The Aged Care Industry Technology Council (ACIITC) is calling for an improved interface between home and community care providers and government as part of its vision for the future of the sector.

Anne Livingstone, chair of the council’s national home care group, provided an overview of ACIITC’s submission to the royal commission at the ITAC conference in Brisbane.

The submission, handed to the commission last October, says the aged care industry is in an era of unprecedented change. But it says there has been a “concerning lack of attention to enhancing technology uptake” and innovative approaches to aged care by funders, policy makers and providers.

Speaking to Community Care Review from the conference, Ms Livingstone said technology and innovation underpins consumer directed care, independent living, workforce skilling and business administration.

Anne Livingstone adresses the ITAC conference.

“A lot of our work is talking about the consumer focus in technology and the operational issues. One of the key pain points of all our discussions within the council is that of improving business to government,” she said.

“That interface of government technologies to business technologies and the way things are implemented, the positioning of vendors to be able to respond to change but also the duplication of requirement.

“Reporting requirements are often the same but duplicated in many different forms, so we’re really looking at streamlining it.

“There are a lot of areas where systems-to-systems aren’t working. We need to think more strategically about incorporating technology and innovation as core underpinning principles in the delivery of aged and community care.”

The submission outlines opportunities for technology to enhance quality and safety and calls for the development of an ITC funding and investment agenda.

Ms Livingstone says the submission draws heavily on the council’s 2017 Technology Roadmap for Aged and Community Care, calling for more evidence, digital inclusion, consideration of ethical and legal consideration and systems readiness, as well as more collaboration between government and business.

“Our submission to the commission really highlighted all those technologies that are almost now all proven to make an impact, to improve quality, safety but they aren’t really on the landscape of service delivery,” she said.

Risk of failing to innovate

The ACIITC submission says “failure to fund and manage improved uptake of technology and adoption of innovation in a proactive way carries significant risk and represents a loss of opportunity to deliver better quality, safer services, to make more effective use of resources and to achieve a range of workforce productivity outcomes”.

It identifies a series of aged related technologies that can benefit the industry including:

  • Enhanced independent living
  • Monitoring and smart home technologies
  • Fall detection and management
  • Management of chronic disease via telemedicine, telehealth and telecare technologies
  • Medication management
  • Dementia support
  • Social connection
  • Increased support for family caregivers

It also identifies barriers. Among them are a failure to embed technology as a core feature of aged care and existence of service silos, particularly between aged care and health.

It also points to an aged care funding model that fails to acknowledge the investment the sector needs to make in technology, innovation, research and development.

“Our call to the commission was really focusing on research, focusing on greater uptake and focussing on improving business to government,” Ms Livingstone told Community Care Review.

“We’re calling for a greater consideration of investment in technology and innovation, a significant need to focus on continuing research.

But that doesn’t mean more pilots, she says.

“We’ve had enough pilots that have indicated success and failure too and the lessons learned. We need to go forward and start to mainstream that into delivery.”

Under investment and lack of direction

In a witness statement to the Royal Commission, ACIITC independent chair Dr George Margelis, who also addressed the conference on Tuesday, said the councils was goaded to act when it became apparent that the Aged and Community Care Sector Committee’s 2016 Aged and Community Care Roadmap failed to mention innovation and technology.

He says that highlighted the need for further research to understand the impact and opportunities of technological disruption and innovation for the Aged and Community care industry, which prompted the release of ACIITC’s roadmap.

In his statement Dr Margelis tells the commission there is still scant investment and a lack of strategic focus within the aged and community care sector into the uptake of technology and innovation.

“The ACIITC remains concerned about the under-investment and lack of strategic direction and focus at a critical time in the development of the Aged and Community Care industry,” he says.

ACIITC has prioritised a number of projects around digital maturity and will release a report that Dr Margelis says will effectively be  a Technology Roadmap for the Aged and Community Care Industry 2.0.

It will position the industry for the provision of  “innovative, evidence based and cost-effective services and support for older Australians and their carers”, he says.

To date no commitment had been given by the government to pursue any of these essential projects required to ensure that the aged and community care sector is well placed for the future, Dr Margelis says in the submission.

Research partnership

On Tuesday ACIITC also used the ITAC conference to announce it is partnering with the national digital health research centre and industry stakeholders to create more sustainable and higher quality aged care.

The partnership involves the ACIITC joining the Digital Health Co-operative Research Centre and provider peak bodies the Aged Care Guild and Aged & Community Services Australia to tackle aged care’s most critical issues through digital technologies and innovation.

Dr Margelis told the conference the partnership recognised the need to improve the uptake and incorporation of innovation, technology and digital advancement.

“We are very excited by this new partnership because it gives opportunity to provide Australian content around the evidence base for the value of technology for aged care,” he told delegates.

Ms Livingstone warns if the sector doesn’t step up consumers will vote with their own technology.

“We’ve got to be able to interact with the sorts of technologies that people have in their own homes, smart technology, smart phones and smart households, she says.

“That’s the reality that we can really open with smart technology, to open the window for great reform in service delivery.”

She says ACIITC has recently undertaken a gap analysis of evidence around technology and innovation and what it means for aged care services.

“All the regulation and framework needs to have a digital lense put on it,” she says.

“We are living in a digital age and we need compliance and regulation to relate and interact with that environment, and that needs a review,” she said.

“The council’s very interested in being part of that review process.”

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