Money alone will not save elderly Australians from going without care

28th December 2020

Craig Porte, Managing Director, Civica Care

This article first appeared in Aged Care Insite in November 2020

With its budget announcement of $1.6 billion for 23,000 additional home care packages to help care for older Australians in their own homes, the government has taken a significant step in the right direction to support the thousands of elderly Australians who need and want to receive care where they feel most comfortable.

The government’s funding will also go some way towards helping to relieve the additional financial burden that has come about as a result of COVID-19. At present, aged care homes are facing a significant hit to their profit and loss statements with the additional necessary cost associated with operating safely during a pandemic.

Yet funding alone cannot address the access issue at the heart of the Australian aged care sector. The problem is that complex and manual processes has often meant those applicants have to wait anywhere from six months to up to a year to access the funding. In the past two years alone, 28,000 people have died waiting for their home care packages to come through.

The challenge for government now is how to support the aged care sector to become more efficient, both in terms of how it allocates funds and how it spends them.

Current processes and the MyAgedCare Portal which require applicants and service providers to complete multiple forms for and repeat processes for eligibility criteria, assessments and guidelines, hinder timely and critical access to the funding.

The government has set a goal of reducing wait times to 30 days, yet neither additional man-power nor funding will be effective. To ensure that the federal government’s $1.6 billion for home care packages is able to adequately support a growing ageing population, government must couple this with investment in technology to streamline workflows.

Without cutting a significant chunk of red tape through increased efficiency supported by technology, the government will be throwing good money towards bad processes and more vulnerable, elderly Australians will wait an unacceptable amount of time for much-needed support.

Through Civica’s work with many of the service providers who support Australia’s elderly, it’s become clear that some of the priority areas where technology could significantly improve outcomes include:

  • More accurately determining the needs in the community and ensuring the right type of home care packages are being made available in the required proportions. There simply are not enough appropriate packages for those who need them. While the majority of people need level three and four packages, only ten thousand of the packages were funded at this level.
  • Providing more visibility of the application process. At present, aged care providers do not receive critical information about the packages and clients until too late, making it difficult to plan efficiently. For example, many do not even know whether the customer will be receiving a level one, two, three or four package and therefore have no insight into the level of care they are meant to provide and how frequently. By providing more visibility over where the process stands and ensuring more information – such as the physical risks at an applicant’s home – is shared between the government and the provider, providers can begin to prepare sooner to ensure the applicant has the care they have been approved for.
  • Enhancing the efficiency of the assessment process through standardisation and improved e-referral between business to government is fundamental to improving outcomes. At present there is an enormous amount of duplication of effort, rekeying of data across systems, and manual work involved in distributing packages from MyAgedCare to service providers. This creates unnecessary delays in providing care for vulnerable Australians.

Civica has worked with the Department of Health across a number of divisions, including aged care, Medicare Online and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, co-designing API-based solutions that enhance the electronic transfer of information between government and service providers within the health ecosystem.

These partnerships will help to improve the e-referral and business to government processes so that those who are referring patients to MyAgedCare and onto service providers – GPs and hospitals, for example – have a standardised electronic portal for capturing and sharing that information.

As Australia’s aged population continues to grow, it’s critical we find ways to make sure more people get access to the care they need as soon as possible. Technology holds enormous potential for delivering better, fairer outcomes for those in need – let’s use it.