Technology Innovation in Aged Care

Q&A with Huon IT's CEO, Damian Huon  

As the aged care sector becomes more complex and competitive, technology is playing an increasingly vital role. With the right technology in place, general managers, chief executive officers and chief financial offers can generate insights, improve staff retention, and ultimately, deliver better outcomes for the people in their care.

To shed more light on future proofing the aged care sector with technology, our CEO and aged care technology expert, Damian Huon, shares his thoughts.

Q: What do you see as the main challenges for the sector right now?

A: There are really three major challenges that we see in our role as a technology consultant to the sector.

The first is the lack of an effective digital ecosystem across aged care. The entire sector is becoming increasingly digitised – from clinical records to rostering, to billings data, to scheduling, to medicine dispensing processes.

Technology is exploding within aged care, but there is still no single ‘silver bullet’ solution. Most of the clients we work with have several best-of-breed applications in place, but there is no real ability to correlate or cross-reference the data from these applications, and no single source of truth. Of course, this challenge isn’t unique to aged care.

The second major challenge is the lack of agility. Many of the systems we see are archaic and ineffective. While there are all kinds of innovations coming into the sector – such as IoT (Internet of Things) wearables to improve patient care - organisations won’t be able to embrace them unless their overall infrastructure is up to the task.

As part of this, there’s a trend towards community care – as more people don’t want to retire in facilities but receive services in their own home. This creates a large mobile workforce and delivers associated IT challenges. More than ever, it’s important for organisations to be highly efficient, develop lean administration and operations at once to embrace change and combat funding cuts.

And thirdly, there’s the issue of compliance and governance. There’s an increasing regulatory burden for aged care providers, which means more and more information must be collated and supplied to regulatory bodies. This takes time and effort and is a particularly significant burden for smaller organisations. We believe this is one of the reasons they are being swallowed up by larger firms – it’s simply too hard to keep up.

Q: Why is Business Intelligence or analytics so crucial in this space?

A: Currently, we see a landscape of different technology – both across the sector as a whole and within different organisations. Most of the clients we work with have a large number of applications, often best of breed, line-of-business applications.

The advantage of business analytics is that we can correlate that data, link it together in a meaningful way and provide useful analytics reporting. From a CIO perspective, harnessing that data and the knowledge within that data is crucial for an aged care organisation to ensure it’s on the right charter and going forward focusing on the right activities. Business Intelligence tools offer a huge competitive advantage.

While integrated data isn’t yet a reality for most aged care businesses – or most businesses generally – a Business Intelligence solution that’s backed by Power BI can bridge the gaps, bringing information together for meaningful insight.

Q: Do you have an everyday example of how an aged care practice can use a Power BI dashboard?

A: Often aged care businesses have a nurse call system and a rostering system and typically they are completely disparate. However, through business analytics, we can identify trends between these data sets and provide insights in a visual way. This can help managers to focus on what they need to focus on to run the business and make good decisions about care, staffing levels and overall productivity. 

Q: What are the benefits of business analytics for an aged care institution?

A: There are all kinds of great benefits. It can help workers at all levels to make faster and more accurate decisions. It can improve care and reduce waiting times for residents, due to improved efficiency and more streamlined rostering. And, all of this can also lead to increased profitability and time savings across the organisation.

The more streamlined reporting and compliance process is also a huge benefit and time saving for organisations; particularly smaller ones that need to be more judicious with their resource allocation. 

Business intelligence provides managers with the real-time, easy to understand, and relevant data they need to manage proactively.  You can’t manage what you don’t know.

Power BI brings obvious data into the spotlight and also shines a light on items that sometimes fall through the cracks – from regulatory questions (such as the dates staff police checks need renewing) to the quality of life questions like how many residents belong to a particular religion or share similar hobbies.  Imagine how this kind of information could be used to help your residents more easily meet and make friends, and the ensuing quality of life improvements.

Q: Who does a Business Intelligence solution benefit?

A: A Business Intelligence and analytics solution has a wide range of potential benefits across the organisation. It provides a broad set of dashboards that are either role or regionally based. So, a CEO might have different interests to a nursing manager, or a general manager of facilities, or the chief operating officer. Essentially, we help create customised dashboards for different roles, so everyone has the insight they need.

Q: What about the compliance and regulatory aspect? How can Business Intelligence help?

A: Meeting increasing government regulations and requirements are becoming a significant administrative overhead in the aged care sector.

For a start, there’s the need for organisations to continually report on the qualifications of their staff. If you’re managing 2,000 employees, it’s vital to ensure they have all completed police checks, done their first aid, or completed necessary qualifications. If you fail to meet any of these requirements, you can get funding pulled, which can be a significant source of revenue.

It’s what aged care organisations don’t know that will catch them. The more they can get on their dashboard, the more they can get alerted before problems escalate.

Q: Why is Huon IT ideally placed to help?

A: Huon IT has been around for almost 30 years, and we have been working in the aged care sector for the last decade. We work across a large number of aged care clients, from large not-for-profits to smaller, privately owned facilities. We also have an in-depth knowledge of Power BI and have the in-house skills to provide aged care practices with robust, reliable and customised solutions to help them operate more effectively.

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