Community care providers need to adopt new forms of technology such as integrated online assessments and video conferencing to meet the challenges of an ageing population, according to an expert in geriatric medicine.

In the inaugural Warwick Bruen Memorial Lecture at Aged and Community Services Australia’s (ACSA) Community Care Conference on the Gold Coast, the University of Queensland’s Professor Len Gray said a radical re-think of current practice is needed.

Professor Gray already conducts video consultations with geriatric patients at Toowoomba Hospital from his office at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

He says the older patients have adjusted well to the new technology, with 47 per cent saying they feel more comfortable having televised conversations with a doctor than one that face to face discussions.

“As a doctor,” he said, “you are forced to pay attention when you are having a consultation over a video link up. It’s one to one and quite intimate.”

Professor Gray also spoke about the benefits of the next generation of multidisciplinary assessment tools which combine a number of basic core items with setting specific programming.

“It opens the door to multi-dimensional assessments that can be shared in different settings,” he said.

“This type of technology has been available since 2005 but it has never been implemented, partly because the health system continues to operate as a series of silos.

“But some countries, including Canada and Belgium, are looking into it.”

Professor Gray said the take up of new technology would be driven by a demographic imperative.

In 40 years, the ratio of working aged people to those aged 85 and over will drop dramatically from 38 to 1, to 12 to 1.

“People are already talking about the high workload and the difficulties in managing staffing arrangements today,” said Professor Gray.

“The logic follows that to get the work done in the future without changing anything, we are going to have to work three times as hard as we do now. It just doesn’t add up. We need to do things differently.” 

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