Significant savings could be made in health and aged care expenditure by boosting government investment in assistive technology, new analysis shows.
The National Aged Care Alliance representing 50 aged care sector peak bodies and associations commissioned a review of the health and economic impacts of assistive devices, which was published last week.
The report found government investment in assistive technology products and services such as handrails, walkers, and adjustable beds represented value for money by reducing the need for GP visits, home care services and hospital admissions.
Further savings could also be achieved through delayed entry to residential care, the first-of-its-kind analysis showed.
The cost-benefit analysis estimated savings of between $60,000 and $300,000 per person over five years, based on frailty and needs.
However, for these savings to be realised, use of assistive technology must be introduced early and funding must cover initial upfront costs, the research found.
In all scenarios modelled, current government funding available for older people to use on assistive technology was insufficient to cover set up costs.
To address this funding shortfall, the report recommended doubling the annual government spend of $500 per client allowed under the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
The National Aged Care Alliance said the findings showed the government was failing to maximise the economic benefits of assistive technology products and complementary services such as allied health advice and coaching to support technology uptake.
Despite evidence showing the health and wellbeing benefits of assistive technology, these products were “under-utilised and under-funded,” the report said.
The alliance is calling on the government to set up a national assistive technology program covering both the aged care and disability sectors to address the current fragmented approach.
The report also recommends boosting awareness of aids and equipment among older people and providers and regulating the standards for second-hand assistive technology purchased with government aged care subsidies.
Many service providers lacked awareness of assistive technology and processes to support clients to access and use these devices as part of their home care package, the research said.
The report estimated less than a quarter of community care clients received funding to purchase assistive technology.
Read the NACA policy position paper and commissioned analysis here.
The project’s research report was conducted by researcher and policy analyst Dr Natasha Layton and seniors peak body COTA Australia.