Ageing at home: ICT and seniors’ living

This story first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

The 7th annual Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference is being held in Hobart later this month. As the role of technology in helping people to stay at home longer continues to grow in importance, this year’s conference theme of the ‘digital revolution in seniors’ living’ is a fitting one. Emphasis will be placed not just on gadgets and the potential of telehealth, but on developing sustainable models of service provision in community and residential aged care.

The use of technology in aged care is no longer restricted simply to the use of clinical management systems in residential aged care, or of monitoring systems or telehealth in home care. It now runs the full gamut of technologies that can support the care of elderly people in their homes, their communities, the primary care sector, the hospital sector and the residential aged care sector.

It is not so much the use of technology that poses a challenge in aged care, or the development of new technologies geared towards elderly people. These days, the challenge is very much about how to develop sustainable business models to encourage initial investment in technology and ongoing funding for the provision of care to the elderly in what will remain a predominantly publicly funded sector for the foreseeable future.

As assistive technologies continue to develop – and to come down in price – more of the nitty gritty of service provision through these technologies is coming to the fore. The ITAC 2014 theme of “assistive technologies: disruptor or enhancer of services?” is therefore a pertinent one.

The afternoon session of day one of the conference will hear from the Aged Care Industry IT Council (ACIITC), which earlier this year released a report calling on the government to invest $10 million as seed money to assist the industry to begin to catch up with the public investment made in the primary care sector, particularly to GPs and pharmacists. While $10m is a drop in the ocean, ACIITC chair Suri Ramanathan argues that it is a start on the road to more integrated care for the elderly in all settings, not just the ad hoc approach seen in the past.

What the council's Aged Care ICT Vision calls for is an emphasis not on proven technologies like telehealth or emerging technologies like the PCEHR, but on the more mundane but very much critical areas of integration of care planning, management information and reporting, and staff productivity.

Technology conferences are used to seeing IT vendors spruik their wares, but at ITAC this year, the Aged Care Industry Vendors Association (ACIVA) will discuss the role of vendors as critical partners in delivering care.

ACIVA president David Loiterton, who took over the role from long-term president Caroline Lee last December, will discuss the view of vendors that it is imperative they play a connected role with providers, the government and other regulatory bodies.

“We need to be proactive in contributing to and helping shape technology policy, as well as interacting with the various departments to stay ahead of the changing landscape in the aged care sector,” Mr Loiterton says. “We all understand the complexity of attempting much of this individually and with disparate goals.”

Mr Loiterton says ACIVA members continue to face a number of challenges to serve their clients well, not the least of which is navigating the new government's departmental structure, and trying to manage continual changes to regulations and the effect that has on their product development, including from policies such as consumer-directed care and Living Long, Living Better.

“There continues to be poor communication and interaction with vendors in a timely manner, to allow for changes to be made and ‘appropriately’ tested,” he says. “ACIVA will seek to work with the peak bodies and government to ensure these changes are more transparent to vendors at an earlier stage.”

In addition to a number of speakers covering the importance of technology to the nursing workforce, the topic of mobile technology in the home and in residential aged care facilities is on the agenda, as is IT governance and risk management, medications management and telehealth.

Preliminary results from some of the NBN-enabled pilot projects will be revealed, including from the CSIRO's multi-site national trial of telehealth for the management of chronic disease in the home; a presentation by Stelvio Vido from RDNS on its integrated telehealth project which includes remote monitoring and GP connectivity; and from Alan Taylor from Flinders University, who will discuss the South Australian telehealth pilot project which is trialling the remote provision of palliative care, aged care and rehabilitation therapies.

There will also be a PCEHR session, with Feros Care's Kate Swanton discussing the justification for and journey with the PCEHR at Feros Care's facilities. Social media will make an appearance with Stuart Couchman of Azzurri Communications discussing how social media can be used to improve client and guest experience in aged care using technologies such as Azzurri's Wi-Fi.

Former Victorian minister for aged care, Bronwyn Pike, who is now working with Telstra as a community care lead, will discuss Telstra Health's ambitious plans in the aged and community care sectors.

To read the full story, click here for the May 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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