accessible via a print or digital subscription.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article Mark.
    I think your point “however, a few newer systems coming into the market focused on collecting the data to operate a good clinical care system and these operate many levels above most of the current software being used.” is a really good one.
    Aged care providers need to try and break free from the shackles of accepting what they have and look to improve the technology they use for better care, staff and accountability outcomes.
    When it comes to the big bang solution. Happily contemporary technology solutions provide greater levels of interoperability with other solutions and even competitors. This needs to be a key question that providers ask when assessing potential solutions. That said, when working with providers I am mindful of the challenge in change and training of staff so too many systems can be overwhelming. Striking the right balance in important.

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