Let’s be clear about two things from the start.
One. Technology will never stand to replace the human interaction that occupies the very heart of aged care. Nor will it ever replace the compassion, kindness, empathy and understanding between care providers and the people in our society who are care dependent and exposed to considerable vulnerabilities.
Two. Advancements in technology also do little in the way of offering a one-size-fits-all solution to solving all the myriad challenges confronting the aged care sector including an ageing population, more complex health issues, shortages of skilled staff, and spiraling costs and funding pressures.
What technology does represent is the potential to enhance the quality of aged care by empowering care providers with ways to:
- improve operational efficiencies;
- reduce errors and risks;
- increase capacity to manage limited resources effectively;
- and most importantly, give care and nursing staff more time and space to deliver personalised care and support
There is a wide-range of information technology and software being exclusively developed for the aged care sector. Many of which include residential and community care-specific applications that work together to positively influence the quality of care and support services delivered.
Improving quality of care in residential aged care
For many, the inner workings of a residential aged care facility will typically conjure up visions of time-deprived care givers rushing between residents with endless streams of paperwork in tow. However, as more organisations shift from using paper-based systems, to centralised, electronic systems, this sight will become a thing of the past.
Specifically, electronic care management applications are becoming a rapid component within many residential aged care facilities throughout Australia, providing care and nursing staff with the ability to deliver more efficient and effective care.
The simplified electronic collection of information at the resident’s bedside ensures greater accuracy of resident records, while rapid access to this information provides care and nursing staff with the ability to be more responsive in their daily care provisions. Illegible documentation is being replaced by electronic care plans that support person-centred resident care and assist care facilities to more effectively demonstrate and ensure compliance.
Similarly, electronic medication administration enables care and nursing staff to more effectively coordinate, monitor and administer medications and provide more accurate and timely medication information for staff, and further improve resident safety.
Replacing paper-based records with comprehensive electronic records also facilitates the flow of this information between the wider health care community including hospitals, medical practitioners, pharmacies, specialists and other care professionals. Whether it is transitioning a resident from a care home to a hospital in an emergency, or to an elective appointment with a specialist, electronic resident records play a major role in communicating the most relevant and important information for each resident.
By streamlining the way resident information is recorded, processed and accessed, it not only creates greater efficiencies and reduces the possibility of human error, but also shifts a substantial amount of staff time from cumbersome paperwork to instead, providing face-to-face resident care. The result for residents is more quality time with care and nursing staff, and access to a higher standard of quality care and support.
Residential aged care facilities are also extending broadband internet access to their residents, which is a powerful tool in building a sense of belonging, support and connection. Applications that support video, chat, email and other online communications ensure residents can quickly and easily connect with relatives, close friends and the community, which can significantly contribute to a greater quality of life.
Improving quality of care in the community
Technology-based solutions can also simultaneously enhance the quality of care and the quality of life of elderly people that choose to live in their own homes. In fact, advancements in technology are enabling the ageing population to remain self-sufficient for longer, extending the amount of time they can maintain independence in their own homes, where they are most comfortable.
Smart scheduling and rostering systems are enhancing accessibility to personalised care services in the most efficient ways. The most appropriate care worker can automatically be allocated to a specific client based on an exhaustive list of pre-determined criteria. These include factors such as staff availability, location, travel requirements, experience, qualifications, skills, continuity of care, and importantly, the individual care needs and preferences of the person receiving the care. This allows an organisation to deliver more flexible and personalised care, therefore driving improved outcomes for the client.
The provision of online communication portals can further enhance the client’s experience by allowing them or their families to easily determine when and where the care visits are scheduled, and select which care worker they would like to deliver the care.
The use of mobile handheld devices are also conveniently giving care workers access to important details about the client, clinical data and other important information regardless of their location in the field. The capability to provide information to care workers in real time and record updates to this information at the point of care, greatly increases the quality of the care and support that is being delivered. Most importantly, less time spent on paperwork means more personal interaction with the client.
With advancements in high-speed broadband, video conferencing is increasingly being utilised to seek advice from care providers, medical practitioners and other specialists online. This can reduce the stress associated with travel, particularly for those clients in remote locations.
Community care organisations can also utilise assistive technologies that help care workers remain responsive to client needs, even when resources are limited. The use of intelligent sensors and alerts can help maintain the client’s independence at home, while automatically alerting a care worker if an unusual activity is detected. The result of implementing such technologies is a higher standard of care for the elderly person in their own home.
In what other ways are you seeing technology improve the quality of life for the ageing and care dependent? Please share these in the comments section below.
(Image credit: Ambro)