Economic, demographic, social and technological changes are redefining the aged care landscape in Australia. In response to these industry-wide changes, aged care providers face new challenges and will continue to experience unprecedented pressure in the years ahead.
Specifically, how are aged care organisations planning to respond to the challenges and develop their services flexibly to meet the diverse needs of future consumers? We sat down with Michele Lewis, Chief Executive of mecwacare to discuss future challenges and their strategies to overcome them.
Challenge: Increasingly competitive marketplace
As the aged care sector works to increase efficiencies and prepare to support a growing ageing population, there needs to be a creative reconsideration of how organisations provide their care and support services. Michele agreed that in the current climate, it makes sense for organisations to be as flexible and scalable as possible.
“In a challenging and competitive environment, it really is a matter of ‘grow’ or ‘die’,” she explained. “Identifying and meeting the evolving needs of the community by seeking out and adopting new caring initiatives has always been a vital element in our approach to providing services,” Michele said.
For over 50 years, mecwacare has provided a diverse range of services to the community via residential aged care, respite care, in-home support, community programs, disability and nursing services. The organisation’s growth strategy for the future involves broadening their vision, mission and services in ways that will position the organisation for a more dynamic future, while keeping true to its values and the people it cares for.
“By building on the core services we currently offer, we’re beginning to explore new directions and new opportunities,” she explained. “We’re working towards creating a multi-tiered system with all our service options sitting under the one umbrella to create greater depth and breadth.”
This will include more flexible care services that are designed to support elderly Australians and their carers to be more independent at home and in the community. What Michele also made clear was that in order to be flexible and scalable, the integration of technology was also critical.
“With these electronic systems in place, it’s possible to grow as an organisation and increase the reach of our services to clients, with fewer dollars,” Michele said.
In the past, the information tools used to manage aged care services in this country has relied heavily upon paper-based systems and human memory, making it particularly difficult for organisation to scale and grow. As our society is ageing faster than ever, and people are living longer with increasingly complex care needs, solutions that address the preceding fragmentation of information will become more important.
In particular, information technology solutions that support clinical, rostering, financial and communication applications for aged care will enable improved efficiency, productivity and most importantly, safer, higher quality, accessible care outcomes which can be personalised to each person.
As well as helping to remove the burden of paperwork and administration for care staff, information technology that supports electronic client records will ensure that accurate information is electronically made available to the right person at the right place and time. This will also reduce the risk of information being lost or unnecessary duplication of data throughout the transition from community services to residential services.
“For mecwacare, the key benefit of having electronic health records is the improvement to continuity of care for our residents and clients. An electronic record that moves with people and provides staff with the right information at the right time leads to smoother transitions, and improved decision making and care outcomes,” Michele explained. “Electronic health records will also help in reducing the time our care and nursing staff spend sharing this information across the wider health sector.”
In part two of our interview with Michele, we discuss the challenges associated with staff retention and recruitment, as well as the increasing demand for flexible, personalised services.
(Image credit: mecwacare.org.au)