Opinion: Aged care must provide a seamless digital experience

Aged care organisations need to create a connected environment in residential facilities in order to meet the demands of the modern Australian senior, writes Jeff Sheard.

Aged care organisations need to create a connected environment in residential facilities in order to meet the preferences of Australian seniors, writes Jeff Sheard.

Jeff Sheard
Jeff Sheard

As demand for aged care continues to expand, it is no longer just a matter of physical availability of rooms or apartments. Digitisation and the multitude of technological innovations that come with it are producing a new era of aged care residents – the tech-savvy senior.

Research shows seniors are relying on the internet for emails, checking accounts, paying bills, reading or viewing news, finding travel information, and monitoring and updating health and medical information.

This has forced a rethink of the services aged care must provide, and importantly, how they are provided. Aged care facilities are no longer just creators of seniors’ wellbeing communities. Their role transcends into the digital – they are expected to be providers of a connected life experience through which technology is used to evolve beyond the clichéd paradigm of the isolated and disconnected ‘home’.

Achieving that takes more than basic Wi-Fi and analogue telephony – aged care must be more proactive in addressing the need for a holistic technology environment that incorporates best-of-breed communications, applications and web services to complement and support the daily life of the tech savvy senior. Residents must be able to communicate with family, friends and doctors using high-definition video, manage medical records through personalised resources, and use mobile device apps for leisure and personal interest.

Residents with a reliance on various medications should receive personalised applications that send scheduled reminders to ensure correct dosages are taken at the right times, whether via smartphones, or even smart watches. The box in which these medications are stored can be linked to a Wi-Fi-enabled device that counts the remaining pills; should doses be missed, automated alarms would notify nurses.

Should a resident face a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, a sensory device that measures everything from heart rate to sudden jolts in movement would send real-time alerts to both caretakers and families with the necessary information to inform the best actions.

In the instance a resident requires assistance – whether basic or urgent – a specially-programmed smartwatch would allow them to request aid from a nearby caretaker within a few taps, eliminating the need to dial the facility’s administration or help desk. This would not only convenience the resident, but instil greater productivity for workers by understanding the issue from the onset.

But there’s more to it than rushing in and buying the latest technology. There is a plethora of products and platforms on the market, and simply introducing these into an aged care facility has the potential to cause significant interruptions and complications. The last thing aged care can afford is to invest significant capital in new technology only to have it fail or break within a few months.

Besides, there’s no guarantee residents will be interested, particularly if there is a significant learning curve required. Similarly, many are likely to have their own personal device which they find comfort in using, and so enforcing new gadgets is unlikely to succeed. The transition must instead be gradual.

In the challenge lies opportunity. Now more than ever, aged care facilities have the ability to integrate technology into everyday life to enhance the experience of its residents.

The benefits are not only for the residents, though. Through a holistic approach to communication, in its many forms, aged care is able to boost its own productivity by more accurately allocating resources to the right places. Employees will be more informed with real-time information, allowing them to make quicker and better decisions to improve the services and care they can offer. Ultimately, communications makes employees’ lives easier and residents’ lives better.

Jeff Sheard is managing director Australia and New Zealand at Avaya, which provides business collaboration and communications solutions.

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Tags: digital-access, jeff-sheard, news-tr-3, tech-savvy-seniors,

4 thoughts on “Opinion: Aged care must provide a seamless digital experience

  1. I could not agree more. With IoT becoming mainstream in technology development, there also needs to be more aged care software systems developers who will make systems universal with all hardware and software solutions. There is still too much fragmentation when it comes to implementing systems.
    I would like to see more html development in order to overcome the differentiation between platforms. iOS, Android, and Windows 10 are too busy trying to ensure that you are locked into ecosystems that when it comes to ensuring that technological needs are universal for all service receivers, if you don’t have the right device, you’re out in the cold. Integration is the future and open systems are the way to go.
    Now if only there was a company working with healthcare that was heavily invested in IoT and cross platform solutions. BlackBerry perhaps?

  2. Fantastic..can we still use our kerosene computer and copper wire telephony? HD teleconferencing remains the privilege of a select few thanks to our dumbed-down NBN.No point asking business to be forward thinking when our government is stuck in 1955

  3. Interesting article Steve and perceptive
    I totally agree with the holistic approach and a clear vision as to what the outcomes you want from that all embracing IT cover
    From what I have seen there is a gap in communications between the operator and the clients family in providing a clear insight as to how the family member is doing i.e. providing a window of information
    There is a shortfall regarding the way that operator can provide more information at client level regarding Coach tours classes etc as well as the ability of client to request services and information eg maintenance from staff.
    And how does the family converse directly with family member with family updates, videos etc.
    As you say there is a range of standalone apps that may do bits and pieces but no holistic approach.
    As a comment re the tech savvy generation, I would counsel that one does not stay tech savvy all your life but that ability to bank, email etc tapers off over time. The degree of user interaction has to be a level of simplicity higher as they get older

  4. I agree with Jeff Sheard that aged care must not be a digital desert for residents. But in a constrained financial environment please don’t let’s sacrifice human interaction for enhanced technology. Put the technology in but don’t diminish the human profile. And then the question is, can this be done and aged care remain financially viable as a business. These are tough questions.

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