The residential and community care sectors are undergoing significant funding changes, with new rules around the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) and Home Care Packages impacting providers across the care continuum. The shift towards a digital health system is also taking shape, with the government’s My Health Record experiencing rapid growth in electronic health records. Workforce changes are playing a part in shaping the sector, as providers struggle to retain adequate staffing levels.
In part one of our special on the evolution of the aged and community care sector, we look ahead at some of the funding and workforce changes providers can expect over the coming years, and what organisations can do now to minimise the impact on their business.
Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI)
The 2016 Federal Budget saw a number of funding changes to the residential aged care sector, with alterations to the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) resulting in a reduction of $1.2 billion in funding over four years.
Following the ACFI changes, in September 2016 the government passed the Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016, which will see up to 60 penalty units applied if an aged care provider is proven to have provided false, misleading or inaccurate information more than once in a two-year period. The Budget Savings Bill also introduced the requirement for providers to re-appraise a care recipient if the Secretary suspects on reasonable grounds that their care needs have decreased significantly.
While the first round of ACFI changes came into effect on 1 July 2016, residential aged care providers should expect additional changes from the 1st of January 2017. These changes include a redesigned CHC scoring matrix, as well as changes to scores and eligibility requirements for certain Complex Health Care procedures in Question 12 of ACFI. The changes will apply to new appraisals or reappraisals of existing residents only, and will not impact existing appraisals.
Home Care Packages Programme
The Federal Government announced significant reforms to the community care sector in the 2015-16 Federal Budget. The reforms are designed to improve the way that community care services are delivered, and will be implemented in two stages.
From 27 February 2017, funding for a home care package will be allocated to the client, and not the provider. This change is designed to provide greater flexibility to clients, as they will be able to direct their funding towards the provider that best suits their needs.
In July 2018 the second stage of funding changes will come into effect, which will build on these changes by integrating the Home Care Packages Programme and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme into a single care at home program. This change aims to further simplify the way that services are delivered and funded.
My Health Record
The government’s digital health system, My Health Record, now contains over 4.1 million health records. Formerly the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR), My Health Record aims to give healthcare providers access to comprehensive patient information, such as medications, test results, discharge summaries, allergies and immunisations.
This increase in records follows the introduction of two opt-out trial sites, which are taking place in Far North Queensland and the Nepean Blue Mountains. These trials will help to determine whether My Health Record will move to an Australia-wide opt-out system.
My Health Record is now receiving an upload of clinical information from a health professional every 38 seconds, with over 9,000 healthcare providers now connected to the system. This growth in digital health records demonstrates the market’s desire for a more connected healthcare system.
Recruitment and retention
Staff recruitment and retention have long been priorities for aged care organisations, with estimates of a 25 per cent annual turnover across the aged care sector; well above the national average. Over the next fifty years, a larger, well-trained aged care workforce will be required to cope with the demands of a rapidly ageing population. Providers must therefore be proactive in addressing the factors that impact workforce retention and recruitment.
A recent study has revealed that working conditions and job satisfaction are some of the most important factors in retaining aged care staff. The study highlighted that providers must look at job security, creating a supportive working environment, and opportunities for career progression in order to create an engaged and stable workforce.
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