Calls for inquiry to look at Aged Care sector’s tech-related issues

By: Australian Ageing Agenda

The uptake of technology among providers, digital literacy of staff and resident mental health are among key areas the royal commission needs to address on technology, a forum hosted by the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council has heard.

A broad range of aged care industry representatives came together in Sydney and online yesterday to share their perspectives on aged care technology and innovation issues to inform the ACIITC’s submission to the aged care royal commission.

The ACIITC, which aims to raise concerns about technology in the industry with policy and decision makers to improve the uptake of technology within the sector, said its submission would also draw on the Technology Roadmap for Aged Care it launched in June 2017 (read that story here).

Among the 35 attendees was Salvation Army Aged Care Plus head of information technology Paul Berryman.

He said the sector needed to be more agile with technology and not be afraid to fail.

“We need to try things out. Some are going to fail, some of them won’t and we need to get on with it. We spend too much time thinking about things and trying to get it perfect but we need to push on,” Mr Berryman told the forum.

Presbyterian Aged Care chief information officer Peter Newing said one of the biggest challenges was digital literacy among staff.

“Digital literacy would be the number one impediment we experience on a daily basis in terms of using technology and getting the most out of it,” Mr Newing said.

“We have a bit of difficultly with English as a second language among our staff and that all plays into it,” he said.

Stephanie Bennett, senior manager with aged care sector advisory firm Grant Thornton, said technology in the sector needed to focus on reducing and managing depression.

“If we can tackle depression, the staff can go in and have a social chat and we can reduce social isolation and increase social connection,” Ms Bennett said.

Other main areas of technology concerns raised on the day include:

  • smart homes and smart living
  • promoting independent living with monitoring technology and wearable sensors
  • managing chronic disease
  • supporting people living with cognitive issues
  • reducing social isolation and increasing social connection
  • Surveillance in aged care

A second forum at the event discussed the impact of surveillance and monitoring technologies in aged care facilities.

Social gerontologist and aged care researcher Dr Kate Barnett said cameras and surveillance would play an important role for the royal commission with footage already released in ABC’s Four Corners special into aged care.

“We definitely need to agree on protocol for video surveillance,” Dr Barnett said.

She said there needs to be a balance between providing a safe environment and protecting the rights of older people to privacy.

“What that boils down to in practice is informed consent from people for the use of cameras,” Dr Barnett said.

She said technology used in the sector was often not specifically intended for aged care, so providers needed to embrace the technologies available to avoid falling behind.

“People develop technologies in their own little bubbles and rarely co-design it with the sector.”

“This is a good example of technology being out there, and the aged care sector having to catch up on it,” Dr Barnett said.

This article was originally published on Australian Ageing Agenda on February 8th 2019

Improving the efficiency and technology of the Aged Care Workforce is a key theme to be explored at the Aged Care Summit running at Australian Healthcare Week 2019. View the agenda here