It's no secret that the older population is increasing dramatically across the globe. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2050, the world's population aged 60 years and older will total 2 billion, which is up from 900 million in 2015. At the moment, we all fear getting older. And the biggest fear is that we have about getting older is that we will become ignored and irrelevant. Especially in an era of technology - those who have grown old tend not to be taken seriously anymore. On the other hand, our ageing population is living through a fundamental period of technological advancement which, if implemented correctly, will drastically improve their quality of care. However, it is clear that much of the industry is struggling to evolve with technology, making it more difficult to meet community expectations and quality of care standards.
How do we automate aged-care?
Automation has the ability to eliminate or replace many of the routine and repetitive tasks performed by aged-care workers and nurses. In particular, if staff ratios are introduced into aged-care legislation, the development of automation will be imperative. However, migrating from current processes to automation technology is both high-pressure and overwhelming, especially when you're dealing with an already vulnerable group of people because change must be managed without any momentary lapses in care standards. For this reason, those businesses who are taking the leap and embracing this technology should do so incrementally. They must also ensure that the right tasks are automated and additional staff time is redirected appropriately - in particular, the industry needs to focus on:
automating repetitive and scaleable tasks; and
ensuring that additional staff time, made available once automation has been implemented effectively, is spent performing the remaining care elements that can't be easily replicated or scaled such as tasks involving quality engagement and communication with the consumer.
How will automation improve aged-care?
Improved consumer experiences
Automation technology could also drastically improve access to remote care for patients. For instance, home care provider Silver Chain has developed technology which provides virtual hospital services to seniors, allowing patients to receive care without leaving their home. This type of automation reduces the need for travel to and from appointments, allowing carers to spend more time on other care tasks. This also offers greater opportunities for healthcare providers to conduct regular interactions with patients, ultimately resulting in higher patient engagement and more patient-centric care.
Aged-care facilities can utilise automation to improve otherwise inefficient processes. By automating scalable and repetitive tasks, staff and management have more time to attend to tasks requiring a human touch and emotional intelligence, and which are essential to meeting quality of care standards.
For example, a software called ShiftCare was designed to do just this - in particular, automate internal staffing procedures such as managing rosters, notifying staff, running time sheets and producing billing reports within aged care facilities, home care service businesses and disability service businesses. Automating internal system such as these do not take the humanity out of aged care; rather, it gives staff and workers the additional time they need to connect with seniors on a human level and provide more patient-centric care.
Roadblocks to overcome
In Australia, there needs to be a seismic shift in attitudes toward automation adoption. The state of interoperability in today's current aged-care industry is frustrating, to say the least. While there are those who have innovated and evolved, others have not. There are risks associated with trying to scale up inefficient solutions. For example, if staff ratios were to be introduced in an aged care facility with inefficient systems (eg requiring staff to manually perform automatable tasks with an imperfect audit trail), that aged care facility is at higher risk of cash flow problems and failing to comply with its regulatory obligations.
It may be that the Government has to do more to encourage the development of innovative products and services which fix inefficiencies and create a better consumer experience in this sector, such as establishing grants and aged care innovation incubators.
Technology is for everybody, and we believe that aged care tech and aged care services are so fundamental because they give people the ultimate gift - better quality of life and better health than what they had before. The pace of technological automation in the aged-care industry will increase dramatically in the years to come, so it is important that the Australian aged care industry embraces the change and implements it correctly. Those who resist the change will likely be left behind.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is a general commentary on matters that may be of interest to you. Formal legal or other professional advice should be sought before acting or relying on any matter arising from this communication.