The use of technology in the aged care sector has expanded dramatically, however, this has created a fragmentation of the digital systems used within the industry, according to a government document.
“In order to ensure effectiveness, the focus should be on user-friendly, simple and fit-for-purpose digital solutions,” write the authors of the draft Aged Care Data and Digital Strategy released for public consultation last week.
The government is seeking feedback on the draft strategy document from aged care workers, older people, assessors, health clinicians, service providers and technology vendors that supply software to providers.
The 48-page draft document – authored by the Department of Health and Aged Care, the Australian Digital Health Agency, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare – aims to encourage the innovative use of digital technologies in the aged care sector.
“Our vision,” write the authors “is to deliver the highest quality person-centred care for older people while driving a sustainable and productive care and support economy through data and digital innovation.”
The strategy – which is scheduled to be launched next month – will “provide the guidance, clarity, and actionable recommendations regarding how the sector can leverage the combined power of data and digital to deliver exceptional care experiences, promote independence and foster connections for older people and their support networks.”
Included in the document are the views of various stakeholders who participated in a consultation process to shape the strategy, including peak bodies, service providers and academics.
In the document, the authors point to the recent Intergenerational Report, which forecasts that in three decades the number of Australians over 65 will double while those 85-plus will triple.
“Enduring data and digital transformation of the sector will be needed to meet the challenges of an ageing population [and] increasing demand for aged care services – particularly in the home.”
As the authors note, the aged care royal commission also recommended a digital overhaul of the sector. Among the problems identified:
- information often being complex and hard to find
- limited operability between systems and entities
- variable digital literacy among older Australians and the aged care workforce
- a lack of consistent data standards.
Addressing digital literacy, the authors acknowledge that there is a “high-level of willingness” among older people, service providers, and aged care workers to use new technologies, however, there exists a lack of learning opportunities and appropriate technical support.
Targeted education is required to “facilitate an uplift in the digital literacy and capability of older people, service providers and aged care workers.”
However, the authors are keen that both digital and non-digital channels remain open to older people so they can “make choices about the ways to engage with aged care.”
Targeted and appropriate funding is also required, say the authors, “as a pre-requisite to the greater adoption of digital technologies.” They add: “Accessibility and affordability are key drivers of engagement with digital health for older people, aged care workers and service providers.”
As well as accessibility, the authors are calling for providers to adopt digital technologies that make the provision of care simple and easier “rather than adding complexity and administrative overhead.”
The strategy, say the authors, “seeks to make aged care more about caring and less about administration processes,” such as duplicative entry data.
There also needs to be “greater consistency and unification” across the aged care sector and the healthcare system, say the authors. “We recognise that much of the same workforce provides health and aged care services,” there needs to be an alignment “to bring aged care and health data and digital systems closer together.”
Listed in the document are the desired key outcomes of the strategy. They include:
- enabling older people and their support networks to navigate and actively participate in their care and wellbeing
- digitally empower service providers to provide higher quality and better-connected care
- ensuring that data is shared and reused securely
- developing data and digital foundations to deliver a collaborative care system.
Achieving the government’s strategy, “will involve focused effort, coordinated attention across the sector, and the provision of funding and resources to enable change,” say the authors.
“We recognise that data and digital are enablers to improving care and wellbeing … Better data and stronger digital foundations will support older people and enable the sector to provide better quality care.”
Consultation closes on 20 November 2023. Send feedback to DigitalReformStrat@Health.gov.au