Aged Care Gateway on track for July launch: DoHA

The Department of Health and Ageing has delivered a progress report on its Aged Care Gateway project, confirming that it will go live on July 1 with an initial focus on providing general information while it builds capacity to ultimately deliver online assessments and referrals.

Craig Harris, assistant secretary of the access reform branch in the Ageing and Aged Care Division at DoHA, told the recent ITAC conference that the department is running at full clip to meet the July 1 launch of the gateway, its contact centre and the MyAgedCare website within it.

Mr Harris said the gateway’s rationale acknowledged the need to shift more power to the public with more information and less complexity.

“Information is not easily accessible or reliable; assessment processes are often repetitive and inconsistent across the country; [and] sources are quite wide and varied and often difficult to access and understand,” Mr Harris said. “It doesn’t help in making informed decisions.

“This is about empowering the consumer – giving them information that allows them to make some really significant choices in their lives.

“There’s a high demand for more choice and more control, and a bit of a lack of independence and transparency in our government arrangements.”

Mr Harris said that the gateway would play a significant part of the “Living Longer, Living Better” reforms’ goal of creating a flexible and seamless aged care system.

The department’s conception of the gateway is for an “identifiable entry-point” into the aged care system and “a single point of truth”, in which “you know full well you can come to the gateway and get accurate, consistent, reliable information”, he said.

The gateway’s national contact centre will also go live on July 1, and will be delivered through Healthdirect Australia and Stellar Call Centres, based in Box Hill, Victoria.

It will operate from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturday. Staff hiring started a fortnight ago, and Mr Harris said that successful candidates will have high emotional intelligence, cultural sensitivity and knowledge of the aged care sector.

In the first phase, running into 2014, the contact centre will provide general information and referrals for assessment, and manage a waiting list.

Online assessment through the gateway is slated to begin in July 2015, though the contact centre will be able to provide assessments – via the nationally consistent assessment framework being trialled in four jurisdictions – next year.

There will be three levels of assessment in the national assessment framework. Level three assessments will not be delivered by the contact centre or gateway, but information will be recorded on a central client record.

Central client records, around which there will be “significant security”, according to Mr Harris, will be accessible by authorised providers as well as the contact centre.

Client records will integrate with the PCEHR, but Mr Harris parried a question from the floor trying to pin down a timeframe for integration.

A DoHA spokeswoman said the central client record “is being constructed with full recognition of the value of linking the central client record with the PCEHR. The timeframe for linking to the PCEHR will be determined by the development of the central client record and supporting systems.”

Mr Harris said ultimately the contact centre will identify to the government areas of unmet demand – “the heat spots for service provision” – and that this will be very beneficial to allocating resources.

The MyAgedCare website will eventually include tools for finding providers, self-assessment and estimating fees – the last of which Mr Harris said was a key component – but no delivery date has been made public for when they will begin operating.

On confirmed timeframes for the gateway, Mr Harris said matching clients to providers will occur in the next 12 months, mapping availability of providers will occur in 2014/15, and real-time information that integrates the central client record with provider data will occur in 2015/16.

Direct referral from the gateway to providers in real-time will start in July 2015.

Mr Harris gave an overview of two of the gateway’s functions that the access reform branch is overseeing – a linking service for vulnerable older people and a carer support centre network.

The carer support centres, which will replace Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres (CRCCs), are scheduled to start operation in July next year. No model has been devised on what form they will take, but evidence has been collected, he said.

To audience concern that industry rumour suggested the new centres were a cover for slashing services, Mr Harris said the “scuttlebutt” was incorrect. He said the centres would not be a “rebadging” of CRCCs, and intimated that existing services would be preserved.

Mr Harris said that the final support centre model will reflect demographic needs and projections.

On the linking service for vulnerable members of the community, Mr Harris said the department is currently looking at the evidence base for how it can best be delivered.

The linking service is not part of the contact centre at this stage. KPMG has completed national research and developed four prospective models, which are under consultation through 18 workshops around the country.

Meanwhile, the gateway advisory group – comprising the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), Australian Medical Association and National Rural Health Alliance – is working with DoHA on the design and implementation of the gateway.

DoHA has also gathered the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the states and territories, and NACA to convene a gateway consultation forum.

Part of its task is to devise a solution for a complex operating environment in which Victoria and Western Australia have not signed up to the Commonwealth Home and Community Care (HACC) program for funding services.

There will be a purchase–provider arrangement for HACC and aged care assessment team (ACAT) services. DoHA has not ruled out tenders for services, although Mr Harris gave the impression that such considerations were not a priority right now.

DoHA’s spokeswoman subsequently confirmed that the purchase–provider arrangement will begin on July 1, 2014, and that model options are being explored.

Mr Harris said PricewaterhouseCoopers had delivered a report to DoHA on change management for establishing the gateway, but the DoHA spokeswoman said PwC was still developing the strategy.

The department is now urging all providers to update their contact details before July 1 on the Aged Care Australia website, to ensure a smooth transition when the gateway goes live.

Posted in Aged Care

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