Health | Ageing

Consumer driven approach driving change in aged care sector

In terms of the consumer, these are unprecedented times, KPMG Director Health, Ageing and Human Services, Nicki Doyle has told a CEDA event in Perth on aged care.

“What we’re seeing is a rapidly maturing sector,” she said.

“Previously in effect, the government has actually been the customer for aged care providers.

“(There’s been a) shift to consumer directed care as well as portability of packages and giving the consumer the ability to choose not just what is in the package but who delivers their package.

“The consumer is now the customer, and needs to be the centre of every aged care provider’s vision.

“This is quite a challenge because consumers don’t come in one size. They are very individual, what they want is quite diverse. 

“In order to meet the challenges of what the consumer wants, the providers need to be very clear as to who the consumer actually is and what part of the market they actually want to play in.”

Ms Doyle said if the provider was not consumer centric in their approach, it is more than likely the consumer would move on to another provider. 

Also speaking at the event was Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Ken Wyatt who discussed how the government was supporting the transition to consumer directed care.

“Broader and more innovative reform is required to take aged care to the next level that reflects our 21st century needs and wants. This reform is now under way,” he said. 

“Changes related to increasing choice are an important step in moving towards a future aged care system that is more consumer driven, market based and less regulated.

“One of the key components of our upcoming reform is increasing choice in home care. Our reforms will provide options, flexibility and control for consumers while reducing red tape for providers.

“They will be implemented in two stages.

“In February next year, 2017, funding for a homecare package will follow the consumer. The consumer will be able to direct this government funding to the service of their choice.

“Importantly, they will have the ability to change their provider if they want to and if they move to another area or state for any reason, their package including any unspent funds, will move with them.

“A consistent national approach will also be established to prioritise access to care.

“Dignity, quality of living, and choices are what the reforms are about.

“(For) stage two of the reforms, the government intends to combine the homecare packages program and the Commonwealth homes support program into an integrated care at home program.

“This is expected to occur from July 2018.

“This next stage provides an opportunity to explore funding and service delivery models including activities that promote restorative care and firmly puts the consumer in control.

“These services will give consumers further ability to seek out services which cater to their needs and support their goals and quality of life.”

Ansell Strategic Managing Director, Cam Ansell said: “Everything that we have learned up to now in terms of aged care teaches us very little about what’s going to happen in the future.”

“It’s not just about the changing of the regulations, and the systems and the process, it’s also about the changing of the people, moving very much from a passive consumer base to a much more active consumer base.”

Mr Ansell also said there was a future in exporting skills and expertise of Australian aged care workers.

“Australia is probably the most advanced in the Asia Pacific Region except potentially New Zealand…so the potential and possibility for us to lead this sector as we move forward is as exciting as all of the potential opportunities that I see across Australia.”

Another theme discussed at the event was the role of technology within the sector.

Telstra Health, Head of Applications, Michael Boyce said technology is now enabling services such as digital care management, medication management, telemedicine, remote health monitoring, chronic illness care plans and personal alarms.

“If you look at internet usage in the last 10 years, in the 65s and over, it has gone through the roof. And it will go through the roof in the next 10 years,” he said.

Mr Boyce said that technology price points were previously the challenge but were now at affordable levels.

“Often it is not the technology, it is the commercialisation of it and to make a product viable in the market.”

Commonwealth Bank Health, National Head of Healthcare, Cameron Ziebell said technology was creating opportunities for providers.

“In terms of the role of technology, 21 per cent of people said the main opportunity within their business environment is technology and a further 57 per cent said they’re thinking about technology as a source of innovation,” he said. 

“Efficiency is the game…and technology has a clear role to play as does innovation in non-traditional partnerships, idea sharing and collaboration within the environment.”