28th January 2020

An aged care sector that’s fit for purpose in 2020 and beyond

Craig Porte, Managing Director, Civica Care

This article first appeared in Aged Care Insite in January 2020

2020 will be a big year for the aged care sector. Further scrutiny will come in the form of the continued Aged Care Royal Commission’s final report in November. What is less likely to make headlines are some of the more subtle but no less critical changes that we expect to see as a result of the commission and other longstanding challenges.

There’s increasing recognition that we must stretch each dollar going into the sector further. We need a sector that is resilient and able to meet the demands of today and the future in the face of sometimes unpredictable funding. Not only is aged care currently under-funded but the aged population is growing – in 2017, 15 per cent of Australians were aged 65 and over – and forecast to reach 22 per cent by 2057.

In 2020, I expect the following trends to come to the fore, as the aged care sector works to get in shape:

Cloudy with a chance of transformation

The aged care sector is characterised by aged approaches to service provision and administration, including a lot of manual data entry into spreadsheets, manual procedures, and people travelling back and forth between the office and clients to input data. A new service often results in a new team with all the overheads of cars, offices and disjointed systems, when technology could enable the existing team to do the work just as effectively.

We see far too much paper being moved around. One organisation I’m aware of was physically carrying client documents between three different levels of their building to get sign off; another was regularly shipping client documents to sites around the state. This is not only inefficient but raises risks of data security and loss.

Currently most providers in the market are at the lower end of the preparedness scale when it comes to cloud technology. Around 50 per cent have no client management system in place at all and have quite a way to go to get their houses in order.

There is, however, clearer understanding than ever that technology, and cloud in particular, is the way to achieve improved cost-effectiveness and quality of care in the sector. Not only will cloud based client management systems help ensure information is captured and shared with the right people, it can also reduce overheads by removing the need for IT departments, drive automation and allow greater access to data to improve processes around payroll, client services and compliance.

Applications abound

For the average individual, applications are old hat. We use them for practically every purpose under the sun, from ordering food, to finding romance. What we expect to come to the fore in 2020 is care workers tapping into the latest applications to improve the service they can provide to their clients.

Apps will help workers access critical client information on the move, ensuring that they’re able to deliver a higher quality service. By accessing updates without having to return to the office, they will incur less cost and spend more time face-to-face with clients.

We anticipate that 2020 will be down-streamed to care workers who will increasingly use apps to log time and attendance, access training materials, book leave and ensure their qualifications and compliance are up to date. 2020 will see an increasing number of aged care organisations setting up their clients with apps that can allow them to have input into their care plans and feedback on service quality. This type of innovation will play a critical and much-needed role in improving standards in the sector.

Bring your own device

The debate will continue around whether these apps should be deployed on care workers’ own devices, bring-your-own-device-style (BYOD), or if they should be on company devices. There’s a clear incentive to push towards BYOD, as this will reduce overheads for providers and improve technology uptake.

Yet security remains a challenge going into 2020. In this sector there’s clearly a lot that could go wrong if client information is lost or stolen that can create not only a service issue but also an enormous privacy breach. While we anticipate BYOD will be the way to go, company devices will likely dominate until security concerns can be resolved.

For providers who don’t find ways to stretch the care dollar, there’ll be a further deterioration in their capacity to deliver services to communities in 2020. Particularly in rural areas, where there is already a large disparity in access to quality care.

We hope that the government will step up to the plate and provide more substantial funding to the sector particularly in rural and remote areas – it’s crucial not only for care, but also the technological upgrades that will enable this critical care to be delivered more efficiently and sustainably going forward.