Monday, 11 July 2022 11:31

‘Concerning lack’ of digital health systems in residential aged care, survey reveals Featured

By Staff Writer

A nationwide survey of residential aged care staff has found almost one in ten works in a facility reliant on paper records for care management, while “critical digital systems” are yet to be widely implemented in a sector in “dire need of disruption”.

Conducted by the Aged Care Technology Consortium – a collaboration by Australian technology companies working to modernise the nation's aged care system – the survey found only 8% of residential aged care workers have access to a digital incident management system.

And within the results, 3% said their facility had implemented a visitor management platform, despite the need to monitor contacts and keep residents and staff members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than half (53%) said their facility uses a digital medication management system and 29% said a pain management platform is in place, while 8.7% reported using a paper-based care management system.

"These results are concerning. There is no need for paper care records to be used in aged care when they come with unnecessary risks for residents. Especially as digital systemare available that can provide safer, more efficient and coordinated care," Humanetix CEO Arthur Shih said.

According to the survey, workplace challenges experienced by respondents included documentation completeness (24 per cent), incident management (19 per cent), shift handover and ease of administration (18 per cent), monitoring care quality and managing escalations (16 per cent), and compliance and auditing activities (15 per cent).

Respondents included CEOs (13.04 per cent), Directors of Nursing (19.57 per cent), Facility Managers (36.96 per cent), and Care Managers (6.52 per cent).

The survey, reveals anonymous comments which highlighted frustration at staff shortages, poor shift handovers including for "deteriorating" residents, time consuming compliance reporting, and digital systems that don't integrate.

"No [digital] system talks to each other – even from the same providers! Whether it's clinical care systems, finance systems, incident management systems, HR systems – nothing talks to each other," a survey respondent said.

Another commented: "Paper based systems are not acceptable in this day and age."

The Aged Care Technology Consortium's founding companies – Webstercare, Extensia, Foxo, Visionflex, MEDrefer and Humanetix – announced have joined together to integrate their technologies to help prevent unnecessary transfers to hospital emergency departments - and provide early identification of health needs, improved services in rural and remote areas, more staff time for patient care, better engagement with families, and health record sharing.

"Aged care providers can find it confusing to choose digital systems, and often their systems don't connect or share information. We have taken some of the frustration out of the digital transition process because, ultimately, aged care needs to modernise. Our older Australians deserve better," MEDrefer founder and CEO Brian Sullivan said.

Last year, the Aged Care Royal Commission found the sector is in need of digital transformation: "The aged care system is well behind other sectors in the use and application of technology, and has no clear information and communications technology strategy. This mix of factors has resulted in an aged care sector that is behind the research, innovation and technological curves."

Mike Harman, co-founder of virtual care technology company Visionflex, said the challenges in aged care and the current hospital crisis can be alleviated by technologies that ease burdens in care sectors under significant strain.

“A major goal of the consortium is to demonstrate how innovative digital health solutions can transform health outcomes for older Australians in residential aged care and home-care settings. It's time to shift aged care into the 21st century," Harman said, adding that between them, the consortium companies provide technologies for telehealth and remote monitoring, referrals, medication management, health record sharing, secure real-time communications, workflow and administration.

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