Data Standardisation in Aged and Community Care: A Pathway Forward

October 23, 2023

Australian aged care programs currently do not have an overarching framework that articulates the purpose and application of data and data systems within the sector. This results in uncertainty, duplication of efforts, inadequate access to vital information at multiple levels, and paralysis of system developers who might otherwise generate significant system improvements. The lack of data framework also impedes the delivery of high-quality care across the continuum of the aged and community care sector.

Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) is advocating for data standardisation in the aged and community care sector and community care sector and has been investigating the needs and strategies required for standardisation. ACIITC research has identified that there are significant issues and risks for the aged and community care industry caused by the lack of application of data standards in the sector. Beyond this risk, confusion exists within the sector concerning the terms used and there are no consistent approaches applied to the deployment and use of various clinical and business technologies.

To start resolving a pathway forward for the aged and community care sector, ACIITC reviewed the research facilities in Australia and identified The University of Queensland (UQ) Centre for Health Services Research (CHSR) as the leading experts in Aged Care informatics. Additionally, the Centre’s experience in the use and implementation of online health and data collection tools was an important factor.

Since 2022, ACIITC data standardisation work has been supported by the research expertise of The UQ CHSR. This collaboration is focused on cooperation to drive improvement and consistency in the collection and use of data in aged and community care. Furthermore, ACIITC commissioned The UQ CHSR, to undertake the ‘Data Standardisation and Assessment Systems for Aged and Community Care’ research.

This research project used standard research methodologies to identify and review comprehensive geriatric assessment (CGA) systems globally available. The methods used were similar to other surveys conducted in similar healthcare markets such as Canada, Belgium and New Zealand.

The project conducted a systematic search of academic and grey literature, and internet resources to identify systems and gather information for their evaluation. Additionally, a list of criteria was developed from literature surveys. An Expert Industry Representative Committee from aged care provider organisations was established to validate the list and suggest additional criteria. The project then scored identified CGA systems against these criteria.

The project team identified 15 systems: 5 designed for RAC, 7 for community care, and 3 for multiple settings. Evaluations revealed varying levels of systems’ suitability against the established criteria and several key findings with respect to the three systems. In summary, the team found that:

  • Robust off-the-shelf CGA systems were available​
  • There were variations in the characteristics of CGA systems​
  • EasyCare, interRAI Home Care (HC), interRAI Long Term Care Facility (LTCF) and MDS 3.0 RAI were the stronger systems​
  • interRAI HC and interRAI LTCF were the best-performing systems.

To access the report: “A survey and evaluation of comprehensive geriatric assessment systems for residential and community aged care” click here.

ACIITC and The UQ CHSR would like to thank the members of the ACIITC National Roundtable involved in the Data Standardisation Expert Industry Advisory Committee who assisted in the development of this paper.

ACIITC Executive Lead, Ms Anne Livingstone said, “this committee was highly represented in the current composition of the aged and community care sector including large, medium, and small organisations, and specialist service delivery, and covered all geographical locations including metropolitan, regional, rural, and remote areas”.

The target audience for this report includes Government, aged and community care service providers, technology vendors and software developers, researchers, and other stakeholders interested in the Australian aged and community care sector and/or data standardisation in general.

ACIITC Independent Chair Dr George Margelis said “ACIITC endorses the final report produced by the Centre for Health Services Research, as one of an exceptionally high quality which was thorough in its investigation and balanced in its findings”.

ACIITC and the UQ CHSR believe this research is an important step towards addressing the little current standardisation of digital care delivery within the Australian aged and community care sector.