Home | Technology | Digital meets person-centred care: a tale of aged care transformed

Digital meets person-centred care: a tale of aged care transformed

The first of the nation’s baby boomers are turning 75 this year and, as they grow older, the one-size fits all approach will no longer work in the aged care industry.

If they don’t already, residents will expect greater flexibility and independence, and technology will be one of the key factors at the centre of this change.

Unlike the generation before them, the majority of baby boomers increasingly enjoy and understand the benefits that technology can bring them. Some are embracing devices like iPads and Fitbits as enthusiastically as the younger generations, which will no doubt experience an entirely new world of aged care in the decades ahead.

Many technologies that have become commonplace – think the Internet of Things (IoT) and related smart devices – provide a significant opportunity to ensure aged care residents receive the exact care they need, the moment they need it – whether that’s through connected monitors, blood pressure devices, or even AI-enabled fall detection technology.

It’s no secret technology will have a fundamentally transformative impact on the future of aged care – if and where it hasn’t already – but it takes more than just the latest flashy technologies to evolve the sector.

Video conferencing and messaging apps serve a significant purpose, but residents, their support networks and carers need technology to be a part of their experience from the start, not just a fragmented afterthought in times of heightened need.

A recent Epicor survey found fewer than 15 per cent of aged care organisations have integrated their digital assets. Put simply, if your systems aren’t integrated, they can’t communicate, and so critical data about the business is often missing from the decision-making process. This isn’t something the sector can afford.

While there’s certainly evidence of providers investing in new technologies many still operate with missing links.

This is a symptom of positive intentions – like in most industries, the rush to cloud computing caused a blend of complex environments, leaving aged care providers trying to adopt innovative tools while also managing legacy systems and all the headaches that come with maintaining this setup.

Collated from years of service, these environments contain large amounts of accumulated resident data, and their disconnected nature creates disparity in an environment where accurate information is needed in real time. This takes the focus away from resident care as carers are forced to sit through tedious administrative tasks.

With the various changes entering the aged care community, we at Juniper made the decision to conduct a whole-of-business IT refresh.

One step ahead

The core driver behind our technology overhaul was to enable greater efficiency across operations, and to boost focus on outcomes for residents, clients and staff. We needed to reinvest our resources to where they are needed most – helping residents by empowering employees.

Our previous environment was reliant on on-premises IT infrastructure which wasn’t designed to communicate across the business, siloing important data. We had staff, resident and incident information duplicated across multiple systems, making it difficult and time-consuming to locate and extract data to inform business decisions.

This was because each of our 10 key systems previously had its own set of credentials so carers would need to log in 10 different times, remember 10 separate passwords, and enter the same data multiple times, disrupting the flow of the day. Whether it was mealtimes or general visitations, quality time with residents was being disrupted.

We realised the only way to improve these pain points was to develop a data management strategy.

With the ability to analyse and manage data in real-time, our staff would be able to make more accurate decisions regarding quality care. To do this we needed to integrate our digital assets to improve visibility across the entire business, and that meant turning to technology to easily break down data silos by securely integrating all of the applications we need to keep the business running.

As part of our wider transformation, we turned to Boomi to connect our digital assets. The platform helped us gain visibility by integrating on-premises and cloud applications within an extremely easy-to-use interface that doesn’t demand heavy coding or extensive maintenance.

The low-code design also meant we didn’t need to recruit an additional integration developer to tinker for hours every week, which means we can continue to focus our time and money on strategic initiatives. After all, every dollar saved is another dollar invested in resident and client health and wellbeing.

It’s only the beginning

Integrating digital systems brings all business information into one place, providing a comprehensive and accurate view of an organisation’s critical activities.

Since successfully completing the overhaul, we’ve begun to improve productivity across the business by connecting and sharing data we know is accurate. We are now a digitally connected business that is driving efficiencies and freeing our staff from manual administrative tasks.

Aged care providers need to be equipped with the technologies that enable these real-time capabilities, especially in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The industry needs an accurate framework of basic communications to not only manage governance and reporting pressures, but day-to-day activities. IoT and smart devices can help ensure residents receive the exact care they need, the moment they need it.

We replaced desktop terminals with mobile tablets so carers can spend more time interacting with the residents where they are comfortable, rather than behind the scenes at nurse’s stations doing data entry.

This is a big issue, especially during COVID-19, and the pandemic has shown that we need to unlock carers from their workstations and place them in front of residents to improve wellbeing in a safe and controlled manner. Juniper staff now have accurate real-time information, helping them to provide more personalised quality care, all with a swipe on a mobile device.

Our next step is to have 360-degree visibility across the whole business, ensuring consistent data throughout, and a single source of truth to enable data analytics and business intelligence projects. This means that no matter where staff are positioned on site, they will be able to gain insight from a central reliable source.

While the aged care sector continues to remain under the microscope, we are now in an even stronger position to make a positive impact in communities by enabling greater efficiency and boosting focus on stakeholder outcomes by using technology to get a better view and use of data.

Data is playing a crucial role in allowing us to personalise the experience of residents and clients now, while setting the organisation up for the future.

Dan Beeston is the ICT Manager of Juniper, a Western Australian aged care organisation.

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