Aged care looks for government investment in ICT

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) has called on the federal government to provide a one-off investment in the aged care sector to upgrade its ICT capabilities.

Launching its Digital Care Services IT blueprint (pdf) in Canberra yesterday, the ACIITC – a joint venture between Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) – argued that government funding had enabled pharmacists and general practitioners to upgrade ICT systems, which had benefited all Australians.

The blueprint is a further development of the IT roadmap created by the Pathfinder project, which was set up in 2012 to investigate what systems and processes would be required to get the aged care industry involved in using the PCEHR.

Led by the ACIITC, a report on Pathfinder was handed in to the Department of Health over 18 months ago, but has never been released.

The council argues in its new blueprint that with demand for aged care set to soar – an estimated 1.6 million people will require some sort of aged service by 2023 – ICT was essential to helping the entire system deliver high quality and accessible care.

Workforce requirements are also a concern, with the Productivity Commission predicting that the aged care workforce needs to grow to 900,000 by 2045. ACSA CEO John Kelly said a workforce of this size was not achievable.

“However, universal deployment of ICT systems could effectively reduce this predicted growth to comfortably justify the investment,” Professor Kelly said.

“Providers are always looking for better ways to manage their workforce to give the highest quality care to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people, our elderly who need care. IT investment maximises the opportunity for innovation in the way services are delivered.

“Up to 80 per cent of services will be delivered directly to people in their homes in the future and this environment provides the opportunity to maximise cost effective investments in ICT systems.”

Developed in association with Accenture, the blueprint states that the cost of inaction would be high for aged care providers, consumers, carers and the community.

“If the system does not embrace the use of ICT, it risks the loss of the ability to offer high-quality, accessible care. This could not only fail those directly involved, but result in additional adverse pressures on the Australian community in general.”

The blueprint states that governments can help foster investment in infrastructure for innovation and solutions that can be scaled across the industry, similar to providing seed funding as it has with pharmacies and general practice.

The ACIITC said it had identified a number of key areas that should be prioritised, including eHealth, telehealth and mobility, care management, management information and reporting, and core technology and support.

The blueprint states that aged care providers need to evaluate their current ICT arrangements and work with software vendors and developers to ensure they have the right capabilities in place.

“To ensure this approach is successful, providers may need to make sure board members and advisers with substantial ICT experience are involved,” it says. It also argues that providers may need to boost their ICT spend from less than two per cent today to four to five per cent of gross revenue to provide a sound level of ICT investment.

“Government should focus on creating a framework that enables the industry to change and adapt, including consistent government policies and investments. In addition, government should work closely with the industry peak bodies to develop pilot programs and ensure the outcomes are disseminated across the industry.

“This requires a scalable investment approach as opposed to the current ad hoc spending approach to aged care ICT investments.”

Posted in Aged Care

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