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CEO aims to break down aged care sector fragmentation

There’s a lot of rhetoric in the aged care sector about how best to reform it, admits Danielle Ballantine, but she reckons her Sydney-based organisation is heading in the right direction thanks to an approach focused on simplifying the user experience.

The CEO of Your Side who has been nominated for the prestigious social award ‘Impact 25’, says she’s determined to put aged care services on the map and has started with a progressive approach which aims to better connect older people with a wide support system that encompasses all the services they may need.

“We all know the aged care sector business model is very fragmented,” she says. “This is our biggest issue and one which will probably take a good five years to reform in the wake of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

“I know it’s a cliché to say the client needs to be at the centre of the policy-making process, but this is exactly right; it’s more than just saying ‘I’m client centred’.

“Really, the only way to break down the fragmentation issues that we see is for aged care organisations to work with other industries to offer a coordinated range of required services that can be easily navigated by older Australians.”

Ballantine admits this could mean more consolidation within the industry, as well as more mergers and new innovative technology service approaches that have not been seen in the past.

“We may have to rethink the future as we know now with this increasing ageing population that clients are expecting an increased range of quality services.”

She says the organisation’s strategy involves the use of a ‘User Experience’ (UX) team for the aged care system.

“In other sectors such as retail, technology and hospitality, the user experience has already been well established.

“These teams have looked very closely at how the customer has their needs delivered – what works and what doesn’t – and realised that a seamless experience, where they can get most or all of their services and brands coordinated and delivered together at a single point, is what works most effectively.

“This ‘pain point’ of coordinating care still exists greatly within the aged care sector and this is something that we’re currently trying to overcome.

“It’s no good expecting a client to have to deal with three different organisations for their basic services – in many circumstances it’s just too complicated for an older Australian to explain to three different people their personal situation and homecare needs.

“We are aiming to be a multi-service organisation – a bit like a department store for the retail client with multiple brands and services under one roof, where they only need to say once to one person what they actually need.”

Ballantine acknowledges that human services has matured a lot over the past few years in terms of changing customer needs, and that the different government-funded models – the early entry Commonwealth Home Support Program, the Home Care Package Model and the Residential Care Model – are all somewhat fragmentated.

“Unfortunately all require significant cost to patients to be able to move to new funding models and this will involve hundreds of thousands of organisations; it’s very hard to say if this should be done over a period of time or more quickly.

“For some organisations, sustainability will be a major issue regarding how they move from one funding model to another, especially if an organisation is on single funding for a single service. Being able to continue to provide those services with an uncertain future will be hard.

“In any case, we are trying to work within these funding model constraints as efficiently as possible to get services to clients as they need them and eliminate some of that complexity.

“I think we’re achieving this but obviously there’s always more to be done. I am confident that we’re addressing needs so that clients can more easily navigate the sector.”

In common with many others in aged care, Ballantine also admits that access to a skilled workforce is one of the biggest challenges faced.

“We have a maturing workforce and a very rapidly growing customer base, and in the next 2-3 years we will need over 100,000 care workers nationally. To be able to attract and train care workers is a big issue.”

Previous winners of the Impact 25 Award include Malcolm Turnbull, Rosie Batty and Julia Gillard. Winners have contributed to raising the awareness of social issues such as asylum seeking, domestic abuse, climate change and homelessness, among others, however nobody in aged care has ever been named before.

The winners of Impact 25 will will be announced on 19 March.

Visit https://www.pbaimpact.com/ for more information on the awards.

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