How do older Australians feel about digital health in the home?

Monday, 17 May, 2021

How do older Australians feel about digital health in the home?

The Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) has released a qualitative research report which reveals the challenges and opportunities facing the Australian healthcare industry. The report — Inspiring new models of care: Digital health in the Home — was created in partnership with Google Chrome Enterprise.

GCMA CEO Julianne Parkinson emphasised that the research was conducted so there could be a clear understanding of how older Australians feel about health technology being integrated into their homes.

“We spoke with clinicians, aged-care staff and community members, and our findings demonstrate that a coordinated effort is required to reskill industry, validate and shed light upon the most suitable technology, and design models of care that will not compromise on quality care provision,” Parkinson said. “Improvement in the quality of life of the older person must remain the number one priority.”

When conducting the research, the GCMA team found key themes, highlighting current views, ideas and hopes for digital technology in Australia.

Priority areas for digitally enabled healthcare provision

The research found that priorities for community members included:

  • increased accessibility of care;
  • improved safety;
  • better health outcomes;
  • enabling more independence;
  • more proactive, preventative and predictive health care; and
  • greater peace of mind for users and their families.

Aged-care providers detailed priorities as:

  • improved safety;
  • better health outcomes;
  • enabling more independence;
  • workflow efficiencies; and
  • more proactive, preventative and predictive health care.

For clinicians, priorities were:

  • better health outcomes;
  • workflow efficiencies; and
  • more proactive, preventative and predictive health care.

Importantly, the research showed that better health outcomes and more proactive, preventative and predictive healthcare ranked highly for all respondents.

Quality of care must remain the top priority

The most important factor among all the respondents was quality of care, and the fact that it must remain the top priority. Findings showed that for respondents to embrace widespread uptake of health technology in the home, it must support quality of life and care, enhancing and supplementing current healthcare provision. It was made very clear by respondents that technology should never be designed or implemented to replace the face-to-face provision of health care.

Communicating the benefits of technology for health care and ageing well

The research found that an understanding of the benefits that health tech can provide to older Australians living at home is often not well communicated. Emphasising the benefits to all stakeholders will improve the uptake of technologies.

For instance, communicating the preventative and early detection benefits afforded through health technologies may shift community perceptions away from the more constrained mindset that technology is only used to manage poor health or illness. For professional cohorts, highlighting the improvements to be made in the provision of care and workflow efficiencies is one of the potential benefits that could be emphasised to improve buy-in.

Defining digital health

Terms like digital health get used a lot, which has led to confusion around what exactly is being spoken about.

GCMA describes digital health in this context as an ecosystem, designed to support and improve the health and wellbeing of older Australians, while making it easier for aged-care providers to offer in-home support and enabling clinicians to look after their patient’s health, both face to face and while they are at home.

Looking to the future, the digital health ecosystem unfolds to include evidence-based innovations, products, care pathways, collaborations, partnerships and programs, which combine and share the following key objectives:

  • Reduce inefficiencies.
  • Improve access.
  • Reduce costs.
  • Increase quality.
  • Make medicine more personalised, preventative and predictive.

Barriers to adoption

Another key research outcome was clarity around the barriers to adoption faced by each of the professional cohorts studied. While the following is not exhaustive, it provides a summary of the key and recurring barriers.

The GCMA is committed to ensuring the business of ageing is supported by high-quality, evidence-based research. It is committed to well-governed co-design capabilities to improve people’s quality of life at scale.

Image credit: ©

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