Investment needed for sector to become digitally mature

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A lack of investment is stifling digital innovation in the aged care sector, say industry experts.

Appearing on a webinar hosted by Australian Ageing Agenda on Wednesday, Gary McDonald – senior account manager at software vendor Epicor – was keen to stress the importance of investment in innovation. “Whether that is out in the field or whether that’s back offices, it doesn’t really matter, you’ve got to spend that time on investment.”

Gary McDonald

Mr McDonald said investment wasn’t so much of a problem for the bigger players in the sector. “They have the infrastructure, they have the size to be able to put all of that money into creating that innovation. It’s the midsize and the smaller ones that have a bit more of a struggle – probably a lot more of a struggle.”

Also on the panel, George Margelis – independent chair of the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council – said providers had an appetite to digitally transform, “but the ability to do so is being hindered by a lack of investment.”

He said other investment considerations often took priority. “Workforce being critical at the moment.”

Webinar host Natasha Egan

Moderated by Natasha Egan – editor of Australian Ageing Agenda and Community Care Review – the 90-minute discussion, entitled a Deep Dive into Aged Care Digital Transformation, touched on a number of topics including digital maturity, government transparency, data security, and the workforce.

Joining Mr McDonald and Dr Margelis on the panel, were Lorraine Poulos – managing director of aged care consultancy LPA, and Rob Covino – founder of aged care consultancy Mirus Australia.

Lorraine Poulos

The webinar – which can be viewed here – livestreamed a day after the release of the final report of the Aged Care Taskforce, which made mention of the importance of innovation.

“I thought it was really exciting that one of the recommendations was around innovation for monitoring – particularly of clinical care issues in home care,” said Ms Poulos.

Dr Margelis was also excited by the report’s mention of innovation. “We have been pushing for the fact that aged care needs to innovate, to do things differently, because the model we’ve had is stagnating.”

George Margelis

He added that the cohort the sector is catering to is changing. “The baby boomer generation is very different to the post-war generation.”

But innovation for innovation’s sake is not the outcome the ACIITC is seeking, said Dr Margelis. “Innovation for quality, safety and improvement is what we want to see.”

Acknowledging that innovation is fundamental for developing sustainable and more effective services, Mr Covino said the report “is a great consideration for something that we can work forward on.”

Asked for his response to the taskforce report, Mr McDonald said: “Like any software provider we’re looking for the outcomes from the government decisions because we’re not going to put our investment dollars into anything we don’t know is really going to happen.”

Rob Covino

Mr Covino agreed. “For all the vendors out there, to make these commitments on investment, on unknown areas, is very hard. I can imagine, for a lot of global companies, they won’t change until they know the absolutes are there, and there in writing.”

Asked whether the sector was sufficiently digitally mature, Dr Margelis said some were, others weren’t. “And it isn’t necessarily related purely to size – not all large providers are digitally mature and not all small providers are digitally immature.” Digital maturity, said Dr Margelis, is driven by leadership and a commitment to reform.

Mr Covino encouraged providers to “start moving, take action. That’s probably where digital maturity for me can be summarised: just take a step, have that discussion – do something.”

Behind the scenes at the digital transformation webinar

If providers were unsure how to get started, Mr McDonald said they should bring in an expert to help them. “You want to go to people that know the industry, know the technology in the marketplace .”

Ms Poulos said providers will need “a robust  digital roadmap – you can make it complicated or simple.” Next, Ms Poulos suggested providers undertake a stocktake of software programs. “Are they still being used?”

She also urged providers to assess the organisation’s digital literacy. “Not only of your workforce but the end users. If you’re going to have resident engagement, how are you going to support them?”

When it comes to supporting the workforce around new technology, Ms Poulos said training was key. “Particularly for people that are perhaps not so familiar with IT, or it’s not part of their DNA.”      

Providers will need to train existing staff for newly created IT roles, said Dr Margelis. “Upskilling where needed and giving them the opportunity to do something different in the organisation.”

Digital transformation should be planned bit by bit

Gary McDonald

When asked to share their key takeaways with the online audience, Mr McDonald said: “Try not to take on too much at the start. Digital transformation should be planned bit by bit.”

Ms Poulos echoed the advice: “Baby steps – and also for stakeholders not to underestimate the ability of the sector to change.”

Mr Covino urged stakeholders to keep connected. “There are a lot of great innovations that you can tap into just by following companies on LinkedIn, [the Innovation Technology Across Care conference], George’s council – there are so many different resources out there.”  

The webinar concluded with Dr Margelis making an “unashamed plug”. “Come to ITAC. There will be hundreds of your peers on exactly the same journey of understanding what digital transformation is. But it doesn’t stop there. The conversation continues.”

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Tags: Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council, epicor, gary mcdonald, george margelis, lorraine poulos, LPA, mirus australia, Robert Covino,

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