Aged care providers should offer ongoing education and training on new and emerging technologies to attract and retain staff, a technology forum has heard.
A panel of international experts discussed their experiences of digitally-enabled aged care at the ITAC September 2021 International Forum on Thursday.
Professor Andrea Maier, a professor of medicine and health ageing at the National University of Singapore, advocated for a greater focus on educating and upskilling aged care workers to use technology.
“To attract individuals, to have attractive jobs that combine technology with aged care, [and] on the other hand also to find the right employees who would like to take on that job, I think there is an important emphasis there that should be on education and lifelong learning,” Professor Maier told the forum on Thursday.
Being a digital native is not enough to use aged care technology, she said.
“Just being okay with using the internet… doesn’t mean that you know software programs or you know hardware programs. So it’s very important that the lifelong learning and the education is integrated and in every healthcare system,” she said.
Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology and business strategy of United States aged care peak body LeadingAge, said the organisation told its members to use technology to attract people into aged care.
“We’re encouraging our members to change their policies and use technology as a market differentiator to attract [staff], especially millennials. I believe that the largest pool that we can pull from are the millennials,” Mr Alwan told the forum.
“That generation is not only comfortable with technology, they grew up with it… I always jokingly say they’re more willing to give up a left pinkie than give up their smart devices,” he said.
“How do we expect them to come and work in an environment where they have to go back to pen and paper and waste time?” Mr Alwan said.
Mr Alwan said aged care providers in the US struggled to attract staff because workers can get better pay in the acute care sector.
LeadingAge is focusing on identifying case studies where technology has improved efficiencies for staff and led to staff satisfaction and reduced turnover, he said.
Lack of funding hinders technology adoption
University of Toronto associate vice president of international partnerships Alex Mahailidis said Canada had the same issues attracting aged care staff as the US.
However, a bigger issue is the lack of digital infrastructure in Canadian aged care homes, he said.
“You can still walk into a long-term care home in a major city here like Toronto or another urban centre and there’s not even Wi-Fi in that long-term care home,” Mr Mahailidis said.
Aged care health professionals are “the only one still using… archaic technologies right now” because aged care providers are “quite resistant” to adopting new technology, he said.
“I don’t think that’s from a lack of wanting to. It’s a lack of funding,” Mr Mahailidis said.
“We can’t fund our long-term care workers a proper wage let alone try to buy some new pieces of technology that could probably make everyone’s lives safer, better, more efficient, more effective, and at the end of the day, probably help long-term care homes to actually improve in terms of the quality of care they’re providing.”
Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council chair of the National Home Care Group Anne Livingstone said there was a push for a digitally enabled aged care in Australia.
“Yet we’re not investing in the very workers or the clients that are being faced with some digital thirst without having the digital literacy to embrace that opportunity,” Ms Livingstone said.
Digital gaps in aged care exist for the frontline workers as well as older people trying to navigate the digital landscape.
“My Aged Care really requires an older person and their families to equally be digitally literate,” she said.
“Across the spectrum, we need investment. But like every other country, the financial viability and sustainability of our sector is challenged, so unless we actually [get] dedicated funding to enhance the sector’s digital maturity, I don’t know how it’s going to come about,” she said.
The ITAC September 2021 International Forum took place on 23 September.
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