Uptake of tech crucial for sector reform

A much deeper adoption of technology is crucial to transforming the aged care system.

A much deeper and system-wide adoption of person-centred technology is critical to transforming Australia’s aged care system, according to a report.

Released by the RMIT University’s Health Transformation Lab, which is funded by technology giant Cisco, the report – Transforming Aged Care – emphasises how using technology to automate and streamline non-care duties will vastly improve the quality of aged care by freeing up workers’ time, an enormous amount of which is spent on non-care tasks.

“The widespread incorporation of digital technologies can profoundly transform the aged care sector, relieving carers of administrative burdens,” reads the 42-page report.

Technology will also enable providers to deliver the royal commission’s recommendation of 200 minutes of staff time per resident, per day, say the report’s authors.

Professor Vishaal Kishore

“Digital transformation is critical to creating an aged care system that can be scaled to meet the future needs and provide the respect and quality that is the motivating force of carers, the aim of providers, and the right of every user of the system,” said executive chair of the Health Transformation Lab Professor Vishaal Kishore.  

Technology can also be better used to connect older Australians – to each other, to their families, to their carers, and to the broader community. This will improve the wellbeing of Australia’s seniors, the quality of their care, and the work satisfaction of those who work in the sector, say the researchers.

“The foundation of a respectful system is one in which people are connected. Whether it is the recipients of aged care being connected to their families and friends, or aged care workers having the time to genuinely connect with those they care for, respect requires that people be visible, that they be present,” reads the report – a result of discussions across the aged care sector, from providers to recipients, carers and support staff, management and technologists.

Digital disconnect

The report‘s authors note that 42 per cent of aged care providers have no digital strategic plan, less than half use any smart technology, and only 14 per cent are using fully integrated software systems.

And despite the fact that more than 61 per cent of older people use the internet, only a handful of providers offer wireless internet access as standard for residents.

This digital disconnect is highlighted in the new Aged Care Workforce Report. Commissioned by aged care consultants CompliSpace, the report finds the take-up of technology by aged care workers varies across Australia, with Canberrans most likely to have done so (75 per cent), followed by:

  • Victorians (49 per cent)
  • Western Australians (48 per cent)
  • South Australians (48 per cent)
  • Tasmanians (40 per cent).

The aged care royal commission exposed systemic weaknesses and deficiencies of Australia’s aged care sector. It recommended a large-scale transformation of the system – with technology and digitisation at its core.

In order for that to be realised, the RMIT researchers recommend providers adopt the following technologies:

  • smart sensors that can detect the risk of falls
  • technology that can detect behavioural risks, such as conflict in common areas
  • devices that can alert people of physical hazards, in real time
  • technology that alerts surface disruption and stalled behaviour (such as not eating a meal)
  • facial recognition to assist with the automatic capturing of face-to-face care time
  • robotic dogs to perform manual tasks like deliveries.
A robot dog making a delivery

“A large-scale system re-orientation is needed with technology and digitisation at the core of the story,” said Cisco Australia and New Zealand vice president Ben Dawson. “There is the potential for technologies in aged care that are far deeper and more transformative than might be imagined. Technology interventions must be systemic, they must be deep, and they must be human-centred.”

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