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International experts target uptake of health technology that benefits aged care residents

Aged care sectors around the world remain slow to adopt policy initiatives and sophisticated advancements in electronic communications that have stimulated the adoption of technology in other healthcare sectors, international researchers have told a health conference in China.

Australia’s Professor Andrew Georgiou and Professor Johanna Westwood from Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation were among international experts on a panel at the recent World Medical Informatics conference in Hangzhou, China.

They joined their American and Norwegian counterparts to discuss the idle adoption rates of technology that could benefit residents in aged care facilities, a situation largely put down to a lack of financial resources, skilled people or vital partnerships for implementing and sustaining suitable technologies.

Professor Georgiou said the expert panel described international informatics initiatives that were addressing care and health needs of older people along with the challenges and opportunities to improve healthcare informatics for ageing populations.

In Australia, the sharing, coordination and integration of health information as promised by the Australian Government’s My Health Record has to co-exist with strategies for e-health literacy, he said.

“My Health Record will have a big effect if linked with GP and aged care facility records but it has to be owned by the person,” Professor Georgiou told AAA following his return from the conference.

“It needs to be integrated and the person needs to understand how it’s used. For example Pathology results can be hard to understand and they need to be explained and put into context for the person in aged care and the people caring for them.

“If it’s not communicated this way what’s the point of it?” he said.

Staff must also be trained to use the information effectively and monitoring and evaluation are also vital, Professor Georgiou said.

“Otherwise there is the danger of working on hearsay, so as a researcher one of my big issues as we go forward is to build in an evaluation framework.”

Professor Georgiou said that the long-term sustainability of technology in aged care relied on making it evidence based and relevant to its own setting.

“Up until now in aged care many systems used are those already used in hospital systems, where the operating environment is quite different.

“Hospital care is based on an episode where a person is admitted and hopefully gets better, compared to aged care which is continuous, not necessarily getting better but requiring coordination and monitoring of chronic conditions.

“A different model focusing on continuity is needed,” he said.

Australia’s collaborative research contribution was recognised at the conference.

Professor Georgiou said: “We made a good contribution and were good learners as well”.

The Health Informatics Society of Australia has secured hosting rights for the 2021 conference following the 2019 conference in Paris.

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