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Digital transformation in aged care is about people, not technology

There is no getting away from the fact that almost every facet of our lives is being transformed all the time, and this can be a challenging experience in pretty much every industry.

Aged care is a particularly interesting area to consider because many who are affected may be resistant to change and/or be rather reluctant to adapt to it because they have different knowledge bases and life experience to other demographics.

Digital transformation changes our lives in so many ways (with the intention of making our lives better), and one such industry is health care. Emerging technology and digital solutions can now achieve a lot more in terms of medical care, which certainly benefits all of us. For example, heart surgery used to involve the whole chest being opened, whereas for a few years now keyhole surgery has been used instead. More recently, specialist surgeons can instruct other surgeons, who may be in remote locations, over real-time computerised video about performing particular surgery.

Digital solutions are ideal for almost all areas of health care because human error is eliminated. The results are always accurate and fast, and solutions can be guaranteed. This never used to be the case earlier. Millennials would probably not have a problem with providing personal information to a computer or even expressing their medical concerns to a computer whose purpose was to help them. No such research has been conducted but this can be assumed given they grew up in a digital world. In this case, you can see the need for humans decreasing as computers can take over more and more of the heavy lifting, as it were.

However, at the other end of the spectrum, people of advanced age may be absolutely horrified at the prospect of connecting with a computer in such a way. The least they would expect is the courteously of a human expressing concern about their medical situation. Extending the stereotype of this age group to its extreme, they would likely feel deeply uncomfortable and even disrespected if they were faced with a computer offering to serve them. They also might not be able to figure out how to use it anyway, even if they wanted to.

So, what is the solution? Clearly aged care is not a sector that can be left behind while the rest of the world moves forward. Aged care is big business and business owners will want to stay competitive. Having said that, however, you cannot alienate your own clientele.

While it may feel like it at the start, the reality of digital transformation is that every time something transforms it isn’t just to make your life more difficult. All the time, humans everywhere are making alterations to make our lives easier and better.

The whole purpose for building technology in the first place is all about the human experience. In fact, technology is just one aspect, usually the largest, of what designers and engineers work with when they create these solutions. With this in mind, if you own an aged care facility, and have introduced some form of digital transformation, would you consider something like a robotic GP who will consult with the guests in your aged care facility? Such an intention does not yet exist of course, however, imagine it was created and established in your business to ensure accuracy with diagnosis and to save money (eg by way of a salary). While this digital solution might provide a great number of advantages to your aged care business, your residents and guests will probably be appalled.

The one thing that’s missing in the human touch. And that is likely to be the most important.

The thing to realise is that your residents have come to value the human contact they receive at your facility. And therefore, a GP should be one of the very last areas to succumb to transformation. After all, the human experience behind the appropriate concept is key to appreciating our global and individual need for digital transformation.

We transform not because we happened to create better technology, but because a need was identified to provide a greater and more efficient service to our clients. The needs and requirements of senior humans differ greatly to that of millennials, and this is taken into consideration when transformation is researched, designed and created.

Digital transformation is for all of us, not just the youth who want things that are faster and flashier. It involves all of us, belongs to us and empowers us. It gives us a voice and communicates with us.

I hope we can now realise that digital transformation is all about people, and in fact nothing at all about technology, which is just the vehicle to get us to where we want to be.

In aged care, there might need to be other considerations where digital technology is utilised. Rather than client-facing, it may be better introduced to administration procedures instead.

Katja Forbes is managing director Aus/NZ at Designit and an international director on the Interaction Design Association Board. 





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