Today’s tech innovations are tomorrow’s risk for the aged care industry, according to BTAS Founder & CEO, Gavin Jones. He made the observation during his presentation at Leaders Summit 2016 in Sydney, March 11.
Jones started off his presentation with some insights into the aged care industry by ABS and McCrindle. From 2014 to 2024, people aged 65+ will grow by 38% to 4.76 million, and this number is expected to more than double to 7.75 million by 2044.
Alzheimer’s Australia has reported that 353,800 Australians currently living with dementia. By 2025, the number will grow by 13% to 400,000, and again by 154% to 900,000 in 2050.
Whiddon and Galaxy Research has found that 1.4 million Australians aged 65+ experience loneliness. This amounts to more than a third (39%) of the people in the age group.
The future is now
With this backdrop, Jones positioned technology as a means of coping with these trends. Not only does it have the potential to provide the best value for money, it can also improve workplace efficiency.
BTAS clients such as Anglican Retirement Villages HQ, Christadelphian Aged Care, Twilight Aged Care, and Wesley Mission have used technology to provide better care to residents. It has also helped to retain and recruit the best staff, and make the carer role simpler and more attractive.
Jones also touched on the future of technology in aged care, highlighting emerging trends such as wearable technologies, multi-purpose robots, and Internet of Things. A video demonstrating some cutting edge solutions in aged care was shown, with Jones assuring the audience that these solutions already exist in certain markets.
The presentation also cautioned aged care providers for not having the right IT capabilities. Jones provided an insight into the size and make-up of the Australian health care industry using statistics reported by Computerworld.
The Australian aged care industry has 1200 residential providers with 185,000 beds. The top 200 providers have approximately 50% of the beds and tend to have a good level of ICT expertise and resources, though the remaining 1000 providers are likely to have limited internal IT capabilities.
Technology as an enabler
Technology is also a means to deal with the limited aged care workforce. According to the Productivity Commission, there are 240,445 workers in the aged care sector vs. 455,390 people aged 85+, and 77,976 workers need to be added in the next 10 years to keep the ratio.
The workforce also needs to grow to 900,000 by 2045. However, the Productivity Commission and ACSA (Aged & Community Services Australia) have found a workforce of this size is not achievable.
Not having the right technology and know-how could leave an aged care facility vulnerable to breaches. The Websense Security Labs Healthcare Drill-Down Report has found that the healthcare industry experiences 340% more security attacks than the average industry, making it the most targeted industry by cyber criminals.
The combination of more technology, data, and access to both by staff can lead to a greater risk. Although cyber crime persists, the reality is many organisations are not doing enough to protect their sensitive and confidential information.
Instead of waiting for a breach to happen, Jones said prevention is the best defence. Aged care facilities can educate staff about best practices, implement secure policies, and gain visibility to know when a breach has occurred.
Set the right foundation
When it comes to adopting technology, Jones recommended doing it based on science and not budget. Research what’s possible, plan to see where you are going, and then design your solution for the best possible delivery.
Having poor infrastructure and technology only puts an aged care facility at risk. Not only does system downtime present risk to residents, it also interrupts business continuity.
The functionality of the current ICT setup could be investigated to see if it can be easily changed, is aligned with business processes, and is simple to use. Looking at the cost structure ensures a facility has the right capacity at the right price.
From a security perspective, an organisation can ask if they are well positioned as the custodian of residents’ personal information. More broadly, they need to check if they have the right ICT knowledge, skill, and resources to confidently plan and design for the future.
Start preparing now
Jones concluded his presentation with some additional recommendations for aged care providers. They can start by assessing their current ICT environment based on technology and cost.
They can also encourage their IT people to look at the horizon and think about capability, functionality, commercial fit and security. An impartial external assessment of ICT environment focused on risk, capability, and growth could also be beneficial.
Jones cautioned against rushing towards fashionable solutions, and instead recommended doing the necessary research and planning first. If possible, providers should not hesitate to ask IT services providers the “hard questions”.
Lastly, one of the worst things a facility could do is sit around and do nothing. It is better to make small investments now to avoid large mistakes later.
Improve on what you have
Aged care facility and retirement village operators have unique and specialised technology requirements, so we created a network optimisation solution, BTAS Snapshot, tailored to meet those needs.
BTAS Snapshot is designed to provide an “early warning” look into a business’ network infrastructure. It’s not an audit or a consultancy, but a holistic overview of an ICT environment.
While it provides insight into how more radical changes can be made to the ICT infrastructure, it is the “quick wins” that will bring the immediate benefits to a business. Not only can BTAS Snapshot help to justify any additional investments to an ICT setup, in certain situations it could also potentially cover the costs.