Wearable and other sensors should automatically monitor and transmit data on all aged care residents’ health and wellbeing to allow for rapid detection of problems and prompts to intervene.

That’s among a proposal submitted to the aged care royal commission for a data-based aged care system that automatically updates from a team of actuaries at Australian Projections.

The quality of care data could help consumers, providers and regulators, and treating professionals and researchers, they say.

The proposal responds to the submission senior counsel assisting Peter Gray made to royal commissioners on 4 March.

In it he called for the Australian Government to implement a standardised data collection program designed on the ‘collect once, use many times’ principle and to inform longitudinal evaluation at the user, provider, and system levels.

Australian Projections director and submission co-author Dr Richard Cumpston said they strongly supported Mr Gray’s proposal and have suggested how it could be implemented through automatic monitoring and artificial intelligence.

Under their proposal, care data are transmitted to a central agency and the provider, and automatically-generated messages go to the provider where a residents seems to need help, he said.

We suggest using automated monitoring or residents, which might increase the volume of aged care data by about 10,000 times,”

Dr Richard Cumpston

“This is about 10,000 times the data generated by the present system,” Dr Cumpston told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Wearables and other devices including wristbands and bed and wall sensors could monitor residents’ weight, pulse, temperature, movement and lack of movement, for example, he said.

Once a resident’s data has been recorded and transmitted, the staff at the aged care facility should be told if there is a problem emerging so they can take action and improve the care of residents, Dr Cumpston said.  

“They could get a warning message that someone’s temperature had changed or a message that weight loss was moving in bad way, Dr Cumpston said.

Those in charge of the aged care system should also be informed so they can take action if a provider doesn’t address any problems, he said.

Automatic monitoring should extend to non-physical measures, such as the drugs residents are prescribed, he said.

“If you find there is a strong correlation between a particular drug and very little movement, I am pretty sure it’s a sign it is being overused to sedate patients.”

Filling a data gap

For this system to be useful, everybody should be monitored.

“You do your testing on smaller scales but to run the aged care industry, which is a complex industry, you need data from everybody.

“And you want it automatically measured because ultimately it is far cheaper than manual measurement,” Dr Cumpston said.

Automatic monitoring also gives you much more information for just about every purpose, he said.

“One of the things I was surprised about when I did the figures was how very little information was collected about aged care.

“You could take the amount of data that is generated each year over the whole industry and you multiple it by 1,000 times and it would still fit into a high capacity mobile phone,” Dr Cumpston said.

A system with a lot of data, which can’t be tampered with, will improve the care of individuals and benefit the system overall, he said.

“The more you know about the 200,000 people in residential aged care, the more you can find weak points in the way they have been treated.

“You can find areas where more research is needed. There is just so much more you can do if you have more data.”

Proposal needs high-level backing

Dr Cumpston said implementing this major change for the industry would need to be government-led.

“It will take a major push from someone like the royal commission because at the moment the health department is very resistant to any change.”

Every step of the way would have to be heavily researched, he said.

“There’s no way in the world you’re going to go out and buy 200,000 gadgets to go on patients’ beds until they have been shown to be scientifically effective  and won’t break, or injure patients.

“Lots of things would have to be checked out. None of which would be quick,” Dr Cumpston said.

Access the submission here.

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1 Comment

  1. I hope someone is going to ask the residents how they feel about this. We are supposed to be promoting choice and dignity. Many consumers will be resistant to these tracking technologies for privacy reasons and others, with or without cognitive impairment, don’t like wearing wristbands or other devices.
    Also, who is going to pay for all this? 56% of aged care operations are making a loss already (before Covid 19) and the government doesn’t seem to be keen to fund any additional staff or care.
    I am not averse to innovation – we introduce new ways of working all the time, and this includes a lot of new technologies. I am against wasting money and upsetting consumers to adopt a Big Brother approach which will result in a huge amount of extra administration from the government to the RAC and therefore less one on one care.

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