Head of Health and Wellness, ACH Group
When we can all see where our Uber is and more often than not get our problems solved by a chatbot, many people ask, ‘why is aged care not there yet?’ This blog was requested and is intended to provide insight to those not within the industry of the key challenges we face and explain why adding on new technology or testing a new product isn’t as quick or as easy as you might think.
While there are many aged care providers who have aspects of great tech incorporated into service delivery, many of them are relatively new to the sector and do not have the plethora of non-integrated legacy systems many providers started with and added to over the years to keep up with demand. I know there will be established providers out there who can prove me wrong, but these are the few and the rest of the field are open to opportunity. However, there a few things you might consider before you knock on the door.
Funding will be the number one constraint to introducing new tech for most aged care providers. ‘Not for profits’ are just that, supporting growth and investing with margins made. ‘For profits’ also have growth strategies and shareholders to maintain. Predominantly government funded, most aged care services do not make large margins (66% of aged care homes operated at a loss for the period July to September 2022 ) and large IT infrastructure, whilst required for customer service, does not always add to the bottom line. It’s also not just the cost of the product; impact on service delivery, time and resources to test, train and incorporate the change are key considerations. Ease of implementation and tangible return on investment will be key initial questions.
Change management is a commonly used phrase and an even more commonly experienced process in aged care. With some of the largest reforms in history occurring in the last few and next few years, maintaining quality services and regulatory compliance are top of every provider’s ‘to-do list’. When faced with introducing new tech or changing to meet funding requirements, the latter will be prioritised. A win/win would be tech that would support the changes, but this requires deep understanding and knowledge of the sector, knowing what is changing, when and the impact. Many providers are keen to partner, but the time and effort bringing the offer or concept up to meet the need can be resource intense and not the major focus for the provider. Vendors that can provide real-life examples of how the tech can meet their needs and will support or flex with changes will have a much greater chance of success.
The most significant consideration is the consumer. We know demand and behaviour will drive change; however, the current reality is most of the current government-funded aged care customers do not engage with technology as regularly as many developers (and providers) would wish. Indeed, some still pay for services in cash as they do not wish to hold credit or debit cards. Providers can support people to access and learn how to use tech, but the customer needs a compelling reason or desire to engage. Anything new will need robust, comprehensive, and responsive support from a partner, to ensure customers are supported and staff feel confident in recommending something new.
Providers all know the next generation of customers is on the horizon and these customers will expect ‘Uber’ level tech in all aspects of service delivery. Those providers who can are currently investing in transformational tech projects to support the business of the future. While these customers are on the horizon, there are many competing priorities in the current line of sight, but real solutions to real problems that can provide a quick win or clear return on investment will always be welcome.
*The views and opinions expressed in Knowledge Blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of ARIIA, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.