In an effort to meet Australia’s growing need for aged care facilities, providers are constantly on the hunt for ways to make their operations more efficient. Investment in digital technologies is an increasingly important part of this push.
The deployment of technologies within the sector received a significant boost in the recent Federal Budget. Some $10 billion has been allocated to support everything from improved communications systems to telehealth and process automation.
The investment comes at an important time for the sector as it strives to improve levels of care and make it available to larger numbers of people. Facility operators are reviewing their operations and looking for ways in which core functions can be improved.
A post-COVID world
The challenges are particularly acute in the wake of the global pandemic. Staff are under additional pressure and access to facilities by suppliers, service providers and visitors remains restricted. Many processes have had to be reviewed and changed to ensure care levels are maintained in this new environment.
One area being assessed by many care providers is the communications systems currently in place. These often do not extend beyond a standard key phone platform that has been in service for many years, is complex and a burden to manage.
Upgrading these platforms using digital technologies can bring significant benefits. Video calling and conferencing can be much more widely used by both staff and residents, greatly boosting their ability to connect with the outside world.
Relatives are able to see and speak with their loved ones, which is particularly important when physical visits are restricted. Multi-party calls can also be initiated which can simulate a family gathering.
Video communications systems can also aid in the delivery of telehealth services. Rather than having to leave the facility for doctor appointments, GPs and relevant specialists can see and speak with residents digitally.
Investment in digital communication platforms can also help to increase the productivity of staff. Conference calls can be quickly established, removing the need for many time-consuming face-to-face meetings.
Digitising administrative processes
Another area in which investment in digital technologies and tools can deliver significant value is with the administrative departments of aged care facilities. Here, many remain heavily reliant on paper-based processes that are cumbersome and inefficient.
The digitisation of administrative processes can cover everything from a resident’s initial application through to medical records and care plans. Rather than needing to fill out endless forms or consult filing cabinets to check doctor’s orders, documents can be digitised and made readily accessible by authorised staff.
Nurses can be equipped with an electronic tablet or smart device through which they can retrieve needed information and input data about each resident. This can greatly improve staff efficiency and ensure high levels of care are delivered at all times.
Digitisation can also be extended to key suppliers. Rather than needing to process paper-based orders and invoices, staff can approve these digitally which streamlines workflows and reduces the overall administrative burden.
Digital technologies can also improve the way the health of residents is monitored. Sensors can automatically collect data on things such as blood pressure, lung function and physical movement. Should pre-set limits be breached, alerts can be triggered for nursing staff to assess the situation.
These monitoring tools can make it possible for a given number of staff members to take care of a larger number of residents. This is particularly important when demand for residential places is continuing to increase.
Just as they have done in the corporate world, digital technologies can deliver significant benefits to aged care providers, their staff and residents. With new funding now committed by the Federal Government, strategies can be put in place to allow facilities to undertake projects as quickly as possible.
The steps taken during the months ahead will have a significant and long-term impact on the quality of aged care Australians can enjoy in their later years.
Sam Deckert is the founder and principal consultant at Peak InsightDo you have an idea for a story?
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