Electronic referrals for federally funded aged care services
All new referrals for federally funded community and residential aged care services will be conducted electronically from July 1 under the new My Aged Care system, although exceptions have been made for healthcare professionals sending inbound referrals who still prefer to use fax machines.
Department of Social Services (DSS) representatives are currently conducting a series of information briefings to the sector around the country to explain the changes, including a live demonstration of how the new My Aged Care web portals will work for clients, assessors and service providers.
The changes will see the Home and Community Care (HACC) program transition into a new Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), with all new entrants into the federal aged care system screened initially by a contact centre run by Healthdirect and using a national screening and assessment form (NSAF).
The contact centre will establish a central client record that can be shared by the client and their carers or family, independent assessors and aged care service providers.
Following the initial screening process, a referral notice will be sent to an independent Regional Assessment Service (RAS) or Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) by email. The email does not contain personal details, but will alert assessors that there is a new referral, which can be accessed through a web portal.
Assessors will then conduct a face-to-face assessment with the client using the pre-populated NSAF and develop a care plan in association with the client. Depending on the client's needs, they can then be referred electronically to community or residential service providers, who will also be able to access the central client record and the referral through a provider portal.
The changes will not affect Victoria or Western Australia immediately as their HACC programs are both state- and federally funded and negotiations are still underway to plan the transition.
DSS branch manager Craig Harris said residential aged care providers will transition to the new system and begin receiving electronic referrals when their local ACAT begins to use it, which will be between July and December this year.
At a briefing in Sydney yesterday, Mr Harris said DSS understood there was a great deal of concern in the sector over what is seen by many as a big new IT system developed by bureaucrats in Canberra.
“We absolutely fully recognise there is a level of anxiety in the sector around government IT systems,” Mr Harris said, to a great deal of laughter from the audience.
“It is an IT support system but the whole measure of My Aged Care is not that it is a technology system. That is not the focus, but the technology is important for facilitating sharing of information.
”The establishment of the central client record is absolutely pivotal to ... the success of My Aged Care in the future. It is a huge change for the sector in that you will have access to a common client record that can share the information with the client, the assessors and the relevant service providers about their needs, their goals and the services that are in place, assessment results and outcomes.”
Service providers will be able to access the referrals and the central client record through the provider portal using an AUSkey, a security certificate that can be hosted on a computer or on a USB for those providers accessing multiple systems.
Providers will be expected to self-manage their information on My Aged Care, and will also be able to set up an electronic wait list if they are unable to immediately accept a referral. Clients will be able to prioritise which services they would prefer to receive and from whom, but if a provider cannot immediately accept the referral then the client can be added to one or more provider's waiting list.
As soon as a provider can accept that referral, the client will be removed from the other waiting lists. This will all be done electronically through My Aged Care.
Mr Harris said electronic wait lists would make it simpler to provide services to clients faster, but was also as a way to gauge unmet needs in the community for the first time.
“Wait list functionality is quite significant for the sector and from a policy perspective as well,” he said. “We don’t really have a good idea of unmet demand within the sector and having wait list functionality will provide that insight.
“The wait list will be centrally hosted within My Aged Care but we will look to service providers to manage their own wait list.”
For healthcare providers such as GPs or community nurses, initial referrals to the contact centre can be done electronically through the My Aged Care website, by fax or by phone. “We expect to have inbound referrals from health professionals in particular through fax,” Mr Harris said. “We know that healthcare professionals still like to use fax quite significantly.”
In emergency cases for those patients with urgent needs, referrals can still be made directly to service providers, with information on those clients then captured retrospectively and a central client record established.
Clients or their carers can also make first contact by phone or through the website.
There will be no clinical information captured during the initial screening process, although the central client record will be updated with the client's healthcare requirements by the assessor and the service provider. While the plan is to link the record to the PCEHR in future, it has not been developed as a clinical record.
The changes will only affect new entrants into the federal aged care system or current clients whose situation changes significantly and who need a new assessment. Only Commonwealth-funded service providers will receive referrals electronically through My Aged Care, with private and non-Commonwealth funded services conducting business as usual.
DSS is also currently considering a fees policy under the new system so that those clients who can afford to pay for services do so. This is expected to significantly reduce the level of over-servicing in the sector as well as highlight levels of unmet need.
The department also plans to develop an interface between hospitals and My Aged Care to allow discharge nurses to view the central client record and ensure elderly patients can be safely discharged back to their homes or to transitional or residential aged care.
Posted in Aged Care