Aged care providers and consumer representatives say that many of the changes to the quality system being considered by the Department of Health are sensible and logical in light of the reforms to the sector.
But they stress they are keen to work with the department as the proposals, still in their early stages, are further developed and tested.
Last week the department outlined its current thinking on streamlining quality assurance in the sector, as it moves toward a single quality framework for aged care.
As Australian Ageing Agenda reported, the changes would see aged care providers face different levels of quality assessment depending on their history of compliance and the nature of their services (read that story here).
Leading Age Services Australia said that it supports initiatives that help consumers make informed choices, reduce red tape, including duplication across the system, and lead to a single quality framework.
“LASA is keen to work with the department on its review of the aged care quality assessment process and the co-design of an improved system-wide process for assessing facilities and services,” CEO Sean Rooney told AAA.
Aged & Community Services Australia said it supported the notion of recognising providers for continued excellence in service delivery, but noted there could be numerous external factors affecting an organisation’s performance in past assessments.
“As long as these factors are taken into account, we support measures to streamline quality processes, while ensuring the overall quality of services,” said ACSA chief Pat Sparrow.
Ian Yates, chief executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, said there was a logic to the idea of having different levels of assessment and approval to become a registered provider, given services could range from lawn mowing to high-level home nursing.
Reducing regulatory burden
Of the proposal that the department take into account an aged care provider’s performance on other quality schemes, such as disability or healthcare, Ms Sparrow said this would sensibly reduce the regulatory burden on both providers and accrediting bodies.
“There are a number of aged care providers delivering a diverse range of services across multiple sectors, each with their own accrediting systems. On top of this, some providers have chosen to undertake independent assessment with other quality systems accrediting agencies. Mutual recognition of compliance with like standards of accreditation is logical,” she said.
The department has also said it was interested in what further quality information should be made available on My Aged Care, beyond the accreditation and compliance information for residential services which is currently published.
Mr Yates said it is crucial that information is in comparable forms, under some basic categories.
It is also important that the website is not “flooded” with information to the point consumers could not make meaningful comparisons, he added.
“And there’s a distinction between what’s on the website and what’s accessible through the website – for example, the ability to print off a PDF of a fees list,” said Mr Yates.
Ms Sparrow said that improving the quality of information available online should be a priority for government, and ACSA would work with the department wherever possible to make this happen.
Trip Advisor-style features?
Mr Yates said that while successive aged care ministers had suggested that My Aged Care might adopt some “Trip Advisor type functions”, it was not clear if that was the role of government.
“The position we have floated, and it’s just in discussions at this point, is that rather than the government running and moderating a Trip Advisor-style site, provider and consumer peaks might work with government to set criteria which would in effect accredit certain ratings schemes. Then on My Aged Care, facilities could say they belong to these ratings schemes, and consumers could go and look at them.”
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