Enabling aged care with technological innovation
Award-winning aged-care provider Whiddon employs more than 2700 staff, caring for more than 2100 older Australians in regional and rural NSW and Queensland. Via residential, community and retirement living services across 26 geographic locations, Whiddon provides holistic care and wellbeing, helping residents to stay active, connected and feeling part of the community. To achieve this goal, Whiddon sees a huge role for technology.
The organisation has faced several challenges: difficulty attracting new and younger staff; an overall reduction in technology investment due to the significant challenges regarding industry funding models, with the majority of rural, regional and remote providers operating at a loss; industry-wide lack of technological maturity and digital literacy; and ageing IT infrastructure that has inhibited Whiddon’s digital ambitions.
A 2020 aged-care financial performance report by StewartBrown found that, excluding the impact of one-off government grants, more than 50% of residential aged-care providers operated at a loss in the last financial year, rising to 66% in regional areas.
“We’re probably the only industry still reliant on the fax machine,” said Regan Stathers, Executive General Manager of Technology and Property at Whiddon.
“Whiddon has always tried to focus on digital enablement, but it’s a difficult time for the industry. Technology investment is not seen as a priority and other stakeholders lag behind in digital maturity and dexterity. It became an issue in attracting new, digital natives to the profession, which we desperately need.”
A cloud-based solution
Whiddon decided to overhaul its IT infrastructure to create a platform that would help futureproof its business and tackle challenges head on, evaluating a range of options including traditional data centres and public cloud.
Nutanix now runs all of Whiddon’s core applications and has enabled increased scalability and integration. Processes that once required two hours have been reduced to about 30 seconds, helping to enable the IT team to focus on technical projects that can improve resident care, deploy modern applications new staff would expect and achieve greater business performance.
Whiddon’s ICT team has also reduced its power consumption by about 50% compared with its previous infrastructure, allowing the team to redirect much-needed funds to frontline services.
The Royal Commission and changing attitudes
The modernisation of Whiddon’s IT and business environment comes at a crucial time for the industry as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety draws to a close. The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) has created the Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia, which Whiddon hopes will change attitudes to technology in the sector.
“There is a huge opportunity to change the industry’s mindset towards technology from an expense to an investment,” Stathers said.
“We need to create an environment where we can see where customers are on their journeys and have the right data in the right place at the right time to provide optimum care.
“Technology and innovation at an industry-wide level can help improve care for our elderly, attract new talent, reskill existing staff and help adapt the sector to meet the needs of tomorrow.”
To reinforce the point, In December 2019, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released a position paper highlighting that innovation and technology must be at the core of any reforms to improve the levels of care, compassion and coordination in Australia’s aged-care sector.
Nutanix Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand Lee Thompson said, “Whiddon is disrupting the status quo, showing the true value of digital transformation in traditional industries and setting a benchmark for the industry to follow.
“Affordable and flexible technology like hybrid cloud has the ability to unleash a new wave of innovation and untapped potential in the aged-care sector and pioneers like Whiddon, along with its residents, look set to reap the early benefits.”
Whiddon is just one of a number of companies and government agencies that have switched to hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure in efforts to increase efficiency and productivity while enhancing frontline customer services.
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