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Photo: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

Royal commission: tech, teaching constraints laid bare

This week, the royal commission turned its attention to the role of research, innovation and technology in aged care, noting those areas are vital for the sector to meet the many challenges it faces in the coming years.

Specifically, the workshops were about investigating whether the sector and the Australian Government are doing enough to foster “much needed” developments.

In Monday’s workshop, the royal commission heard from Jennene Buckley, chief executive of Feros Care, which has kept technology as a centrepiece of its approach to care in recent years.

Buckley said technology is the future but added rolling it out across residential aged care has been difficult.

“We need to make sure the funding model and the pricing model of all aged care services allows an organisation to invest in technology and to invest in quality,” she told the royal commission, explaining that current funding models don’t allow providers to innovate.

“[When] a piece of technology off the shelf, that’s already been developed, comes into our service, there is so much work for a service provider to do to put that innovation in the hands of a client. We need to test it. We need to make sure we understand its limitations. The risks around the technology, who can it help, who can’t it help. Then we have to develop assessment tools and guidelines and training material.

“There’s a lot of work involved in just one small piece of technology. So we need to be able to create the ecosystem for that technology to be evaluated but then we need funding and systems to be able to allow providers to actually implement that innovation. It’s not so simple.”

The following day, the royal commission heard about teaching and research in aged care, with researcher Dr Kate Barnett comparing the aged care sector’s teaching model with that of teaching hospitals, calling it “the poor cousin”.

“It hasn’t had the kind of funding support that the health sector model has had,” Barnett explained.

“And that’s a pity because there’s huge scope, you know, if we want to break down silos between health and aged care and particularly acute care, to have teaching hospitals and teaching aged care services as considered fairly equal players in the field of educating current and future workforces.”

She added ageism is a factor in the inequity.

“Why is it perfectly acceptable to have a network of teaching hospitals but for the aged care sector it’s a bit of a luxury and a bit of an add-on? Why isn’t it a central part of an evidence-based quality system of care?”

The royal commission will hold its next Adelaide hearing, focusing on mental health, oral health and allied health care, on 30 March.

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