Capabilities in Aged & Community Care Readiness: An Evaluation of Innovation & Technology (CARE IT) Report Released

November 26, 2020

On 26 November 2020, the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck MP virtually launched the Capabilities in Aged & Community Care Readiness: An Evaluation of Innovation & Technology (CARE-IT) Report.  

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) was funded by the Department of Health to deliver the research report. The CARE-IT Project report adds significantly to the collective understanding of the sector, its current level of digital maturity and the significant opportunities technology and innovation can offer in providing a more sustainable and high-quality industry.

The CARE-IT project aimed to assess the innovation and technology capabilities and readiness of the Aged and Community Care industry in the following areas:

  • Business support and administration;
  • Reporting and online access to government;
  • Surveillance and monitoring technologies;
  • Telehealth; and
  • Smart Care at Home Technologies.

ACIITC Chair, Dr George Margelis believes the CARE-IT Research Report is being tabled at a critical time for the aged and community care industry saying “the sector is facing substantial challenges globally, nationally and in every community where services and support are provided”.

Dr George Margelis says “improved uptake of technology and innovation is essential to assist service providers in delivering the high-quality assistance older Australian’s want and need, now and into the future. Equally, important is the role that a digitally enabled and supported and digitally mature workforce will play in achieving this vision”.

Business support and administration key findings:

Surveyed providers identified a range of barriers experienced when implementing technology-enabled business operations.

  • The three most frequently identified barriers are associated with cost (36.8%), staff (21%) and appropriate supporting systems (19%).
  • A key finding for consumer’s right to access to their own data found only 1 in 3 have holistic consumer records.
  • The growing accessibility of digital health,  care, and support is changing the point of care to encompass the individual and home settings – challenging traditional norms of service providers to move away from a total reliance on face to face delivery methods. This has become particularly apparent since the introduction of Medicare-funded telehealth with the GP’s surgery no longer the sole location of delivery of care.
  • The two technology-enabled systems that have been widely adopted by the aged care organisation are Payroll Systems and Financial Accounting systems.
  • Survey responses indicated a low level of engagement with advanced technology solutions and where these were identified, they were most likely involved business intelligence or data analytics (18.6%), voice-activated technology (8%) and voice to text services (5.9%).
  • Approximately one-third of surveyed organisations are regularly providing generic technology training and support and specific training in general risk-related issues but less in these specific cyber-risk issues. Cybersecurity (22.9%), phishing and data sensitivity (18.4% each), and malware (14.7%). Of concern, 38.5% of organisations do not provide any training or support in these areas.
  • More than half of the organisations surveyed are using these digital data collection technologies: electronic clinical systems which monitor clinical needs (59%); electronic care plans (67%) and 60% surveyed organisations staff can access digital records at this point of care and in real-time.

Reporting and online access to government key findings:

CARE-IT Project findings highlight the ongoing need for streamlined processes of reporting by the aged care sector to the government in order to a) reduce duplication and burden on aged care providers, b) reduce silos between the two sectors and c) enhance integration between providers and government business systems.

  • Survey findings also identified the poor interface between My Health Record and My Aged Care, with a high percentage of providers (73.4%) not knowing the extent to which their consumers are interacting with My Health Record. Aged care organisations were asked to nominate the three items that would provide value and create operational efficiencies in their interaction with government portals.
  • The most consistent themes emerging from their feedback involved the need to:  improve the ease of use develop appropriate resources for the sector including self-help training manuals, streamline the ability to access and provide, data provide opportunities for benchmarking, and sharing of the data nationally and improve integration across all relevant platforms.

Surveillance and monitoring technologies key findings:

A range of monitoring technologies enable care providers to determine health-related status virtually, and outside of clinical settings – in people’s homes or whatever location they happen to be visiting. Not only does this create greater flexibility of care but it also enables data to be captured in ‘real time’.

