In an era where broadband and technology is revolutionising entire industries, the time has come to place greater emphasis on the sophistication of IT systems in the aged care sector – specifically, how technology can help prevent what will otherwise be a huge burden over the coming years.
An ageing population is amplifying the challenges in health and aged care, as the baby boomer generation – the 5.5 million people born between 1946 and 1965 – reach their twilight years. An older, retired population will put unprecedented pressures on Australia’s already overburdened health and aged care system, with many experts predicting a crisis.
With an ageing population, the pressure on health and aged care budgets will continue to rise. According to the Department of Health and Ageing’s A Healthier Future for all Australians report, expenditure on health and residential aged care as a percentage of GDP was projected to rise from 9.3 percent in 2002-03 to 12.4 per cent of GDP by 2032-33.
Australia’s ageing population will also drive a distinct increase in the demand for quality care services and subsequent workforce pressures. According to the 2013 Environmental Scan report released by the Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council (CSamp;HISC), employment in community services and health was projected to grow by at least 35 per cent over the next ten years – and as high as 77 percent – due to the rising demand for care services. Currently, the size of Australia community services and health workforce is about 1.35 million, which currently accounts for 12 per cent of the country’s entire workforce.
At a surface level, these forecasts may present an impressive opportunity for future employment in the sector. However, as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement, the reality is that the community services and health workforce is both rapidly declining and ageing. As a result, there are already industry-wide shortages of registered nurses and qualified care workers, and low levels of remuneration across the sector will continue to ensure that recruitment and retention of skilled employees remains a challenge.
The future of health and aged care in Australia is clearly one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years for our society and government. The good news is, advancements in technology are amplifying the opportunities in health and aged care. And there is still time before the impact of our ageing society fully impacts our health and aged care system.
There is a clear imperative to assist the aged care sector to take advantage of broadband and technology, as a way to effectively manage spiralling financial costs, increasingly limited resources and other market challenges.
In IBIS World’s A Snapshot of Australia’s Digital Future to 2050 report, health care and social assistance was identified as one of the biggest industry divisions set to greatly benefit from high-speed broadband services and related technologies.
According to the report, superfast broadband would be vital in helping the government to drive down overall health care sector costs, with faster diagnostics, preventive health systems, partial self-diagnostic services and more efficient systems and operations in hospitals and aged care settings.
For aged care providers, access to information using high-speed broadband and innovative systems will provide tangible financial gains through improved efficiency, productivity and the quality of care delivery. Technology advancements in aged care will also ensure end-to-end care management and care delivery becomes more streamlined, enabling carers to work smarter by shifting their focus from administration to providing care. Most importantly, contributions from technology will allow aged care providers to greatly enhance the delivery of care and support for the elderly – whether they reside at home or in an aged care facility – with a profound impact on the quality of life for the care receiver.
The ways in which the power of technology will revolutionise health and aged care are infinite, and there are extensive benefits to be had by all – our government, health and aged care providers, as well as baby boomers themselves.
In what ways can you see greater adoption of technology improving the delivery of aged care services in Australia? Please leave your comments below.
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