Home care providers lack knowledge of reforms

Confusion and uncertainty surround the incoming home care reforms, say industry experts.

Confusion and uncertainty surround the incoming home care reforms, say industry experts.

Greg O’Loan

Appearing on a webinar hosted by Australian Ageing Agenda, Greg O’Loan – regional vice-president of tech company Epicor – said providers “are still somewhat confused with the changes that are coming and what the priority it is that they must focus on. You can’t prioritise when you’re not clear on what you need to do. To have a plan, you need to understand. Our customers really want certainty, that’s what I’m hearing.”

According to a Department of Health and Aged Care stakeholder survey last year, only a quarter of home care providers were well aware of the incoming reforms.

“Organisations aren’t necessarily aware of what’s going to hit them – and this is significant change. It’s not insubstantial,” said Mr O’Loan.

Moderated by Natasha Egan – editor of Australian Ageing Agenda and Community Care Review – the 90-minute discussion­, entitled Deep Dive into Home Care Reforms, tried to ready providers for the new system, which will come into play from 1 July 2024.

Topics discussed included:

  • what providers can do now
  • the risks and opportunities
  • the consumer experience
  • technological considerations.
Jason Howie

Also appearing on the webinar was principal consultant at Pride Living Jason Howie. He said providers were still processing the limited information available “to try and get a bit of a sense of the direction we’re headed. There’s a lot of reading of tea leaves going on across the industry at the moment.”

What information was out there was “pretty thin on detail,” said Mr Howie. There has been a few clues as to what the economic model will look like, he added, “but not a lot of detail yet.”

Michaela Brown

From a provider perspective, Michaela Brown – chief operating officer at Home Caring – agreed that operators were uncertain about the changes – as were clients. To help ease anxieties, Home Caring is reaching out to its customers to try and explain the reforms. “We’re engaging with our clients to let them know changes are coming.”

The webinar took place last Wednesday – which marked the second anniversary of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety being tabled in parliament.

The royal commissioners found a concerning level of substandard care, unacceptably long wait times for home care packages, a decade of underfunding and a system failing due to poor quality providers and systemic flaws in design and governance.

As a result, there is a lot of change underway in the home care sector.

On top of increased reporting requirements, in the last few months there’s been the introduction of a Code of Conduct for workers, the expansion of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to include the home care sector and a cap placed on both care management and package management fees in the Home Care Packages program.

There are also many more changes on the way. Coming in July 2024 is a new Aged Care Act – and a new model for regulating aged care that supports the new act.

Mr Howie warned providers not to think of the reforms as “a silver bullet” that will fix all the problems the industry is facing.

Whichever funding model the government decides to adopt will “be a rehash of something that we’ve done previously,” he said. “And I would suggest we’re probably going to be looking at all the same problems that previous iterations of the system had.”

The reforms – which will most likely mirror the model adopted by the National Disability Insurance Scheme – “are not going to fundamentally change the shape of the industry,” said Mr Howie.

Under the NDIS model, the hour of service is funded, Mr Howie explained to the 680 online viewers. “That will have particular implications,” said Mr Howie. “It will commoditise services because everybody will be delivering services at the same price – in which case everybody’s going to be delivering much the same service.”

There was, said Mr Howie, a “fundamental problem” with the NDIS-style economic model in that “it will remove choice from the system in its entirety.”

Clients will feel as if they have choice as they will be able to pick between providers, said Mr Howie, “but each organisation will be delivering pretty much the same thing.”

This, said Mr Howie, “will remove innovation from the system … and it will also, I believe, drive costs up in the short-term in the same way as it has with the NDIS. It perversely incentivises the system to increase the hours of service to each individual customer. It is not a fiscally more responsible system than what we’ve currently got in place.”

The industry needs to be moving towards a system “where both the economic incentives and the regulatory incentives and expectations of the community are driving in the same direction,” said Mr Howie.

“And from what I’ve seen to this point in time I think community expectations and the regulatory system are going to be driving in one direction and I’m quite concerned that the economic system that we’re setting up is going to be driving in a different direction.”

“Get big, get niche or get out.”

The webinar – which is available to watch here upon registration – concluded with the panellists offering providers advice on how to ensure they’re ready for the reforms.

“Be agile,” said Ms Brown. “And be open to technology and the ways it can transform your business. Be open with your customers and really focus on what you’re good at and that will help you in years to come when it does open up to more market competitiveness.”

Mr O’Loan suggested providers have a strong understanding of what needs to be done to adapt to the reforms. “Find the individuals within your organisation who can advise you – if not, look to experts externally … Counsel widely and ensure you’re appointing individuals within your organisation who can understand, comprehend and articulate what needs to be done.”

Mr Howie’s parting advice for providers borrowed from an earlier quote from Mr O’Loan: “Get big, get niche or get out.”

Main image left to right: Natasha Egan, Jason Howie, Greg O’Loan and Michaela Brown

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Tags: aged-care-reform, deep dive into home care reform, featured, Greg O'Loan, home-care, jason-howie, michaela-brown, webinar,

2 thoughts on “Home care providers lack knowledge of reforms

  1. Very true! Nobody knows anything about anything yet!
    Unless reforms can change anything for the better, what’s the point?
    So much money, time and resources have been wasted over several years, and still no one is better off, other than obviously keeping “officials” in jobs!
    And where pray tell is there any genuine consideration for the end user who’s most impacted?
    Our voices are muted again! On behalf of HCP consumer forums.
    “Nothing about us without us “

  2. Each provider may be delivering the same service but they will not all be delivering it in the SAME WAY. Thisis wheret. Some will have trained staff who work consistently with the same client-form relationships with the care recipient. and improve their quality of life., On other occasions workers will turn up at a client’s home , untrained in any aspect of care, with no knowledge of the recipient’s background, and expect the client to give them help. They may even turn up hours before or after the original plan. This is where the differences in providers will be noticed and passed on by word of mouth to others seeking care. Also it would be ideal if ALL providers interpretated the rules and regulations in the same way–it is confusing for clients to understand what they are supposed to be paying for, as sometimes they are currently being asked to pay for services not actually provided.-cancelled because staff not available. I am not saying a major proportion of providers fit into the second category but there are some -enough to make people think twice about the aged care system-just as I do not expect providers (or their advisors) to say consumers are causing problems because they want things they do not need. In my experience there are very few people who fit into that category. At present, there are more people struggling to get basic services at the beginning of their journey than earlier.

    It is a two way street – consumers depend on providers to assist them in later life but at the same time providers need clients who will know they can expect quality care
    delivered in a timely, respectful manner. Many of the reforms envisaged need an increase in the workforce – There needs to be a change in the community culture so that older people are still respected as people who have lived longer than many others.

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