Recommendations to drive tech adoption in aged care: report

A new report by RMIT and Cisco makes some key recommendations for a much deeper and system-wide adoption of technology in aged care.

The ‘Transforming aged care – towards a future in which digitization drives respect and connection’ report emphasizes how using technology to automate and streamline non-care duties will vastly improve the quality of care by freeing up carers’ time, an enormous amount of which is spent on non-care tasks.

It will also streamline the achievement of the Royal Commission’s recommended 200 minutes of staff time per resident, per day and enhance overall staff satisfaction, according to the report.

The report also details how technology can be used to drive the increased connectedness of older Australians — to each other, to their families, to their carers and to the broader community. This will improve the wellbeing of older Australians, the quality of their care and the satisfaction of those who work in our system.

New technologies that can balance monitoring and privacy, and provide risk management solutions will also make a meaningful difference in fostering increased choice and dignity for older Australians, including for the 68.1% of aged care residents who have moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Reimagining the use of existing technologies also has a key role to play in managing risk while also enabling residents to lead lives of autonomy, dignity and respect.

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The report highlights the current digital mismatch between the aged care sector and the tech-savvy senior, noting that while more than 61% of older people use the internet, very few aged care providers offer wireless internet access as standard for residents. Meanwhile, 42% of aged care providers have no digital strategic plan, less than half use any smart technology and only 14% are using fully integrated software systems.

The report makes the following preliminary recommendations:

Respect through the power of connection — Advances in technologies, such as machine learning interfaces, Wi-Fi/ 5G and IoT (Internet of Things) should be better leveraged to revolutionize connection — between older Australians and their community, carers and aged care users, aged care spaces and those who rely on them.

Digital first — Technology and digitization offerings, such as automation of manual tasks, meeting of mandated quality standards and high-quality telehealth that can simultaneously serve care-based outcomes and organizational efficiency should be prioritized in the next phase of system reform.

Secure and sophisticated digital infrastructure — While connection is key to respect, security and stability builds the trust needed in the system. Smart sensors connected devices and the entire Internet of Things should combine seamlessly to create ‘articulate spaces’, but with robust security and privacy features. Surveillance systems that track people anonymously can balance safety and privacy.

New models and spaces for experimentation — Technology-rich experimentation spaces can catalyse next-level partnered prototyping, trialling and exploration; where technologists or designers can partner with a community of researchers and industry professionals, or where in-situ simulations can inspire real-time ideation and interconnected product development. New models and spaces for experimentation can be a game changer.

To coincide with the launch of the report, the RMIT-Cisco Health Transformation Lab has a range of technologies on display to demonstrate how they can make a real impact in aged care settings.

These include:

  • Smart sensors that can detect the risk of falls
  • Technology that can detect behavioral risks, such as conflict in common areas
  • Devices that can alert people of physical hazards, in real time
  • Technology that alerts surface disruption and stalled behavior (such as not eating a meal)
  • Facial recognition and radio frequency identification technologies to assist with the automatic capturing of face-to-face care time
  • Connecting digital worlds through telehealth, securely and independently
  • And even a robotic dog, to perform typically manual tasks like deliveries

A large-scale system re-orientation

The Executive Chair of the RMIT-Cisco Health Transformation Lab, Professor Vishaal Kishore, said, “This report contends that technology can and should be core to how we generate a respectful, quality-driven aged care system. Put simply, technology enables us to treat the elderly with respect.

“The report argues that digital transformation is critical to creating an aged care system that can be scaled to meet the future needs and provide the respect and quality that is the motivating force of carers, the aim of providers and the right of every user of the system.

“A large-scale system re-orientation is needed with technology and digitization at the core of the story. There is the potential for technologies in aged care that are far deeper and more transformative than might be imagined. Technology interventions must be systemic, they must be deep and they must be human-centred.”

Ben Dawson, Vice President, Cisco Australia and New Zealand, said, “The power of this collaboration between RMIT and Cisco brings together the best health research and technology capability to support elderly Australians.”

The partnership between Cisco and RMIT will continue to evolve as the university joins the National Industry Innovation Network (NIIN) — a Cisco-led industry and university alliance, aimed at driving the combined attention of our best minds, technologists, industry capabilities and academic resources to solve pressing industry and social challenges through the technology-enabled innovation.

The NIIN is co-funded through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, a $61 million investment to accelerate Australia’s digital capabilities in industries of national significance.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/proimagecontent

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