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Golden years: How tech is transforming aged care

Highlights
  • Australia’s population is ageing: over the next 50 years, about 25 per cent of the population will be over 65
  • Older people enjoy greater quality of life when they can stay in their own homes rather than enter specialised facilities
  • Technology is fuelling a revolution in aged care, enabling a growing workforce of carers to provide in-home support

With the number of Australian citizens aged 65 and over expected to rise to 25 per cent by 2064, a new solution is needed.

Australia has an ageing population that is rapidly expanding: 15 per cent of citizens were aged 65 and over in 2016, and this figure is expected to explode to nearly 25 per cent over the next 50 years. The cost of caring for this demographic will also grow, which is one of the reasons stay-at-home care is fast becoming a preferred option.

McLean Care, in the New England region of northern NSW, is at the forefront of this homecare revolution. It looks after 600 aged clients in an area covering 100,000 square kilometres, helping them to maintain quality of life at home instead moving into institutionalised care.

The company says there are many benefits to this style of care. Older people are happier in their familiar home environment where they generally experience a better quality of life.

However, getting accurate, real-time information about the care required and being delivered to its 600 clients scattered over a wide regional area was proving a challenge for which McLean Care needed a reliable solution. 

elderly couple with sparkler

Better care in real time

Undertaking a total technology refresh, the company moved from paper-based forms and faxes to a system through which its in-home carers use 4G-connected tablets to input and extract data and information in real-time. 

Whereas carers once had to travel back to head office to complete paperwork when they identified an issue in a client’s home, such as a wound needing treatment or a health and safety matter, they can now submit information instantaneously. This process is saving time, streamlining workflows and allowing for faster care in the home, the community care manager at McLean Care, Gail Ting, says.

“[The old process] was very time poor and we were not able to action issues that arose in real time,” Ms Ting says.

Now, thanks to the video and photography technology incorporated in tablets and smartphones, these administrative burdens have been reduced, increasing efficiency and enabling better care delivery. 

For instance, now if a care worker notices a client has a wound, the carer can take a picture, complete the relevant form on an iPad and transmit it wirelessly to a registered nurse. The nurse can then view the wound in real time and assess whether they need to attend the client’s house to treat them or if a doctor is required. 

Efficient and effective

“The technology has really helped us improve our efficiency – it has increased productivity by around 15 per cent and led to an overall cost saving of around $45,000 per year for the organization,” Ms Ting says. 

“It has given us is a quicker response time for the needs of the client.” 

Staff satisfaction has also risen in step with the rollout of the new technology, a process that took about four months, including training.

 “There are real benefits for staff not having to stop work and come into the office all day every day,” Ting adds. “Technology has opened many doors and in future we will be able to deliver even more to our clients using this technology.”

“Technology has opened many doors and in future we will be able to deliver even more to our clients using this technology.”

Gail Ting, Community Care Manager, McLean Care

Golden years: How tech is transforming aged care

With the number of Australian citizens aged 65 and over expected to rise to 25 per cent by 2064, a new solution is needed.

[Transcript]

Interviewees:

Gail Ting, Community Care Manager – Northern Region, McLean Care

Megan Walters, Care Co-ordinator, McLean Care 

Gail: Community is all about technology and the better we can get with technology, the better we can provide care.

McLean Care keep clients living in their homes for as long as they can do in a safe manner. Quite often, people don't end up having to go into a nursing home.

Megan: The technology has made it so much easier there is no time wasting. We're not worrying about losing paperwork, there's no pressure with time, knowing that people are looked after.

Gail: We've got about 600 clients in the community and we service an area over 100 000 square kilometres. The big challenges for McLean Care were getting up to date information in real time. 

Gail: When you're in a regional area, they were required to stop services, complete the documentation, fax that through, then they actually have to phone the coordinator to ensure the coordinator received that information, before they could then go onto the next client.

The staff really embraced it because of the improvements that it made for their job. It has increased the productivity of about 15 percent and had an overall cost saving of around about $45,000 a year for the organisation to have this technology up and running so successfully. 

Megan: I love working with the elderly. It’s knowing that people are looked after. Seeing that is the best part of the job, that the clients are happy in their own home.

Gail: It's really rewarding to see them being able to stay at home with a quality of life.

Now that we've made that big jump into the technological world, I think it's opened up many doors.          

We're able to get the best care for our clients, and also support our staff in a much more efficient manner.    

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