Innovation and enhanced technology must be included in all current and future aged care planning to reduce costs, increase efficiency and enhance quality of care, the AMA says in a position statement released this week.
Australia must actively seek evidence-based innovative ways to sustainably provide high quality care in the face of an ageing population with complex care needs.
Australian Medical Association President Dr Tony Bartone says the interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted deficiencies in the sector and uncovered an aged care system plagued by “rigid conformity and an absence of innovation”.
“Innovation is vital to improve the level of care provided, to deliver consumer-centred care, and enable the sustainability of the aged care system,” he said in a statement.
The position statement contains six principles covering resourcing, electronic records, medication management, assistive technology, communication and data.
“Australia must actively seek evidence-based innovative ways to sustainably provide high quality care in the face of an ageing population with complex care needs,” the statement says.
Improved monitoring and longer independent living
The AMA calls for more investment in assistive technologies, saying technology like wearable sensors, virtual reality testing and smartphones have helped monitor functionality in older people, detect falls and provide opportunities for longer independent living.
“Monitoring technologies provide opportunities for longer independent living of older people, a better focused and personalised care in both home care and residential aged care settings,” it says.
However it highlights the need for clear data privacy guidelines around sensor-based monitoring technology, wearable sensors and implantable technologies.
ehealth and telehealth
The position paper says electronic record keeping and information exchange between care settings is crucial because of the frequency with which older people move between aged care, primary care and acute care settings.
“Innovation is vital to improve the level of care provided, to deliver consumer-centred care, and enable the sustainability of the aged care system”
“Interoperability between My Health Record, My Aged Care, and clinical software systems would enable electronic health record sharing between the health and aged care systems,” the position statement says.
Communication technologies such as telehealth can also enhance access to GP services and improve health care access and outcomes for patients.
Improvement to My Aged Care
The position statement also urges improvements and changes to My Aged Care to recognise the responsibility of doctors in ensuring that patients are receiving services they have been referred to, and says it should become interoperable with clinical software systems.
“My Aged Care needs to be an efficient and effective way to gain access to aged care services,” the position statement says.
“It should not create a barrier to accessing aged care services, particularly for special needs groups.”
Medication management can also be improved via digital health and clinical informatics.
“Digital health and clinical informatics application to medication management can bring improvements to how medication is prescribed, dispensed and information shared between health care, aged care, and pharmacies, reduce mismanagement of medication and avoid polypharmacy in aged care,” the position statement says.
The position statement also calls for more resourcing to facilitate technological innovation and says funding models should support evidence-based innovative technology.
“Investment in innovation is needed to ensure that mainstream developments are accessible to all those accessing aged care services, not just those who can afford them,” the position statement says.
However the AMA also stresses that implementation of technology should not replace human care and human engagement.
“Adequate staffing numbers and appropriate mix of care staff skills is a continuous resourcing requirement in aged care,” it says
Peaks back call for innovation
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow welcomed the AMA’s statement, saying technology and innovation is key focus for the organisation.
“This is a key focus area of ours because we understand that technology has the potential to bring great improvements to aged care, but realise we must also understand the risks and challenges that come with those improvements,” she told Community Care Review.
ACSA was already taking action and had recently signed an agreement with the Aged Care Guild and the Digital Health CRC to build relationships with start-ups and trial exciting new technologies, she said.
Leading Age Services Australia Acting Chief Advocate Tim Hicks backed the AMA’s call for more funding.
“Development and implementation of innovative technologies requires appropriate resourcing, and in rural and remote areas, access to high speed broadband is also an issue,” he told Community Care Review.
He said LASA is already taking action with the establishment of a new national Centre for Workforce Development and Innovation.
“This builds on and brings together a range of LASA initiatives, in direct response to issues highlighted during the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety,” Mr Hicks said.
He said LASA also supports the extension of MBS telehealth rebates to GPs for video consultations with residential aged care facilities.
“LASA …urges the Government to provide funding for GP telehealth video consultations as a matter of urgency,” Mr Hicks said.
Technology can also assist in care planning and coordination when multiple people are involved in a person’s care.
Read the full AMA position statement here.