The right technology infrastructure can help lift organisations’ quality and efficiency dividends.
Australia’s healthcare sector continues to maintain its position as a global leader, setting the standard in a range of areas from managing the overall cost of healthcare delivery to making tangible inroads towards digital integration across the health system.
However, the sector continues to face structural challenges that put these competitive advantages under pressure. Like many global jurisdictions, both the government and providers are grappling with an ageing population, increasing demand, as well as the rising cost of care, and the market’s response is altering consumer expectations.
This situation is certainly true for aged care in Australia, as the sheer volume of people seeking to enter the system is constraining the ongoing capacity of the industry. But this is where some outstanding providers, with the support of government, are delivering innovative new solutions that can enhance the experience for residents and their families, all while generating a healthy return.
Before delving deeper into innovation in aged care, it’s important to consider the underlying drivers. From a funding perspective, the move towards a means- tested co-payment and the gradual deregulation of the market is driving a profound shift.
Residents now bear a cost under a consumer-based funding model and it has imparted a power of choice. Providers now need to be more attuned to needs of the individual and as such, the expectation of a personalised, high- quality service is reshaping the way services are delivered today, and indeed into the future.
Balancing quality care delivery with driving operational efficiencies to manage time, resources and costs within aged care businesses is equally important to commercial sustainability. This is where we are seeing technology play a more prominent and supportive role.
Innovative applications for new and existing technologies are occurring at all levels of the heath system, from using wearables to monitor residents through to the federal government’s move towards integrated digital healthcare via MyHealth records.
Let’s start with the consumer expectations. Historically, aged care facilities emulated the hospital system, but we have seen a shift to offering accommodation that looks and feel more like modern hotel facilities.
Even more important is that the right technology infrastructure can help deliver integrated and personalised care and revolutionise a resident’s experience.
At the cutting edge of the sector we are seeing some organisations leverage technology to provide everything from digital health monitoring through to communications and entertainment for clients and families alike.
From a more clinical perspective, this is where the use of advanced robotics, wearables and sensors to monitor resident movements, and machine learning, can create a care environment that can predict wellness conditions or falls, better manage pain, as well as identify pending illness, stress and declining cognitive ability.
Through devices such as tablets, we are also seeing a big impact on the lifestyle factors for residents. The ability to select meal options and entertainment, or communicate with family members and healthcare practitioners is now part of delivering a holistic experience, and moreover, it has become an expectation.
For providers, the impact of these technologies is also far reaching. The ability to collect data on each individual resident can help to focus often limited human resources, both nursing, and other staff, where they are needed most.
In many time-consuming areas, such as blood pressure monitoring or pain management, smart devices can enable remote monitoring. This can have a huge impact on rostering, as well as freeing up staff to focus on the resident. As one of our clients put it, “No matter how good robotics or artificial intelligence is, it won’t replace one-on-one care”. For aged care businesses, the commercial benefits of these innovations are also becoming increasingly clear.
In recent CommBank research on innovation in healthcare, we saw that almost one-in-three providers are already actively innovating, and that for these businesses, the value of innovation is significant1.
The research shows businesses that have already implemented an innovation are reporting an estimated average uplift in overall earnings of $329,000, achieved through revenue and productivity gains.
When considering the impact of technology-focused innovation for the overall health system, the benefits are equally as prevalent. Data collected by providers can deliver a huge level of insight in terms of trends across the system. This can help to centralise and manage intake, ensure that people with genuine needs are allocated a place in the right facility, and optimise the funding mix.
The big challenge for government is making sure all the different parts of the system are talking to each other to drive overall efficiencies. This is where data analysis can also help, setting benchmarks for the government’s roadmap for the future of digital healthcare.
The next phase of technology-led innovation promises to even further transform the operating environment, but what does this look like? Cognitive systems, artificial intelligence, and genomics are likely to have a huge impact, and Australian researchers are already leading the way in some of these areas.
Cameron Ziebell is the National Head of Healthcare, Business and Private Banking, Commonwealth Bank. For more information visitcommbank.com.au/healthcareinsights.
1. www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/ commbank/assets/corporate/industries/business- insights-report-health-and-aged-care.pdf