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Provider stages technology boot camp to support other organisations

In what is likely a first for the sector, an aged care provider synonymous with the use of ICT is staging its own two-day workshop to share its knowledge on technology use in aged and community care with fellow providers.

Feros CEO Jennene Buckley said her organisation was hosting the ‘Smart Technologies Boot camp’ to help build the capability of other aged care providers in the use of smart technologies, and to shape the future models of aged service provision.

Jennene Buckley

Jennene Buckley

As Australian Ageing Agenda has previously reported, despite almost a decade of demonstration sites and international evidence showing the capabilities of technologies to improve aged and community care, the uptake of ICT remains patchy across the sector.

Ms Buckley said that adoption of ICT required significant time and investment, as it involved research, pilots and evaluation. The upcoming workshop aimed to give participants a headstart by sharing the experience Feros has had with the range of products available, she said.

“We want to share the opportunities we see for the use of the technologies, but also our lessons learned and implementation recommendations. We can help fast-track the evaluation process and provide practical information to support organisations to start using these technologies,” Ms Buckley told AAA.

The workshop also aimed to stimulate excitement among providers about the role that technology can play in service transformation, she said.

Feros is seen as a leader in the adoption of ICT in the aged care sector, its efforts recognised last year with the 2014 Aged & Community Services Australia’s National Awards for Excellence. It was one of the first aged care providers in Australia to establish telehealth services using a range of smart technologies.

Reasons for poor uptake of ICT

Commenting on the highly variable uptake of ICT across the sector, Ms Buckley said there were several factors at play including the time and investment required, as well as a lack of government direction.

“Implementing technology-based service models is like nothing we have ever done before, it is not a ‘bolt on’ product, it introduces new risks, new skill sets, new costs, new systems. Many of the technologies are emerging, so they are not perfect and require systematic evaluation and feedback to vendors and product developers,” she said.

Compounding that, the unfolding reforms in the sector meant some organisations were primarily focussed on responding to change. “The reform agenda is both an exciting and an exhausting time for us all. For some organisations, technology is definitely on their radar, but just not a priority.”

Another factor in the patchy uptake of ICT was government support, with little mention of in the Productivity Commission 2011 report or the Living Longer Living Better reforms, Ms Buckley said:

“There does not appear to be a serious policy agenda on the role technology will play in future aged care models. Apart from the NBN pilots, there has not been much leadership from government in this area and I’m not sure they see it as their responsibility to help build the IT capacity of the sector. It is shame that we don’t see an innovative pool of funding targeted for technology-based service models. Maybe this will come in future.”

Lessons learned: advice to providers

Elsewhere, Ms Buckley said that during its ICT adoption process Feros had learned that technology needed to be a key strategy within the organisation and that funding had to be set aside for research and development.

“Any new technology requires proper project management processes and evaluation, considering ethics, consents, outcomes measures. It is not about throwing technology in for the sake of it. We need to know what it is trying to achieve, did it achieve it and is it viable and sustainable.”

She also suggested that organisations ensure there were resources available to support the end user of the technology, particularly if the end users were senior clients.

Further, each technology deployed needed to make financial sense, therefore good information should be collected during the pilot stage so that a business case could be considered for broader deployment, Ms Buckley said. “For example, smart home technologies are affordable and can be included easily within a package of care; telehealth on the other hand is expensive and not so easy to deploy widely without targeted funding. You need to know your costs and make sure they are being recovered.”

Finally, she suggested that providers “celebrate the wins.” Showcasing the results would stimulate excitement among the staff about the next innovation, Ms Buckley said.

The Smart Technologies Boot camp takes place on 27-28 August in Tweed Heads, NSW.

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