Strategy delivers digital reform

The government’s recently released game plan focuses on the needs of older people while digitally empowering service providers and aged care workers.

The federal government has developed a blueprint to drive digital inclusion and innovation in the aged care sector.  

Released last Thursday, the Aged Care Data and Digital Strategy lays out the vision for “harnessing the power of data and digital technologies to improve the care and wellbeing of older people in Australia,” according to a statement from the Department of Health and Aged Care.

The goal of the five-year strategy, says Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells in the document’s forward, “is to deliver the government’s aged care reforms and implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.”

In its final report, the commission found that “the aged care system is well behind other sectors in the use and application of technology” and strongly recommended government investment.  

Other findings included:

  • information on aged care services often being complex and hard to find, making accessing services difficult
  • varying levels of digital maturity across the aged care sector, with disconnected, and at times paper-based care management systems
  • fragmented and incomplete data, with notable gaps in areas such as workforce, finance, regular assessment of care needs, quality of life, quality, and safety of care
  • a lack of consistent data standards to support software development and the re-use of data.

Workers will have more time to spend on direct, person-centred care

Anika Wells

While the digital strategy focuses on the needs of older people – helping them and their support networks “navigate and actively participate in their care and wellbeing” – it also aims to “digitally empower” service providers and aged care workers “to provide higher quality and better-connected care”.

Anika Wells

With that goal in mind, the strategy sets out how to improve and promote better use of aged care data to reduce administrative burden. “This means workers will have more time to spend on direct, person-centered care for older people,” says Ms Wells.

Up to one-third of time spent on administration tasks can be saved by embedding digital technology and introducing new data-sharing policies, claim the strategy’s authors.

As well as maximising time for direct care, the strategy contains other key priorities:

  • promote healthy ageing, independence and choice
  • create simplified, user-friendly experiences
  • strengthen care connections
  • optimise data collection and utilisation
  • build and embed data and digital maturity
  • encourage innovation and provide stewardship.

The strategy also contains six guiding principles:

Underpinned by consultation with older people, their carers and other stakeholders, the strategy features insights from the feedback received, including the need for:

  • a choice between digital and non-digital channels
  • appropriate, targeted education and training
  • appropriate, targeted funding
  • digital solutions that are simple to use and fit for purpose
  • digital solutions to be accessible and affordable
  • a common understanding within the sector of the future of digital technologies.

It is a positive step forward

Dr George Margelis

Digital healthcare expert Dr George Margelis told Australian Ageing Agenda he was excited by the release of the strategy, calling it “a positive step forward for the effective use of data and digital technology in the delivery of aged care services in Australia.”

The government has also developed a detailed action plan to provide the sector with information on how the strategy will be implemented. Dr Margelis said he was “particularly heartened” by the inclusion of the action plan “as this gives the industry the ability to focus on developing relevant deliverables.”

George Margelis

As Dr Margelis noted: “Many of the actions have been highlighted over the years at [Innovation & Technology Across Care] conferences and other events, and it is good to see them now being explored at scale for the entire sector.”

However, Dr Margelis told AAA he had one ask of government: “That the department consider for the ensuing budget support for providers in continuing to develop their digital maturity and for their future procurement requirements of information systems to meet the needs of reporting, as well as supporting quality improvement within their organisations.”

He added: “In light of the department’s recent investment in modernisation it is essential that providers be supported to procure and utilise systems that can take full advantage of the improved technology now available on the government’s side.”

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Tags: aged care data, Aged Care Data and Digital Strategy, aged care reform, anika wells, george margelis,

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