Striving for a connected future

Integration, not innovation, is the key to digital disruption in aged and community care, writes Michael Boyce.

Integration, not innovation, is the key to digital disruption in aged and community care, writes Michael Boyce. 

Michael Boyce
Michael Boyce

We’ve all seen what the digital revolution has done to industries such as banking and travel. Disruptive innovations are sought after in these sectors, as they not only improve productivity but help consumers to access services in a more convenient and seamless way. These disruptive innovations are yet to flow through to aged and community care, but they are coming.

Traditionally we may have been able to blame the lack of technology innovation and uptake on the challenges of tightening budgets, lack of internal IT support and a fear that staff are resistant to the change and disruption.

We have often strived to control and tame the complex environment that we operate in, rather than treating it as a given and focusing on winning the hearts and minds of our clients and their carers. Like never before, consumer directed care means we need to break out of this thinking and use technology as a tool to help us look after both our clients and our people.

Many of the traditional barriers to e-health technology are now dissolving. Smartphone penetration has never been higher. Staff, carers and clients are now becoming increasingly technology literate. Software as a service is removing the need for large capital outlays and replacing them with more manageable cost structures. Our industry is full of wonderful developers and providers who are open and willing to innovate.

The major barrier that remains in our way is a lack of integration and interoperability of platforms and solutions across the sector. Lots of great ideas are built in isolation, but they do not solve the key interoperability challenges for clients, staff and other stakeholders. This is most visible to us at points of transition, for example when a patient moves from an aged care facility to a hospital. Medication management is also a key risk to clients and providers that is most visible when multiple clinicians and systems are required to communicate effectively.

Consumer directed care has given aged and community care providers the opportunity to be pioneers in the healthcare sector by exploiting the efficiency, integration, risk mitigation and customer advocacy that e-health technology can generate. I know of many groups who are already embarking on changes from the small and simple through to complete reconfigurations of their business models. We have seen providers respond to the changing landscape by:

  • creating greater choice and flexibility in service offerings, service times, service locations and service provision
  • giving clients and carers greater control over the way their care is delivered, and
  • providing models of access that support this greater choice and control.

Telstra Health has spent the past two years building up a unique set of e-health capability across the continuum of care, acquiring, investing or partnering with 17 businesses. In aged and community care, we are bringing together the expertise of two leading providers:

  • HealthConnex, which develop interoperable, standards-based e-health solutions for health care and community services organisations. Its product offerings include TCM, Connecting Care Worker, MyCareManager and the National Health Services Directory;
  • iCareHealth, an industry leading provider of software for residential aged care providers, which has developed a unique medication management package to more safely manage dispensing, administering and recording of medications. The package offers a cutting-edge ability to streamline communications between aged care facility staff, pharmacists and GPs.

We are committed to leveraging these capabilities to design simple, connected, interoperable solutions for the industry.

Earlier this year we launched MyCareManager, one of Telstra Health’s first solutions that really demonstrates our strategy in action. MyCareManager combines a number of our capabilities to create an entirely new solution that meets a very specific need of the community care sector. Video conferencing, client records and interactive medical devices have all been available for some time, but MyCareManager is the first solution that integrates them into a simple package for both carers and clients. Through a partnership with Silverchain, we are now rolling out this package across several of their program areas.

We said when we publicly launched Telstra Health last October that transforming the healthcare system cannot be done in isolation and that we are committed to working with providers, funders, government and patients. I want to repeat this commitment. Partnering with aged and community care providers is instrumental to achieving our vision. We are not here to develop solutions in isolation from the sector and hope that a market appears. Instead, we will continue to talk to providers, understand their key challenges and collaborate to identify new ways to improve staff and client experience, increase efficiency and reduce hospital admissions.

Our approach has always been to be disruptive and drive change in Australian healthcare. Despite this, nothing is more important to us than taking you on the journey with us as we stimulate innovation and help providers imagine what is possible in a brilliantly connected healthcare system.

Michael Boyce is head of provider applications at Telstra Health.

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Tags: digital-disruption, healthconnex, icarehealth, michael-boyce, news-tr-3, Telstra-Health,

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