With aged care providers navigating the new Single Aged Care Quality Framework, an Aged Care Royal Commission, changing customer expectations, challenging financial times and a growing employee recruitment shortage, it’s no wonder industry stakeholders might feel edgy.
With phrases such as ‘too big to fail’ and ‘aged care shame’, the temptation to bunker down, stay safe, minimise risk and focus on clinical quality carries much weight.
But is sticking to what we know we do well and avoiding risk the answer? It could be suggested we need to do quite the opposite.
The time has come to examine what we do under a strong consumer-driven lens. With customer goals, needs and preferences dictating care and the care delivered needing to reflect the co-design of the individual, we need to adjust what we have traditionally thought was best practice.
An example of one complication is that most people don’t plan for the complexities of ageing. When they do need care, they are often in crisis. Care providers want to do a great job, but it can be difficult to understand a person’s individual needs at a time when that person is stressed and confused (and staff are extremely busy). In addition, families often disagree about what their loved ones actually want.
With many people entering care without having had conversations with their loved ones about what they really value and without having created instructive documentation, we have upon us the ingredients for the perfect storm ─ for individuals and those trying to deliver compliant care.
How do you tailor care around a value set that no one can agree on?
There is much work being done across the aged care ecosystem to refine and match the consumer and legislative appetite for co-designed care in an industry that has historically been often unintendedly prescriptive ─ and there are solutions available. But is the age services industry ready to take on these new solutions?
Remember that budget constraints, business as usual requirements, staffing and recruitment issues, plus a hefty necessary focus on compliance are levers that soak up the time an Aged Care Provider feels it has to introduce new products or practices.
So, how do we support and enable aged care providers to enhance and refresh their existing practices with truly innovative solutions?
A suggestion could be incentivising and rewarding aged care providers beyond the continuous improvement framework, with Government funding models supporting tangible change through innovation in addition to robust clinical care. This would enable aged care providers to trial and introduce new products and solutions, support and encourage the industry to create new innovation, and provide ageing Australians with the most fresh, most innovative improvements in their day-to-day care experience.
While staying safe, maintaining compliance, and minimising financial and reputational risk seems a sound plan in a changing business to customer environment, we must never allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that our organisational operations should change slowly when the issues currently highlighted by the Aged Care Royal Commission indicate we should move much more swiftly.
Supporting innovation needs to have a multi-industry approach, which incorporates Government, aged care providers, experts in the field and start-up incubators and accelerators.
Through genuine multi-industry collaboration and Government-supported innovation we can harness this opportunity of now altered consumer-centric Aged Care Quality Standards, radically improve and revitalise the industry in which we work, and make ageing in Australia something we look forward to rather than avoid.
Executive Director and Founding Partner