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Digitally prepare for reform. The future of aged care.

With an ageing population and senior Australians preferring to stay in their own homes FOR as long as possible, it’s increasingly clear why the home care sector has expanded so rapidly these last few years. With this trend set to continue, the government’s response WAS a consumer driven plan. 

We see time after time what a new financial year brings to the healthcare industry. And for the aged care sector, it’s kicked off with the release of 40,000 new home care packages for FY 2021/22. With this in mind, more of our ageing community will be turning to providers for support and services. Now is the time for providers to consider just how well their systems will be able to keep up with the increasing consumer demand to service our senior Australians. As changes to regulatory mandates come into play this September, such as the rules around care recipients’ unspent funds, it’s the perfect time to look at what gaps exist within your organisation, in particular your digital ones. But first, let’s take a look at what’s on the table for the reform.

A new path for home care

The Australian Government has recognised how important it is that our ageing community has the choice to remain in their homes for as long as they possibly can. In support of this, the federal government released an additional 80,000 home care packages over the next 2 years (with the 40,000 aimed for this financial year) in an effort to reduce long waits for those in need.

People with a home care package has risen by 4.9% in Q3, and 22.1% over 12 months, according to the Home Care Package Program Data Report for the 3rd Quarter 2020-21.

As we’re already seeing a significant increase in uptake of home care packages, providers will need to consider whether their tech can keep up with the increasing consumer demands to be able to adequately service our senior Australians. 

Moreover, the Government’s response to the Royal Commission has been to increase the quality and safety of those in aged care, in particular for care recipients receiving at home care. The reform is essential to ensure that home care services offer value for money, are affordable and that pricing is transparent. The changes we saw earlier this year and those that come into effect 1 September, relate to claiming funds for CHSP and HCP services. These changes were explained by the Government as a response to improve consumer choice and control. Much of the concern for our ageing community was attributed to different funding rates for providers that had not been related to costs or quality of services, rather related to issues associated with the historic funding conditions.

With this in mind, consider how well your home care software or current systems are helping you to support your workforce. Are you able to transparently manage home care agreements and meet your legislative compliance as the home care sector reforms? Having the support of a tech partner who invests in purpose-built software that takes care of these changes for you may just be that extra set of hands your organisation needs during this reform.

Female care worker standing at her care leaving after delivering care to an elderly couple at their home.

Better tech connection with the reforms

In order to make the five pillar plan work, the Government has placed a considerable focus on information and communication technologies (ICT) reform to ensure IT systems are in place that will be easy for people to use and that are effective in the delivery of services.

At the heart of this, there are plans to develop and implement a new Australian national aged care classification system, upgrade the My Aged Care system, implement a combination of service finders, and introduce data security and system standards.

While many of these changes are in their infancy, a message that has been stressed repeatedly is the need for collaboration. The Government has recognised the critical role that providers will provide in helping to design the easiest and simplest system for aged care users and their family, but also one which will allow the capture of data and will assist both providers and the government.

The other element is the Government’s push for collaboration between providers and software vendors to transform service delivery and interoperability of information across the sector. Recommendation 68 of the Aged Care Royal Commission suggests that “every approved provider of aged care delivering personal care uses a digital care management system meeting a standard set by the Australian Digital Health Agency”.

Similar guidance from the Government suggests that mandated adoption of digital care management systems and interoperability with My Health Record could be an eventuality, and that digital services are likely to be the principal mechanism to support regulatory requirements. 

All of these measures hope to improve consumers’ access to information with the ultimate goal of enabling senior Australians with better information to participate in determining their care needs and improving their quality of life as they get older.

As a tech partner, Lumary recommends providers take our 5 quick and simple steps to move their organisations towards digital integration. By understanding your digital baseline, it’s possible to map out what existing tech is effective and where it’s not working as well as you need it to be. Follow this up with understanding your digital gaps across your entire organisation as a CRM alone won’t connect your support workers with your customers and is likely to be impossible for you to achieve person-centred care. 

We believe delivering care to more clients with your existing staff is possible if your organisation and your workforce are adequately supported with the right tools. Using an integrated real-time solution that supports remote workforces, like Lumary Care Management, your staff will be able to schedule appointments, record case notes accurately, and document services as they are delivered, ensuring that no double data entry is required.

Increasing access to remote care; improving outcomes for CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

The Australian Government has recognised that more needs to be done to address the issue of diversity in aged care. What we have learnt and heard the most from the over the course of the entire aged care sector reform webinar series, is their key objective: to put a person at the centre of their care. Caring for people as people and recognising that all people have different cultural and behavioural needs is important. It’s pleasing to see this being recognised and incorporated as core pillars of the aged care reforms. 

Now that people are being recognised as people, it’s time we turn to providers and look at how best they will be resourced to support diversity within their community, in particular for our community living remotely. When providers are supported to know how to best address the diversity of the community, they will be able to best interact with those communities, which will ultimately lead to person-centred and value-based care.  

The ongoing aged care reform aims to improve access to culturally safe services and the accessibility of and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds receiving aged care services.

Providers will need to transition to a new care model that supports our community in remote areas and improve the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Providers need to rethink how they will best support their workforce to achieve this. Taking into account travel and transport requirements, claiming funds and processing fee for service payments accurately, and having a system that supports you to do this compliantly and transparently is essential.

Photo of an elderly man with a carer being supported to deliver care services using the Lumary healthcare platform at home. Caption reads "Lived experiences are essential to informing the aged care reforms”.

Greater focus on dementia

Dementia is a degenerative disease of the brain and is a specialist area that requires the appropriate care by care workers who are supported with the right training and resources to deliver care well. With the government estimating in the next decade that 550,00 Australians will be managing dementia in Australia, there is good reason for why dementia has been highlighted as a key area of reform. 

In the past and still now, care for people living with dementia has been commonly misunderstood and often poorly managed. With 50% of people living in a residential aged care facility diagnosed with dementia, we can see how stretched providers’ workforces, nurses and staff of residential aged care facilities are. Understanding this, supporting more people to remain at home and receive at-home care services will lessen the burden on the residential aged care sector. We’re likely to see an increase in respite care services to residential aged care facilities, and as a response the new rules and mandatory reporting timeframes that come into effect this September have been put in place to urgently address this. 

So how do you best support your workforce to address these upcoming changes for your organisation. Will education and training alone be sufficient? If care is to be person-centred and to be able to support people to have more choice and control in their care program, then it’s crucial that this information also be transparently and accurately documented and reported. Choosing a software solution that improves communication between care recipient and care worker will support people-centered care and create better outcomes for the community, which is fundamental for your organisation. The better your staff are supported the better the care that can be provided. Maree Mahon CEO, Dementia Australia  recently explained,“If we can get it right for dementia we can get it right for everybody.” 

Consumer voice is so important for the care and support of people living with dementia, whether this be directly from them or from their families and carers. The government is seeking feedback from the community about ‘lived experience’ so they can be better informed about how to best support and take action for the reform of dementia. To find out more how you can take part and share experiences, visit the Aged Care Reforms page of the Department of Health’s website.

Photo of the Lumary healthcare platform on laptop. Caption reads "one platform to simplify your care management".

Next steps from here…

With so much uncertainty for what’s to come of the aged care reforms, there’s one thing we can be certain of. Providers need to embrace change. To support the new model of care that is being rolled out by the Australian Government, providers need to consider how they will digitally transform. With a tech partner like Lumary by your side, be supported to navigate these changes, optimise your organisation, streamline care management and create better wellbeing.