Digital delivers for quality care

13/01/2020 - 16:01

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SPECIAL REPORT: Technology could help people live independently at home longer and improve care in residential aged care facilities.

Warren Harding says digital health services can help people age with dignity. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Technology could help people live independently at home longer and improve care in residential aged care facilities. 

The use of technology in the provision of home care for the elderly is delivering a range of options for a sector under fire following revelations at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Home care packages, which provide funding for services including nursing, domestic help and personal care, allowing people to live independently for longer, have increased from 64,069 in 2016 to 118,050 in 2019. 

While a large number of people are accessing these services, many more are in line with a waitlist of 120,000.

Alzheimer’s WA deputy chair Warren Harding said technology could help Australia’s ageing population live longer at home, allowing them to age with dignity.

“We do now have the digital health devices, the remote and virtual home monitoring that we do not necessarily just have to put people in residential and aged care as they go through that journey,” Mr Harding told Business News.

“Personalised medicine, precision medicine, bio-sensors, wearables with smartphone apps through to digital pharmacy, blockchain for medical records, telehealth, eye tests for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, digital for ageing are areas of significant investment globally into future health.” 

One such piece of technology helping people stay in their homes longer is from startup InteliCare.

The Leederville-based company has developed a system of sensors that monitor a person’s movements in their house and can send alerts to a carer or family member when the individual deviates from their routine (see Tech Scene, page 37).

Mr Harding has recognised the growth potential in the digital health space and is working to capitalise on Western Australia’s proximity to Asia by co-founding Indo Asia Digital Health Commercialisation, with Fiona Wood as chair elect and WA Governor Kim Beazley as patron, to prepare late-stage health innovations for sale in Asia’s large and ageing market. 

Aged care provider Bethanie’s acting chief executive, Felicity Beaulieu, agreed that technology could make service delivery more efficient for providers and provide positive outcomes for customers. 

“I think there is a fear that technology will take away from the face-to-face experience of customers, but it is more around how do we use technology to support the services that are being delivered in order to really maximise the time we can spend with our customers in ways that are important for them,” Ms Beaulieu told Business News

Medication alerts was an example of a simple but extremely useful piece of technology. 

“For people who stay in the community, who are looking to be independent in the way that they live, if they forget to take their medication, obviously from a care perspective and a health and wellness perspective for them, that can be a problem,” Ms Beaulieu said.  

“If I need to send someone into the home to assist, for each time they need that medication, that’s an expensive and difficult process. 

“What I would rather do is have a piece of equipment that reminds them when to take their medication and make sure that happens safely in a way that works for them so actually someone can pick them up and they can go out into the community and engage in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do without support.” 

Mr Harding predicted the use of technology could be necessary to improve the monitoring and reporting of residential aged care facilities, in light of the findings of the royal commission. 

“Assistive technology will also be a critical investment that residential care and nursing homes will need to make to deliver their duty of care and deliver the quality of standards expected,” Mr Harding said. 

 “We should be able to execute duty of care and we should be able to detect issues and react faster than some of the nursing homes in the royal commission, which reported that residents had been on the floor for four hours. 

“The staffing ratio has not allowed them to get around and monitor. 

“We have got the capability with digital health and smart sensors to monitor patient movements, waking patterns and detect falls, and I believe that level of assistive technology is going to be an expectation of carers.”

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