Providers need to find ways to encourage consumers to invest in their own care or else they rely on government funding that won’t keep pace, says CEO.
The regulations governing aged care have served to keep sector quality at the minimum acceptable standards, but the unfolding reforms mean providers will have to innovate in order to survive, a sector leader has said.
The controls on residential aged care places and prices resulted in little incentive for providers to improve their offerings above minimum safety standards, given consumers had little real choice between services, according to Gary Barnier, CEO of Opal Aged Care.
But as the sector was further reformed, aged care providers would need to invest in innovation and improved customer services in order to compete and survive, Mr Barnier told the Future of Aged Care conference in Sydney yesterday.
“Providers need to find ways to encourage consumers to invest in their own care or else they rely on government funding that won’t keep pace,” he said.
Providers that pulled back on quality due to government decisions would fail, he cautioned.
Opal had created additional premium wellness services and products that consumers could pay for, which it was hoped would help offset the recent ACFI cuts. “The outcome has been pretty mixed, to be honest,” he said. Australians were used to accepting the minimum acceptable standard and were struggling with the concept of having choice and paying for extras.
More broadly, there were poor perceptions of aged care products and services amongst consumers, he said.
“Residential care is the second biggest grudge purchase in your life after your funeral; people don’t understand it; they’re frightened of it. We haven’t done a great job of explaining it,” said Mr Barnier.
Similarly Catherine Daley, CEO of integratedliving, said her organisation’s experience with CDC was that there were a number of instances where family members refused to pay for clinical interventions for the client.
Challenges are an international experience: expert
Elsewhere, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said that care globally was struggling to deliver services as needs were increasing and resources were shrinking.
The key challenges facing the sectors in the UK and Australia were workforce, economic challenges, increasing levels of dementia, long-term conditions and comorbidities, and caring for diverse and disparate communities.
“We’re also seeing families starting to fragment, which is happening everywhere and is a real issue as traditionally families took up the caring role,” said Professor Green.
The opportunities for providers and policy makers lay in greater integrating of health and social care, more mixed and flexible business models, greater use of partnerships, and better health prevention programs to encourage people to age well, he said.
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