  • The Digital Maturity Divide was evident again in relation to providers’ use of available technology to monitor the health of their community care consumers. Those who are using monitoring technologies in consumers’ homes are most likely to be employing fall detection technology (21.7%), which is a positive finding, followed by passive (sensor-based) monitoring (13%), as well as medication management and blood pressure monitoring (7.3% each).
  • There are a number of smart devices that can monitor and support safety in the home and those providers who are utilising them most frequently nominated smoke detectors (15.9%), electrical devices (11.6%), lighting (10.1%), security cameras (8.7%), electronic door locks and environmental control devices (7.3% each). However, most of these providers (58%) are not using any of these everyday technologies.
  • The majority (64%) of organisations have external security surveillance video on their residential aged care premises. A slightly higher proportion of these organisations (66%) report that their organisations use video surveillance in international common areas.
  • Video surveillance is being used in areas where groups of people congregate – reception (57.6%), lifestyle or activity areas (47.5%) and dining areas (42.4%). Less frequently, video surveillance is used in nurses’ stations (32.2%), dementia-specific areas (28.8%), medical supply rooms (32.2%), other supply rooms (25.4%) and staff rooms (18.6%).
  • Approximately one-third are choosing to use video surveillance in individual consumer rooms (33.9%), with the majority probably not doing so because of ethical considerations affecting the privacy of residents and staff.

Telehealth key findings:

The CARE-IT Survey explored aged care providers’ utilisation of telehealth and telecare.

Findings from the survey revealed:

  • A Digital Maturity Divide with just over half (51.5%) utilising telehealth or telecare services and 45.5% not having adopted this form of delivery.
  • Top four barriers to implementing telehealth and telecare are financial budget (39%), technology expertise in organisation (35%), internet access (33%) and lack of consumer capability (33%).

Smart Care at Home Technologies key findings:

Smart Home utilise a range of largely digital technologies designed to make everyday living easier and safer.

  • Most of the providers surveyed indicated that they are not installing or utilising Smart Home devices in the home of their consumers while the 31.8% who have engaged with this technology are most likely to be working with 1 -2 devices (21.7%) or 3-5 devices (7.3%).
  • The top three technologies supplied by organisations to support consumers via a Smart Home configuration are personal or medical alarms (46.4%), tablets or mobile phones (33.3%) and mobile or GPS wearable alarms devices (31.9%).

COVID-19 Key Findings:

While the project was not funded to investigate the impact of COVID-19, the project was undertaken in one of the most challenging environments it has ever faced. 2020 saw the Australian community grapple with devastating losses arising from the unprecedented drought, heatwaves, and bushfires, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARE-IT Survey of Aged Care Organisations found:

  • 65% have accelerated their adoption of telehealth and telecare technologies because of COVID-19, and 62% have introduced them in response to the pandemic.
  • The majority (67.7%) have now implemented a remote working policy as part of their COVID-19 management strategy.

The ACIITC was established to focus on harnessing innovation and technology to help a create sustainable and high quality aged and community care sector in Australia. To achieve this mission, the ACIITC has completed a series of research projects – including landmark Technology Roadmaps for the Australian Aged Care Sector in 2017 and the publication in late 2019 of an updated literature review report – Aged and Community Care Sector Technology and Innovative Practice.

The ACIITC trust the detailed research undertaken and the recommendations resulting from this endeavour will be used to ensure that the aged and community care sector achieve an innovative, sustainable, quality-focused and digitally mature aged and community care sector for older Australians and their families.

The ACIITC would like acknowledge the Department of Health for providing funds to undertake this important project and to the Project Team who undertook this important project – Ms Anne Livingstone, Dr Kate Barnett OAM, Mr Gavin Tomlins, Ms Lisa Capamagian and Ms Georgie Gould. The Project Team was supported by an Expert Advisory Committee and we acknowledge the contributions made by Mr Rod Young, Dr Claire Mason, and Professor Greg Alexander.

For a full copy of the CARE-IT Research Report, and discussion paper, click here.

For more information about the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council visit www.aciitc.com.au or contact Secretariat [email protected]