There needs to be input from all aged care stakeholders in designing minimum data collection requirements to achieve better quality and safety outcomes for residents, the royal commission hears.

But aged care workers won’t collect data if they don’t understand the benefit, rendering datasets meaningless, Monday’s hearing of Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard.

During the hearing a panel of experts discussed data collection issues and a minimum dataset for aged care.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare group head of community services Louise York said it was important to design datasets with all relevant stakeholders.

“My organisation has a legislated function of designing such datasets in conjunction with relevant stakeholders,” Ms York told the hearing.

She said they normally work with clinicians, policy makers, academics, consumers, the ICT sector and members of the workforce to work through what they want to know and what’s already available.

“Then we would go through the painstaking work of working out how to actually isolate those core pieces of information that need to be collected to really get that regular measurement over time of what we’re trying to achieve,” Ms York said.

Engaging the workforce

CSIRO health and biosecurity health director Dr Rob Grenfell said the biggest barrrier is the aged care workforce not understanding why it would or should collect data.

“If they don’t believe they need to collect it, they will not collect it and your datasets will be meaningless,” Dr Grenfell told the hearing.

“They need to be engaged and they need to understand what it does to help them do the wonderful work that they actually do. They won’t shift otherwise, and that’s echoed in the experience we have had even with the most eminent clinicians in the acute sector and also through the general practice sector,” Dr Grenfell said.

Ben Lancken

Opal Aged Care head of transformation Ben Lancken also said it was important to involve consumers, consumer representative groups and the workforce in designing an aged care dataset.

It is also important to look at how a human-centred design approach is applied to the information that is most required, Mr Lancken said via video conference.

“If we ask them what’s the information most important to you to be able to deliver great care to residents and to those receiving care, they will tell us it’s not just those clinical indicators which are crucially important.”

It’s also the things residents like to do, how they spend their time and their favourite foods, he said.

Assigning a data custodian

The royal commission also heard from the panel about whether there should be a single custodian of aged care data.

South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute Registry of Senior Australians director Associate Professor Maria Inacio suggested independent bodies could monitor the information.

“I know that the idea of setting up a centre that focuses on aged care quality and safety in general is a proposition for the commission and I would envision a body like that,” Associate Professor Inacio said.

Ms York said an existing entity should become the data custodian.

“I obviously think that it is sensible that it is an existing body that has legislation and has infrastructure that’s already set up to … link in and make data accessible through secure research environments,” she said.

Mr Lancken said the data custodian needed to understand what was done in the past.

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and we certainly don’t want any duplication of effort. We think that’s very, very important.

“We think that the organisation should take a person-central approach. In other words, the data should start with the individual and work out from there,” Mr Lancken said.

The next Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearing takes place on 30 March – 1 April in Adelaide. It is looking at how to improve access to mental, oral and allied health services in aged care.

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