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"There is considerable scope to
increase the efficiency of the interacting
[aged care and health] systems through
the use of information technology, such
as the e-Health initiative (including
e-prescriptions and e-transactions),
that allows information to be shared and
accessed in an efficient but safe way.
"Some inquiry participants argued
that providers are constrained from
introducing technology because they
cannot access the capital and recurrent
funding to do so...The Commission's
proposed reforms will increase the level of
funding for aged care providers (example:
increase the level of government subsidies
on the basis of the real cost of providing
services) which should, in turn, provide
greater incentives to increase the uptake
of technology in the sector."
The report also emphasises that in
the competitive aged care marketplace of
the future, technology will be pivotal to
providing cost-effective care and drawing
out the most efficient, quality providers
from the rest of the pack.
Recommended is the introduction of
a centralised data repository or "national
clearinghouse for aged care data", likened to
the MySchool website, which will not only
manage data about the ageing population
but facilitate, collect and disseminate
information on aged care providers.
Each profile is expected to provide
consumers with insider details on a facility's
quality indicators, level of healthcare
provision and the cost-effectiveness of
technologies in achieving care outcomes.
"This will benefit care recipients,
providers and policy makers by supporting
informed decisions on the most
appropriate care services," says the report.
"The proposal to phase-out supply
restrictions will [also] mean that
providers that offer services (embodying
technologies) preferred by care recipients
will now benefit from any increase in
demand for those services.
"Further, the AACC will take into
account the contribution of technologies
in delivering cost-effective services in its
recommendations on efficient prices for
approved aged care services. This will
reinforce the incentives for providers to
adopt that technology."
In the not-too-distant future, technology
will fuel sector-wide innovation, enable
providers to care remotely for older
adults living in rural and remote areas and
encourage older people to stay in their
homes for longer.
It will also streamline work practices
and ensure aged care staff, especially
Indigenous workers who cannot access
training courses, receive online training.
"There may be some opportunities to
reduce the labour intensity and alter the skill
mix involved in delivering aged care through
new models of care and the use of assistive
and information technologies," the PC says.
"However, most applications of
technology adopted by aged care providers
have acted to complement the workforce
--- for example, by improving the working
environment and improving the quality of
care --- rather than substitute for it.
"It would not be prudent to assume
that technological developments will
significantly reduce the relative demand
for labour in the future, although demand
side pressures should lead to ever more
efficient ways to deploy labour.
"Innovations, such as through the
application of technology and redesigning
work practices, will be important in assisting
the aged care sector to meet the expected
increase in the demand for services."
General manager of Care Innovations
(part of Intel GE), Dr George Margelis,
believes that the PC's final report is a great
step forward for the aged care sector.
"It recognises the need for funding
changes that take into account that
heterogeneity and also provides
opportunities for older Australians and
their families to play a greater role in
making those decisions," he says.
"The inclusions on technology are very
promising as they focus on removing the
barriers to its adoption without being
prescriptive of what the technologies are,
which should allow for innovation.
"While the need for integration of
health services is noted, there probably
could have been more focus on how health
and ageing services would collaborate to
provide a better outcome."
The government, Dr Margelis says, now
has the opportunity to improve aged care
services by helping providers to foster
new solutions that are not pre-defined, as
are many of the current solutions.
"Not just in their use of technology,
although that is an area of interest for
me, but in a more general way. It will
be interesting to see what type of new
services become available.
"We believe there are now more
opportunities to look at how providers can
utilise technology to improve the quality
and efficiency of their services." n
"It would not be prudent to assume
that technological developments
will significantly reduce the relative
demand for labour in the future"
AAA | SEPTEMBER -- OCTOBER 2011 | 69
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