Tech solutions for aged care

10/02/2004 - 21:00

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PERTH-BASED information technology company AutumnCare Systems has set out to capitalise on the significant growth expected in the aged care market over the next decade.

PERTH-BASED information technology company AutumnCare Systems has set out to capitalise on the significant growth expected in the aged care market over the next decade.

While aged care may not necessarily be regarded as a technologically savvy industry, AutumnCare Systems has developed a Care Management System in conjunction with the aged care industry. The system is designed to be user-friendly for workers who may be less than comfortable with the latest technology.

AutumnCare Systems managing director Stuart Hope said the purpose of the company, formed in April 2000, was to take advantage of “what we saw as the development of a mobile computing opportunity”.

“We knew the industry wasn’t mature but my view of the world was that the technology [hand held] wouldn’t be used until 2005,” he said.

Mr Hope said the system utilised off-the-shelf, equipment making it affordable for aged care facilities.

“We’ve got a pricing model that is affordable and scalable for any size organisation,” he told WA Business News.

“We’re aiming for less than 10 per cent of the Australian aged market by 2008 and an equivalent overseas market by 2008.”

The Care Management System incorporates hand-held devices that allow carers, nursing staff and doctors to carry patient information on their belt, cutting down on paper work and ensuring the most up-to-date information regarding medical treatment and care is available.

Patient records and other relevant information is stored on a central server and users download the information from a desktop version of the software to their hand-held device.

Access permissions that have been set up by a system administrator determine the type of information to which an individual user can gain access.

For example, a doctor or registered nurse may be able to amend relevant patient records, whereas a carer may have read-only access.

Mr Hope – who is also the immediate past CEO of Software Engineering Australia (WA), which closed its doors in December last year due to lack of funding – said that, using information management at its core, the technology provided a model of care focusing on the needs of aged people.

He said the rise in commercial opportunities in the aged care industry was set to coincide with increased opportunities in the mobile computing market, which had eventuated in part due to the improvement of the quality and affordability of hand-held devices.

Information provided to WA Business News by AutumnCare said that: “Both industry and government are working towards solutions to maximise efficiencies within the industry, particularly in terms of the paperwork burden, employee productivity and retention and improvements in the quality of care whilst minimising costs”.

“As an indicator of the size of this [aged care] market, the Australian Government currently spends in one part of this sector alone, in excess of $5 billion per annum.”

AutumnCare consulted with the aged care industry to determine requirements before building the system and the system was developed in partnership with Swan Village of Care, United Church Homes (Rowethorpe), the City of Canning and Curtin University of Technology’s Centre for Research into Aged Care Services.

AutumnCare also received funding and support from IT incubator Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR)

Trials of the system, and later a pilot, were run at the Swan Village of Care and United Church Homes (Rowethorpe).

Despite many carers being over the age of 55 years, and most of them having never used a hand-held device, Mr Hope said the response from staff had been excellent.

He said adequate training that enabled users of the system to feel comfortable with the technology was crucial.

In a statement released by AutumnCare, Swan Village of Care chief executive officer William Marshall said the system had many benefits for both staff and residents, but in particular was targeted at improving the quality and safety of services provided in a residential community setting.

Electronic patient information also includes a photograph of the patient for identification purposes.

Other benefits of the system include decreased paperwork and increased mobility of aged care workers who, when using the system, could carry entire patient files with them at all times.

“With our software, crucial information is available and can be updated at the point of care ensuring the latest data is on hand for care providers,” Mr Hope said.

“It also means a huge decrease in paper work for carers, freeing them up to do what they do best – care for their client’s residents.”

With the launch of the commercial system, Mr Hope said the system had attracted significant interest.

“We’ve had interest from other industries and there has been some overseas interest as well,” he said.

“However, we are a very small company and we need to absolutely focus on one market segment at a time.”

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