30/10/2017 - 15:46

Market, government moves to keep care at home

30/10/2017 - 15:46

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SPECIAL REPORT: Big changes to the home services sector have boosted consumer control over choice, leading to a more competitive market as an increasing number of consumers want care kept at home.

Market, government moves to keep care at home
Christopher McGowan says Silver Chain takes enormous pressure off the hospital system in Perth. Photos: Attila Csaszar

The convergence of several key drivers of change around the provision of healthcare services has sparked a major reform to the way consumers, providers and the government plan for the community’s future needs.

From the consumers’ perspective, there’s a growing push for care to be home-based, rather than in a hospital or aged care facility. From a funding standpoint, this desire for greater consumer choice has been met by reforms to the home-care services system.

Meanwhile, the federal government has backed the benefits of moving towards a contestable market, as indicated by funding reforms in February that included the roll-out of consumer directed home-care packages, and the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

On a federal level, the provision of home-care packages to service providers ended in February; they are now given directly to the consumer in the form of an individual ‘package’.

Across the board, the home-care services representatives who spoke with Business News said they were pleased the system had become more consumer oriented, but remained frustrated with the slow allocation and assessment process.

They said demand for home-care services far exceeded supply, with about 90,000 Australians waiting for a package.

The large number of consumers on the waiting list has prompted providers to increase their focus on private home-care services that support customers while they wait for permanent assistance.

Home-care services provider Chorus chief executive, Dan Minchin, said the provision of healthcare services was moving away from a costly hospital-centric focus and towards home care.

“The other big scene that is behind the reform in home care and probably healthcare more broadly is, as a community, we’ll be better served by consumers having better control over their money and choices as providers compete,” Mr Minchin told Business News.

Chorus was officially launched late last month as a result of the merger of Western Australia-based care providers Care Options, Volunteer Task Force and Community First.

“Those three predecessors were what you’d call small, and they just looked and it and said, ‘we need to offer a broader suite of services and they need to reduce the risk that that funding source will get taken away’,” Mr Minchin said.

Chorus currently provides around 100 home-care packages to WA consumers.

Silver Chain chief executive Christopher McGowan said providers were putting a lot of work into differentiating themselves as competition increased.

“We (Silver Chain) are pitching on the integration of healthcare and aged care as people get closer to needing to go to a nursing home,” he said.

Dr McGowan said Silver Chain essentially ran a virtual hospital, and handled around 85 per cent of predictable deaths in Perth.

“That takes enormous pressure off the hospital system in Perth,” he said. 

“The way that fits with aged care is the new frontier; we’re just in the process of bringing to ground a new service that totally integrates aged care with healthcare and general practice.”

Silver Chain has partnered with Microsoft to develop a headset technology called Microsoft HoloLens, which allows doctors to have remote interactions with patients while a nurse is present.

Silver Chain provides around 1,300 home-care packages to WA consumers.

Julie Adams says Chemo@Home adopted cloud-based technology across all operations to work with patients remotely.

Business News Rising Stars winner Chemo@home is indicative of the trend to keep care at home and out of hospitals.

Chemo@home chief executive Julie Adams said her company had doubled its patient numbers in the past year to 4,000, and expanded from WA to South Australia six months ago.

She said the company had adopted cloud-based technology across all operations to be able to work with patients remotely.

“Everything that the federal government has done has pushed care as much as possible into the home-care sector,” Ms Adams said.

Chief executive of aged care provider Bethanie, Christopher How, said technology was imperative to the development of home-care services.

“We’ve got a new product, and it’s an independent living unit, but it’s designed specifically to utilise some of the home-care package funding to pay for the services that go into that apartment,” he said.

“It monitors movement, it has an entertainment system, electronic health checks, and it will also have a social piece (via an online portal).”

Bethanie is the third largest aged care provider by bed number according to the BNiQ Search Engine aged care list and also offers home-care services, including 320 home-care packages. 

Another major player in that space is St Ives Group. Chief executive and St Ives Home Care chief operating officer, David Cox, said St Ives had partnered with a company in Canada to introduce a platform that allowed for customers to videoconference carers and family members.

St Ives Home Care provides 2,000 home-care packages across Australia, including 531 packages within WA. 

Amana Living is the sixth largest aged care provider by bed number, according to the BNiQ Search Engine aged care list, but also provides around 500 home-care packages and private services to WA consumers.

Amana Living chief executive Stephanie Buckland said people wanted to experience their ‘golden years’ on their terms, and baby boomers coming into 65-plus age group might already be planning how they can prolong their time at home.

“We’ve established a commercial arrangement with Blackburne and we’re delivering a concept that we’re calling the multi-aged precinct, which is that Claremont on the Park development,” she said.

“We’ll be providing services to the elderly but we’ll also be providing concierge-type services to other residents in the community (at the precinct).”

Ms Buckland said Amana Living would also generate revenue through its recently launched registered training organisation.

Amana Living would provide training to its 1,700 staff, as well as students and employees of other home care providers, she said.

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