19th March 2021
Craig Porte, Managing Director, Civica Care
This article first appeared in Inside Ageing in March 2021.
The recommendations on aged care handed down by the royal commission have the potential to transform the aged care sector over the coming years.
However, while a rights-based system in which entitlement to care and support would no longer be capped but based on needs and preferences is a laudable goal, there is a significant need to address quality of care before putting more elderly people into the system.
While the commission suggests introducing a new oversight body – an independent inspector-general to investigate and monitor governance of the aged care system – quality of care would be significantly improved if the current regulator saw to it that providers close the gaps in their disjointed technology systems.
Too often today, systems that are not designed for the sector’s needs mean important data about quality and risk isn’t captured or interpreted appropriately or doesn’t flow up to senior management and the board in a timely fashion – or at all. Yet it is only by having better information about what is going on in your organisation that senior management can make better decisions on matters of quality and risk, improving the services delivered.
Improving quality also demands employing more of the right people. In this regard the commission’s call for improved workforce conditions and capabilities is important. Providers must bring in people who are appropriately trained, have the necessary certificates, and know what they’re doing. That will require a review of pay levels, which remain the biggest impediment to more qualified people entering the market.
While additional funding is welcome, it’s critical that government and care providers improve efficiency through better interoperability. This would allow providers to get more out of every dollar allocated and have flow on effects in terms of the quantity and quality of care workers who can be brought into the system. Presently, much of the information in the care community sits in siloed systems, creating delays, doubling handling and adding to the likelihood of errors.
Civica has worked with the Department of Health on aged care platforms including Medicare Online and My Aged Care, 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 are helping 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, and payment processes are efficient.
Investment in technology will also be critical to expedite onboarding of new workers needed to respond to the high level of unmet needs that already exists in the sector today – as well as those of a growing ageing population.
The paper-based systems many providers use today can see delays of a month or more to get new employees into the system, ensure their certificates are in order, and rostered to provide care. This is contributing to a backlog in unmet needs and low quality of care, as there simply aren’t enough people available when they are needed. It also means that funding is often available – as would-be clients have received care packages – but cannot be spent due to lack of carers to deliver the care. Returning to the issue of quality, many providers operate rostering and HR systems that are separate and not integrated, which can mean that lapses in qualifications or certificates are not picked up on soon enough.
The royal commission’s recommendations have the potential to create much needed change. But without investment in technology to streamline workflows, integrate disjointed systems and improve risk management, closing the information and care gap and improving access to quality care for elderly Australians will remain a challenge.