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The time for digital technology in aged care homes is upon us

With several states across the country currently in different phases of lockdown depending on their number of COVID-19 cases, the uncertainty caused by the virus continues. We can only hope then, that this time the situation will not be as detrimental to the health and social care sector as we have seen in previous months which, unfortunately, brought many aged care homes to their knees. 

Providers relying heavily on paper to evidence care have been hit particularly hard, mainly due to mounting time pressures around administering and evidencing medication, as well as stringent COVID-19 protocols. With time already invaluable in the fight against coronavirus, particularly in paper-dependent care environments, aged care facilities have been impacted further with regular staff shortages and self-isolation. As a result, medical records are constantly changing hands, increasing the likelihood of becoming lost, misplaced or unnecessarily duplicated.

In these precarious times, such errors can vastly increase the time it takes to record the care of residents, which naturally increases the risk of severe consequences and unnecessary travesties. There is, however, a solution to simplifying administration, freeing up time and increasing communication through the innovative utilisation of technology.

There is, after all, widely adopted technology available that allows care providers to digitally plan, record and monitor the care of residents at the point of delivery. Reducing the time it takes to evidence care by removing paper from the process, carers can instead focus on delivering the best possible care to their residents. Icon-driven technology has the added benefit of reducing the need for written language, eliminating language barriers between staff of different nationalities and reducing the risk of misinterpretation.

There is also software available that enables staff to evidence care through a simple click of a button and while on the go, which is instantaneously saved into a secure online portal accessible to all those in the organisation who have been granted access. At a time where room for error is so marginal, carers now have the resources to save time, reduce workloads, minimise errors, and enhance collaboration. Therefore, technology often misconceived as too complex to operate and integrate with aged care facilities, has proven to be the opposite.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the value of technology has been highlighted even further. We have introduced eight new coronavirus-specific features developed to help protect the elderly and vulnerable. These included coronavirus reporting, staff coronavirus auditing, track and trace reporting, and Relatives Gateway video link, which allows residents and families to communicate in real-time. In addition, our system includes many infection control features such as an infections register, barrier nursing alerts sent to the handheld devices, and infection symptom tracking.

Carers using our software have reported saving three days per month in administrative tasks, which is crucial when staff absence and agency usage is on the increase.

The Australian Government recently announced plans to invest $60 million to extend support for COVID-19 response measures in aged care homes until 30 June 2022. This extension means the second tranche of COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program grants will be available from this week to support providers with costs incurred from 28 May 2021 to 31 March 2022. 

In response to the current situation across the country, significant efforts are being made to protect senior Australians in aged care, including more resources being made available should they be needed. 

With the grant allocation being available to be put towards the cost of digital care systems to help control and manage infection, we believe now is such a pivotal time to take control and use the initiative in the fight against coronavirus, by eliminating the unnecessary burden of paper-based dependency in aged care facilities for more effective and multifunctional technology.

Tammy Sherwood is the CEO of Person Centred Software Australia, a leading global technology company and developer.

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