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The Future of In Home Care – August Article

The Future of In Home Care – Integrated Care beyond 2020
Article Four, August 2018
Innovation and Technology

Written by Ilsa Bird – Sector Support Coordinator, Your Side 

Change is constant. As the sector changes, innovation and technology are key to remain competitive. Technology and innovation improve productivity, enhance quality of care and contribute to the quality of life of consumers. As providers consider the use of innovative procedures, systems and technology, consumers will be supported to live safely in their homes. This article will focus on how innovation and technology will impact customer experience, service offerings, daily operations and strategic direction for aged care providers beyond 2020. Emerging technologies will be included that have the potential to improve the quality of life of consumers and allow them to live independently in their homes and communities for longer. Below two industry experts, Chris Meehan and Fiona Kendall, discuss the implications of technology and innovation for the sector and consumers.

What is innovation?

Innovation is often mistaken as technology. Innovation may not be technology; it may be a process or procedure to enhance efficiency of service delivery. Chris Meehan, CEO of CarePilot, defines innovation as “the capacity to make change and challenge the status quo.” Meehan describes the process of innovation as being able to do things in a way that is different or better from the way they have always been done. With the possible integration of CHSP and HCP, providers will be required to evaluate their services and processes to remain competitive in the changing market. Fiona Kendall, industry expert, suggests that providers should embrace innovation to open up a world of possibilities.
How is innovation and technology changing the aged care sector for providers?
The sector is seeing alternate business models entering the market including a range of start ups addressing system complexity to support older people and their families better. The result is the “uberisation” of care as described by the recent workforce report by Hesta. Rather than viewing start ups as competitors, Meehan suggests that existing providers would benefit from thinking like a start up; looking for ways to challenge how things are done and develop a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Thinking like a start up will persuade existing providers to embrace new technologies, such as digital solutions. Meehan also suggests that making use of technology will assist providers to reduce costs. For example, some customers will have a stronger desire to self-manage and therefore if information is readily available via a client portal or mobile app, providers will minimise administration costs Meehan says. Administration costs will increase as we move into more “on demand” service models. Digital self-service options can help providers to manage these costs.
According to Kendall, the generational shift and millennial influence has seen the emergence of ‘Micro Learning’. Kendall describes this type of learning as short and targeted, so the user can control what they learn. With these kinds of systems in place, providers can utilise technology and innovation to equip staff with the skills and knowledge they require to create better customer experiences.

There are already a number of available technologies to assist provider service delivery, daily operation, strategic direction and customer experience:

  • The Kardia portable EKG electrode works with a mobile application to evaluate and monitor heart rhythm and is able to send data to a health professional. The Kardia electrode weighs 12g and can be purchased for under $300. This device would allow providers and carers to monitor the health of consumers remotely.
  • Painchek utilises artificial intelligence, smart phone technology and facial recognition to determine if someone is experiencing pain. The tool picks up facial expressions related to pain and provides the assessor with an observational checklist. Painchek allows health professionals and carers to determine pain even if the person cannot communicate it verbally.
  • Raizer is a battery operated chair that lifts someone who has fallen. The chair is easily operated by one assistant and assembles quickly. The chair allows for safe manual handling procedure and reduces the risk of injury for care workers.
  • Cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms. These technologies can improve the accessibility and portability of information which is beneficial especially for community care providers. SaaS platforms are on-demand software that is centrally managed and is often utilised for CRM. Meehan suggests that cloud computing such as SaaS allows for equality in the market as all organisations have access to quality business software that can improve their relationship with the customer.

Practical tips for providers

1. Ensure that what you do have works well. Technology such as websites and customer portals must be user-friendly and improved customer experience. Kendall recommends that providers must get basic infrastructure right through a needs analysis to determine how technology can support you.
2. The latest technology and innovation doesn’t necessarily equal meaningful customer engagement. According to PWC, customers most value service that is helpful, friendly and efficient therefore, providers should utilise technologies that foster these elements. According to Meehan, successful technology providers use their technology to connect directly with clients, family and even carers. Technology should make customer experience more person-centred.
3. Regularly review and update processes and procedures. You must ensure that you are operating in a context of continual improvement as this will assist with keeping up to date with continuous change. According to Kendall, the best way to stay up to date is to collaborate, communicate and work with other sectors. This allows for providers to understand what innovation and technology can do for their clients.
4. Finally, it is imperative that providers understand their market and utilise innovation and technology accordingly. Meehan suggests that the starting point for creating a successful business model is to know your customer and determine what they need from a provider. As a result providers will be able to offer services that address the customer needs as well as utilise technology and innovation that improves organisational efficiency and reduces administration costs says Meehan.

How is innovation and technology changing the aged care sector for consumers?

Technology and innovation are assisting consumers to live safely in their homes for longer. Kendall describes ‘The Internet of Things’ such as robotics, smart objects and smart homes that are creating enabling environments and reducing the risk of harm associated with everyday tasks. Examples of these objects are outlined below:

  • DoseSmart is a smart pill bottle and cap that dispenses and tracks medication. The bottle is used in collaboration with a mobile application that monitors activity and sends reminders for medications to be taken. This will assist consumers to remain independent and reduce risks associated with medication management to ensure medication is taken at the correct dose and time says Meehan.
  • The B-shoe is a smart shoe that is designed to reduce the risk of falls. The inconspicuous shoe is able to detect imbalance and adjust to correct this imbalance. This has the potential to reduce hospitalisations in older adults, delay the need for assistive walking devices and maintain quality of life for consumers.
  • The Fuji Smart Walking Stick uses GPS technology coupled with a mobile application to detect the location of the user at all times. Specific routes can be programmed and the stick directs the user by flashing arrows. The stick also monitors heart rate and will contact emergency services with GPS coordinates if required. Meehan states that Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) manages safety and risk of everyday activities while allowing freedom for the user.
  • The Smart Activity Monitoring Service is an in-home system that utilises motion sensor technology to detect activity. The system can be customised to an individual’s living pattern and notify caregivers or family of abnormal activity. The sensors allow the older person to maintain their privacy and independence while minimising risk to their safety.
  • The Rex device uses bionic technology to assist wheelchair users and those with limited mobility to stand and walk in a hands free capacity. The device moves forwards, backwards sideways and in a twisting motion. This device has the potential to improve mobility and quality of life and reduce social isolation.
  • Smart phones and tablets connect people to social media such as Facebook, Skype etc. As families live further away, the use of simple smart technology keeps people connected, reducing the impact of isolation.

Although many technologies are expensive, The 2017 Care at Home discussion paper recommends the establishment of a ‘National Aids and Equipment Scheme’. This scheme would support older adults to easily access affordable assistive technologies. These technologies allow for reablement and restorative approaches that could support people to function independently. The discussion paper also suggests incentivising the use of innovation and technology to support providers. This may be achieved through innovation grants or partnerships with educational institutions and Information Technology companies.

These technologies will undoubtedly impact the way in which providers deliver services. Consumers may require less assistance over time. Service providers may be required to interact with and utilise these devices to monitor consumers. It is important that providers consider how they can utilise technology and innovation to enhance customer experience and improve customer relationship.

The September article will look at governance with leadership. Two organisational experts will discuss the qualities of high performing boards, organisational strategy and change management. To receive a copy of this article, sign up to our e-bulletin here, or you can view past articles in the series here.