Roadmapping technology in aged care


Tuesday, 02 March, 2021



Roadmapping technology in aged care

The Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia was published in 2017 to improve the aged-care industry’s understanding of the role technology can play in building a robust and sustainable aged-care system in Australia.

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council (ACIITC) scoped and commissioned this research and developed the Roadmap, which acknowledges three critical issues faced by the aged-care industry:

  • An increasing large cohort of senior Australians at a population level not experienced before.
  • Rapid development of new technologies.
  • Significant reform of the aged-care sector, particularly following the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
     

Recognising the need for technology to underpin the delivery of aged-care services and ensure independence, choice and control for consumers, the Roadmap examined the evidence for technology’s contribution to positive ageing.

A positive impact on the lives of older Australians

A review of the literature revealed that technology has played a significant and positive role in the aged-care space. It has been adopted to assess the needs of older Australians, to promote independent living, reduce social isolation and increase social connection. It has helped to reduce the risk of falling, to manage chronic disease, improve medication management and support people with cognitive issues, including dementia. And it has been used to reduce or manage depression, enhance wellbeing and support family carers.

Given the speed of technological change, ACIITC undertook an update review in 2019, releasing a report of the most disruptive technologies, including those that support positive ageing and those that support the care of older people. The comprehensive report is aimed to help advise aged- and community-care providers when making strategic decisions for the future of care.

Key changes in technology were identified, including:

  • advances in artificial intelligence and automation;
  • advances in blockchain and data analytics;
  • continued evolution of sensor technologies;
  • ongoing development of virtual reality and augmented reality; and
  • voice-activated technology.
     

The barriers and challenges to the adoption of technology-enhanced ageing and aged care are considered in the report including individual readiness, ethical issues and organisational and system readiness.

Technologies that support positive ageing and independent living

Assistive technologies allow individuals to perform tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do, or can increase the ease and safety with which tasks can be performed. The addition of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capacity to these technologies means that information can be shared across networks, enhancing communication and visibility between individuals, their carers and families. Intelligent assistive technologies include self-contained devices such as tablets, wearables and personal care robots, distributed systems such as smart homes, integrated sensor systems and mobile platforms, and software applications.

Technology-enabled care (TEC) supports the provision of health- and aged-care services, encompassing telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, mHealth, eHealth and digital health. The convergence of health technology, digital, media and mobile telecommunications via TEC enables more effective integration of care and is considered an integral part of the solution to many of the challenges facing the aged-care sector.

Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2019 found that smartphone penetration has grown from 76% to 91% over the past six years, with Australians aged over 55 one of the last cohorts to jump on board (but they are now on board!). Smartphone ownership data from statista reveal that in 2019, 90% of seniors aged 65 to 74 and 84% aged 75 years and older owned a smartphone.

Smartphone apps are a key part of accessing government services in today’s world. In addition to the provision of services, app use provides reliable and real-time data on patterns of service use, needs and preferences. Smartphone sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes and GPS tracking, provide health-related feedback to the user and care providers.

Home sensors can play a critical role in regulating ambient temperature and operating household appliances and security systems, providing an ideal environment for supporting a range of other technologies designed to address ageing-related challenges.

The increasing adoption of smart home technologies and linked devices is assisting independent living for senior Australians. As part of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart technologies highlight the critical importance of people’s homes and local environments to their independence, and to healthy and positive ageing. In some cases, these technologies — such as voice assistants and robots — can allow older Australians to stay in their homes for longer than they would do without them.

AIITC’s report also found that digital technology has an important role to play in managing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Telehealth and monitoring technologies allow vital signs to be monitored remotely, with data sent directly to healthcare providers. The rapid uptake of telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important this technology is as a tool to ensure the health and wellbeing of older Australians and other vulnerable members of our community.

The CARE-IT Report

In 2020, the ACIITC released the Capabilities in Aged & Community Care Readiness: An Evaluation of Innovation & Technology (CARE-IT) report — informing strategic directions and investment strategies for the aged- and community-care sector and benchmarking technology and innovation for the sector.

The CARE-IT Report details nine recommendations, which the ACIITC is working to advance in collaboration with the Department of Health. The ACIITC encourages all to download the CARE-IT report from www.aciitc.com.au to find out what technologies are making a significant and positive impact in the aged- and community-care sector.

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

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