An aged care researcher has been awarded a $1.3 million fellowship to develop a better monitoring and benchmarking system for the aged care sector.

The five-year study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grant will look at quality and safety indicators that providers can use to benchmark against their counterparts.

Grant recipient and epidemiologist  Associate Professor Maria Inacio from the University of South Australia and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute said she hoped to understand aged care better to help providers.

“The aim is for us to provide a better way for us to understand the aged care sector and provide information direct to the providers that allows them to understand how they’re performing and how they compare to other people in the sector,” Associate Professor Inacio told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Associate Professor Maria Inacio

“The focus is to give the provider information they find helpful and useful and that they can act on and  trust,” said Professor Inacio, director of the Registry of Senior Australians.

The study expands on the work Professor Inacio has undertaken with ROSA, the national database identifying how aged care services affect people’s health and wellbeing.

“The Registry of Senior Australians has been developing what we call the outcome monitoring system for the aged care sector… to develop a set of indicators that allows us to get a better sense of some of the current practices in care,” Professor Inacio said.

ROSA has also developed a reporting structure for providers to use for benchmarking, she said.

“With the support of this grant, we are expanding the work on that to disseminate the reports to providers to do something around the best ways to case-mix adjust these indicators because that’s a very sensitive and concerning area for a lot of the providers,” she said.

Professor Inacio said the project would first focus on falls, pressure injuries and antipsychotic use before expanding to other indicators, including unplanned hospitalisations and premature mortality.

There is an identified need to improve current methods of monitoring aged care, she said.

“Since July of 2019, there’s been a quality indicator program that has been implemented from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, however that program only captures three indicators,” she said.

The National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program collects information on pressure injuries, use of physical restraint and unplanned weight loss.

“It asks providers to provide data about it, but it is not case-mix adjusted, so essentially facilities that are very different have been compared to each other and it’s still not transparent to the consumer,” Professor Inacio said.

Developing better methods to monitor aged care will also allow providers to learn from each other to lift quality.

“The idea is to identify the poor performing or the ones that might not be delivering high-quality care as well as those that are very high performing to understand what it is that they do so we can learn from that,” she said.

Professor Inacio said she would like to see her project make a difference to everyone in the industry.

“Better care for the actual individuals, a better reporting system and a better benchmarking system for the providers; that’s what we want,” she said.

The study is expected to end in 2025.

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