By 2030, the majority of older Australians will choose to have some or most of their care delivered remotely. This hybrid care model – where in-person care is complemented with care delivered remotely – will become standard in the aged care industry.
When the coronavirus hit, aged care providers made a mad scramble to get their teams onto telephones, send out smart devices to consumers, set up remote monitoring and consultations via Zoom and Skype. Generally, there’s been widespread support and acceptance amongst consumers, their representatives and practitioners. While many providers have viewed remote care as a stopgap solution, several are recognising it as an evolution of the traditional care model and are using this opportunity to lay down the infrastructure in preparation for this new standard.
The aged care industry will evolve to a hybrid care model, driven by:
(Note: “remote care” refers to any tool or method that enables care to be delivered without needing to be physically present with the consumer. It may include but is not limited to: telephone and video consultations, smart home devices like sensors, wearables, devices which measure vital signs, and robots).
Increasingly savvy consumers will demand a care model that works for them
The pandemic has given many older Australians and their representatives an opportunity to learn about and experiment with remote care technologies. This education process will continue, fuelled by the mainstream market where smart devices like health trackers and social media are ubiquitous and as heavyweights like Amazon and Apple turn their focus to marketing to elderly consumers and their representatives.
As consumers become more savvy about what could be possible in care delivery, they will set higher expectations. Providers who want to stay competitive will soon need to prove their care is timely and personalised. The one third of older Australians living outside of major cities and inner regional areas will no longer accept excessively long wait times to be able to see a practitioner (about 1 in 4 reported experiencing this) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018).
Consumer appetite for remote care technology will grow. Research shows that a majority of consumers are already keen to engage with technology:
Healthcare and wellness industries will adopt hybrid care models at scale
The shift to hybrid care models is already underway in the healthcare and wellness spaces, led by allied and mental health. 6 in 10 healthcare providers are using remote care solutions and the industry is poised to nearly double by 2025 (Coote, 2020). As adoption increases, a plentiful supply of remote care options will be available to consumers. Aged care providers will play the role of connecting consumers to these options.
Also driving uptake is the increasing sophistication of remote care technologies, and most importantly, their workflow integration readiness. The priority among all aged care and healthcare technology providers is creating a solution that is workflow ready. The burden of implementation, which has been a stumbling block for many providers, is expected to reduce.
Finally, several experts believe that at best, COVID-19 will become endemic to our community (Heesterbeek, 2020). These views, combined with growing research supporting the efficacy of remote care solutions, will likely give the industry more reason to adopt hybrid care models.
With regulatory support in place, the imperative is clear for aged care providers
During the pandemic the government supported remote care in the form of social connection devices, remote monitoring and telehealth and expected providers to adopt a hybrid model of service provision (Fisk et al, 2020). Aged care funding is expected to increase post the Royal Commission, with the regulator paying increased attention to the level of quality and transparency in care delivered. Augmenting traditional care models to a hybrid approach will increase providers’ flexibility to deliver better care.
While the recent uptake of remote care has been focused on the attempt to minimise exposure to infection, its value extends far beyond that. These technologies remove many of the geographical, time and information constraints providers operate within today. As industry consolidation continues and competition increases, consumers will not settle for anything less than flexible, timely and personalised care. In order to stay relevant tomorrow, providers must plan to evolve to a hybrid care model today.