Aged care in Australia: what a few years it has been.
Those on the industry frontlines know the dramatic evolution that’s taking place, first set in motion by stark population trends that now put one in seven Australians over the age of 65 – a number set to balloon in coming decades.
This impact is particularly acute in the country’s rural and remote areas, where 40 per cent of residents between 70 and 74 years of age live, compared to only 25 per cent of Australians aged 25 to 29. The result is a wide geographic demand for aged care services.
Such statistics, along rising labour costs and chronic illnesses, are putting pressure on providers like never before to meet demand.
Royal Commission targets aged care
As we all know, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety began in 2018 to better understand how to position aged care services moving forward. It sought to ensure access to affordable, high-quality care services tailored to the individual needs of clients. It sought to empower Australians with greater choice, control and independence of their own care.
Last October, in an interim report, the Commission detailed endemic problems with aged care across the system – issues that would require complete reform to improve quality of care, client safety, as well as major new funding sources. It led with the not-so-subtle headline: “A Shocking Tale of Neglect”.
This June, the Commission issued a paper that explored what those funding options could be. (As it stands, about 75 percent flows from the federal government – one percent of Australia’s GDP.) The options nestle under three main categories:
- Continue taxpayer-funded aged care, with co-contributions from users
- Use social insurance models with mandatory personal contributions to pooled funds run by a government insurance commission or private providers
- Boost private insurance and other voluntary arrangements
Whatever the case, the impetus is for organisations to deliver a high level of care to an aging population that is growing fast – within new regulatory standards.
A pandemic strikes
The year 2020 brought fresh challenges to the mix; while providers have been proactively adapting to more client-centered care, COVID-19 struck. Immediate priorities shifted to ensure the safety of employees and clients. The need for continuity of care to vulnerable Australians collided with a full scramble to understand what needed to be done to manage the health crisis.
At the same time, organisations were still facing the caregiver shortage that has long threatened the industry. Estimates already showed that the 360,000 skilled workers in aged care today will have to be closer to 500,000 by mid-decade. COVID-19 caused this labour market to become much more unstable – and also caused visa delays and other issues that compromise the ability for skilled migrants in this sector to support organisations.
Technological innovation is key to adapting to change
As the realities of COVID-19 have shown us, technology is no longer really a choice. For organisations to maintain continuity and ultimately thrive, they must embrace the right innovations that will future-proof operations against whatever is around the corner. Pandemic or otherwise.
Heightened efficiency is an imperative backstop against the various pressures facing aged care providers across the country. Supported by flexible software, organisations can respond quickly to acute challenges like COVID-19 even while trying to get out in front of the Royal Commission’s final report.
It’s a lock that virtual care will become far more important to efficient care delivery than it has in the past. New shifts toward video conferencing, and a deeper reliance on remote monitoring technology were born out of necessity during the pandemic, but they will be permanent fixtures. In 10 weeks we’ve seen the type of changes that tend to gradually occur over 10 years. (At AlayaCare we worked to get on top of this trend by swiftly introducing new elements to our platform – and were the first home care software provider to embed video conferencing right in the system.)
Ultimately, advanced tech solutions enable providers to be laser-focused on client care, and less consumed by administrative matters and, dare we even say it, paperwork.
AlayaCare: a future-proofed platform for Australia’s care providers
Historically, the technology available in Australia and New Zealand to support its unique aged care challenges has lacked a high level of flexibility and innovation. This point has been underscored here in 2020.
AlayaCare, which entered the Australian market in 2017, introduced a bold platform within an end-to end home health system that is purposefully forward-looking and built with the agility and insights needed to keep pace with an industry undergoing such acute transformation. Now, with our acquisition of Procura earlier this year, AlayaCare serves
nearly 130 clients in the country, now equipped with a reliable, robust and data-driven solution.
AlayaCare has already taken steps to build on Procura’s CareExchange/AX platform with soon to be launched AlayaCare Residential. Designed from the ground up, it will create new levels of efficiency and enable providers to implement and maintain a single client record for resident information, from initial inquiry to admission to full care plan.
AlayaCare Residential contains a clinical care module that addresses providers’ most pressing needs, as it was developed through feedback from current clients and industry clinical experts. The module can scale as much as required by any organisation, and is easily accessed via tablet or workstation. It also integrates many valuable systems, including Painchek, Pixelere and Medi-Map to support client needs for their pain levels, wound management and medication.
The system is now live with three providers, and we are currently implementing it with another two. A residential management model will follow in early 2021.
“No matter how many plans you make or how much in control you are, life is always winging it.” As the front half of 2020 showed, it’s impossible to plan for every variable. The best we can do is ensure we have fully flexible solutions in place to future-proof operations – and ensure that continuity of care is maintained for those who need it most.
AlayaCare is proud to be in lockstep with Australia’s care providers to ensure better outcomes are an achievable reality for generations to come.