For a long time, the aged care sector has relied mostly upon manual labour and processes to care for our elderly Australians. However, the recent report released this year by The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety paints an urgent picture of ineffective governance, weak regulation, and the need for care workers to spend a set minimum amount of time with residents. What is evident is that a different approach is required.
Providing 148 recommendations across different areas of concern, the sector has not taken advantage of the advancements in technology. To elevate the care of elderly Australians, the sector must embrace technology as a way forward.
Technology itself can assist the sector tremendously and help address many of the concerns in the Royal Commission report.
The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) roadmap
The Technology Roadmap for Aged Care is Australia’s first technology roadmap for the sector. It was commissioned in 2016 by the ACIITC. The aim of the roadmap is to recognise the need for technology to underpin the delivery of health and aged care services and to also ensure elderly Australians have independence, choice, and control over their care.
Since the roadmap’s release in 2017, the ACIITC has been collaborating with the Department of Health to put its recommendations into action in relation to:
Administration and business support
Surveillance and monitoring technologies
Reporting and online access to government services
Smart Care at Home Technologies
Advancements in voice-activated technology, assistive technologies, artificial intelligence and automation, sensor technologies including smart pill bottles, blockchain and data analytics and virtual and augmented reality can help shape a better future and outcome for our elderly Australians.
Automation and digital management systems
The Royal Commission findings will sprearhead change in the sector which will equate to audits, compliance, reporting and accreditation requirements. Paper-based processes and legacy systems will need to be transitioned to digital management systems.
Reducing the isolation of elderly patients promotes better outcomes in mental health and wellbeing. A major point in The Royal Commission was that families and informal carers felt excluded from what was happening to their loved ones, especially during COVID outbreaks. Digital management systems can help keep them informed and serve to keep other parties that are involved in the care of the patient informed with a centralised place for all data.
New cloud-based technology can assist in COVID infection control management that can be accessed remotely by staff if required. Automation software can roster shifts in a way that minimises risk. Staff movements can be documented to assist with contact tracing. The time-consuming task of drug management can also be automated.
Not only does automation software reduce risk, it frees up staff, so they can spend more time with patients. Software-as-a-service solutions can be deployed to do all this as well as other tasks such as financial management and analysis.
Technology that promotes independent living
The Royal Commission has determined older Australians should have more of a say over the kind of care they want. Staying at home will be more possible with the embracing of technology. The pandemic has seen the fear of technology overridden by the fear of becoming infected. Smart homes have now become the way of the future.
Aged-care technology and can help empower the elderly by allowing them to live more independent lives, reducing the current burden of the sector. Smart home technologies can automatically adjust room temperature, operate appliances, or even recognise normal patterns of health and daily living and send off alerts if a problem is detected.
Technology-enabled care (TEC) allows for the integration of federal government services through smartphone apps, like telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, eHealth and digital health. Smartphone sensors, like accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS tracking can provide health-related feedback remotely to care providers.
Reducing social isolation and improving mental health
Technology has a role to play in reducing social isolation. Research from 2019 shows that ninety percent of seniors aged 65 to 74 own a smartphone and eighty-four percent over 75 years do. Smartphones and tablets allow the elderly to stay in touch with loved ones.
New wearable technology being developed can even track conversation and send off alerts if it detects a drop in mental health.