28th June 2021
Craig Porte, Managing Director, Civica Care
This article first appeared in Inside Ageing in June 2021.
The federal government’s recent budget features a number of initiatives to help strengthen the aged care sector including extra funding and key reforms. Under the new system, $6.5 billion will be dedicated for an additional 80,000 home care packages over two years, to ensure that consumers are allocated the correct package according to their needs. There are also plans to combine the three separate assessment workforces into a single aged care assessment workforce to meet the needs of older Australians.
Following the initial screening by My Aged Care, senior Australians looking for assistance are referred for an assessment to determine their care needs and service eligibility. Traditionally, there were two different types of assessment – a home support assessment undertaken by a regional assessment service and a comprehensive assessment done by an aged care assessment team. But from October 2022, the government will combine the assessments into one to improve and simplify the experience for older Australians.
This move, however, raises a question: will the My Aged Care website allow for efficient distribution of those individual packages to selected consumers and their service providers post an efficient assessment process?
Moreover, guaranteeing clear and efficient distribution of care packages to those selected has always been a challenge. To address this ongoing issue and ensure all seniors across Australia receive the necessary care, the government needs to take critical steps in increasing transparency and enhancing digital services.
Focus is on transparency
To improve the quality and safety of aged care, the government will allocate $200 million for a new star rating system on My Aged Care, giving older Australians and their families a chance to compare the services and providers.
From July 2022, staff will also have to record and publish care minutes and will be required to report to the residents and their families on care delivered. Average care minutes for each resident will increase to 200 minutes a day, including 40 minutes with a registered nurse. The government is also spending more than $650 million to grow and train the aged care workforce.
According to the government, these steps will bolster transparency, giving older Australians more choice and encouraging providers to deliver better quality facilities and care.
The time is now for technological advances
Around 1.3 million consumers are currently accessing aged care services and the number of Australians aged over 65 could double to above seven million by 2025, according to a report from The Global Centre for Modern Ageing. But despite the increasing need for assistance and an ageing population, many services are only available to people who live close to the city.
There is a great need for the government to skew the funding to support elderly Australians living in regional and rural areas. Additional funds can help provide equal digital access to services, including video calls and online diagnostics such as blood tests for diabetes.
While technological advancement is vital for people living in urban regions, it is particularly significant for seniors in rural areas. Leveraging the digitisation of available services in remote places will help provide better administrative efficiency and customer care.
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 (NDIS), co-designing API-based solutions that enhance the electronic transfer of information between government and service providers within the health ecosystem. Civica’s integration with Medicare Online, for example, removes the need for spreadsheets and paper-based forms, making the claiming process seamless from healthcare teams’ rostering and care workers’ smartphone time and attendance schedules.
Changing the way older Australians access support will help reduce stress and concern for them and their families. Today, more than 80 percent of seniors want to age at home. Therefore, systems in place need to provide flexible care options. And technology can help. Introducing centralised and electronic operations will offer another avenue of care for people choosing to live at home and in regional and remote areas.
The recent budget announcements are heading in the right direction, but the sector still requires further investment in digital literacy, specifically in remote areas. This will not only support people who wish to age at home, but it will help break down barriers to improve the quality of life and care of ageing Australians no matter where they chose to live.