A research project looking at technology in aged care has been “overwhelmed” by the huge number of new vendors in the market, a forum has heard.
The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC), which launched Australia’s first aged care technology roadmap in 2017, has been funded by the federal government to evaluate the sector’s technology capabilities and readiness (read more here).
As part of the ACIITC CARE-IT research project the council been undertaking industry and vendor surveys to inform future investment and investment strategies.
Chair of the council’s national home care committee Anne Livingstone said researchers are in the final stages of the survey, which is due to be completed by the end of June, and have received hundreds of replies to both surveys.
The input of vendors had been very important, she told an online forum on innovation in aged care and community settings on Wednesday.
“What we have found and what’s been overwhelming for us has been the range of new vendors in this space including startup and new technology developers,” Ms Livingston said.
“Daily we’ve been inundated by requests to meet with these vendors and share their experiences.”
Impact of COVID-19
Dr Kate Barnett, who is leading the research, said COVID-19 has had a massive impact on uptake of technology.
She said the pandemic had helped override previous concerns about the use of technology in the healthcare sector, and the council hopes to find out how this is playing out in aged care.
“What we’re hearing from health practitioners is that previous disincentives, like fear of not technology usurping quality of care, has been overridden by the incentive to avoid infection,” she said.
One area the project has focussed on is smart homes, Dr Barnett said, where there has been a blurring of the traditional boundaries between daily living and care.
“One of the take home messages is the blurring of the boundaries we were seeing before COVID,” she said.
She says the smart home technology was originally designed for smart living and convenience, but now there’s the emergence of technologies and systems that are purely designed to provide care in the home.
“With smart technology it becomes about living more independently, and care and support become merged rather than separate.”
Smart home technology also enables consumers in terms of having infrastructure for telecare in their own homes, Dr Barnett said.
Surveillance and monitoring
Surveillance and monitoring technologies are also being looked at.
“The potential of these to provide bette care outcomes, to be able to predict health and care needs as well as ensure safey is massive,” Dr Barnett said.
She said researchers are interested in the potential of AI-enabled sensors because of their ability to recognise normal patterns of health and daily living and predict changes that could point to a problem.
However it was important to consider ethics as the sector moved forward with technology, and to remain focussed on the rights of the older person.
“With all the technology that we want to integrate to make better lives for older people we need to be very aware of the ethical implications and highlight the importance of taking a rights based approach to integrating technology into their daily lives into care processes,” she said.
Dr Barnett said collaboration will be necessary for the successful integration of technology into aged care.
“The key to that is going to be really strong working relationships and partnerships between tech vendors and aged care providers.”
ACIITC will host a national forum for tech providers, startups and long term vendors on July 14.
Surveys will remain open until June 10.
This story first ran in Community Care Review.