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Growing up: the case for IT maturity in aged care settings.

Could IT maturity be the answer to today’s opportunities and tomorrow’s challenges in the aged care sector?

Aging. It comes to us all.

But as Australia’s population continues to boom – recently hitting 27 million, 18 years earlier than predicted1 – it is clear aging is coming for more of us. Come 2050, it’s projected that nearly a quarter of Australians (23%) will be aged 65+2.

Is the aged-care sector ready for what’s coming down the line? If the current situation is any indicator, the answer is troubling.

Aged care’s current labour shortage is well reported. Calculations are the industry is short thousands of registered nurses and personal care workers. And with aged care providers now mandated to meet minimum care time, registered nurses required in aged care homes 24/7, and bigger workloads as a result of COVID and Aged Care Quality standards, it’s no wonder aged care workers are feeling overworked and undervalued.

Hungry for support, workers want systems and tools that lighten their day-to-day burdens, enhance productivity, and create a greater capacity to focus on what it is they do best: the delivery of empathic care.

Where’s technology in the discussion?

In an era where digital transformation has become the linchpin of progress, the aged care sector finds itself at a crossroads. While other industries – think finance, retail, and logistics – have increasingly woven technology into their operations, aged care has been slower to embrace the digital wave.

A 2022 report authored by RMIT-Cisco Health Transformation Lab3 found the aged-care sector “lags behind the hospital system in the adoption of electronic medical records, and significantly trails broader industries in the implementation of digital human resource management.”

Costs may be a reason. Just over a third of residential care providers made a profit in 20234. Tight budgets and slender margins leave little headroom (or appetite) for substantial technology investments and infrastructure improvements.

Familiarity with doing things the ‘old-fashioned-way’ may be another. In 2022, just 14% of aged care providers were reported as using fully integrated software systems5. 53% of carers were reported as using new technologies in 2023, a 6% lift on the year prior7. Of those carers, just over half (54%) reported improvements in work quality and efficiency.

When you stitch it all together, it’s apparent the aged care sector in general, and carers in particular, need the tools, support, and training to help cope with increased workloads, stick with an industry they care about, and serve as a recruitment tool to attract more workers.

Technology’s role in revitalising the sector.

At its heart, technology can and should play a pivotal role in automating processes, digitising operations, and equipping care professionals with the tools they need.

Be it software and hardware that helps staff collaborate and stay connected, systems that support safety monitoring and staff rostering, platforms for online training and compliance, or responsive support that’s always on call, technology can help with the heavy lifting.

Technology can’t replace the human touch. But human-centric technology – including video-calling, personalised care plans, and telehealth services – can augment it for caregivers, care users, and their families.

Baby steps: the roadmap to IT maturity.

A technology overhaul, refresh, or restructure can feel overwhelming, but a few universal fundamentals apply to organisations of all sizes.

Assess where you are.

It’s hard to know where to head if you don’t know where you are. A comprehensive and clear-eyed evaluation of your existing infrastructure – including how it’s used, unused, or misused – will be invaluable in helping you understand your technological readiness, spot gaps, and lay the groundwork for subsequent steps.

Align solutions with priorities.

Ideal IT solutions not only align with your mission-critical priorities and deliver on expected outcomes. They also advance them. Verifying stakeholder priorities and expectations, then understanding the needs and goals of those who will be impacted (directly and indirectly) are vital in building out a sound, well-rounded case for investment.

Build your business case.

Business buy-in hangs on selling a compelling business case. Demonstrating how the chosen technologies or solutions will meet stakeholder expectations, drive business outcomes, and align with organisational priorities will naturally lead with cost. But factoring in value, as well as quantifying risk, are equally vital metrics.

Implement a phased approach.

It can be tempting to go all-in on a technology refresh, but a phased implementation can help minimise risks and disruptions. Breaking down the changes into phased, manageable, and measurable stages offer staff and the broader organisation time to acclimate to changes. And the adoption of a micro innovation philosophy – harnessing new technology to unlock incremental changes that deliver huge wins – can be a powerful change agent.

Find a trusted partner.

Last on the list. But in truth, it should come first, or at any subsequent step. A good IT provider should deliver at the point where a business plan shifts from being an academic exercise to practical reality. But a great IT partner will have your back for the entire journey, bringing fresh perspectives, innovative solutions, and proven experience in ways that put your interests, and those of your users, first.

It’s long overdue the aged care sector embarked on a journey to arrive at a near future where technology seamlessly integrates with compassionate care. The journey isn’t easy. It demands a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges and benefits, the role of tactical planning, and the value of strategic partnership.

But by identifying the barriers, locking onto the upsides, and following a methodical roadmap, aged care providers can unlock the transformative power of technology. Because if not now, when?

With tried-and-true experience across the healthcare sector, and trusted by more than 1400 companies, Brennan are Australia’s leading systems integrator and outsourced IT partner. Visit Brennan for more.

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