Technology is perhaps the best tool the healthcare industry has to deliver better outcomes for patients. There are almost no limits to what can be achieved through the use of technology, so much so that the digital health industry is expected to achieve $ 220 billion by 2026.
However, the health sector is an ecosystem made up of many parts, and while some areas have been leading the way in technology adoption and application – think research and development, genomics, diagnostics, and some providers – others have been less open to innovation. In particular, the elderly care sector, which has been notoriously slow in adopting technology.
Elderly care has historically tended to take a more conservative approach to innovation and technology – with funding and resources pouring into more physical infrastructures like beds. It’s been a recipe for success for a long time – but this strategy simply won’t hold up in today’s digital world. Systemic change is required at all levels of the aged care industry to be truly innovative, and technology can help.
The Australian Royal Commission for the Quality and Safety of Elderly Care examined the state of elderly care in Australia and key areas for improvement. Technology can clearly play a role here – obvious areas are people, financial reporting, risk and compliance, consumer engagement – the list goes on and on. The geriatric nurses, who can digitize quickly, will bear the fruits, while the latecomers will be left behind at the expense of their patients.
The sector is traditionally non-profit, but savvy investors are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunities in geriatric care and the added value that can be generated through digitization. It is expected that more money will continue to be poured into efforts to make the industry profitable.
In order for geriatric care workers to successfully integrate technology into patient care, they must ensure that their systems are future-proof for the changing nature of patient care at home. One of the biggest trends that providers need to recognize is the increasing number of patients staying at home longer and the relocation of increasing home care funding options. It is imperative that the elderly care industry respond to this development and shift its focus to home care. In this way, providers can enable services to better manage the entire patient lifecycle, including virtual solutions and services performed at home instead of elderly care facilities as they transition into new living conditions.
The workforce also needs to expand its talent pool to include clinical resources and a highly skilled workforce to enable new technology and innovation. Greater investment in human resources and education combined with technology will help vendors attract and retain better talent. One of the biggest hurdles for elderly carers is time-consuming management due to a lack of investment in technology that could enable more efficient processes. Relieving this burden will help nurses focus on just that: taking care of their patients.
A major focus of the industry is putting the patient first. Many providers have a range of services that can support the patient throughout their life cycle, but without the technology to support the transition of information from one service to the next. For example, if a patient moves from an elderly village to a nursing home, their data does not necessarily migrate with them, even though the elderly village and the nursing home are part of the same organization.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of technology providers who have recognized the opportunity of digital disruption and have begun to sell bespoke solutions for the elderly care sector – leading global technology companies are now developing elderly care-specific solutions and modules. It is up to the individual elderly care providers to take the initiative to find better ways to care for their patients through technology.
In adopting new technology, geriatric care providers should take the lead from the broader healthcare industry, which has two main goals: it must be easy to use and it must focus on improving patient outcomes. It’s not enough just to introduce new technologies – systemic changes are necessary to drive innovation in the geriatric care industry, not just for the bottom line, but for the benefit of the most important part of geriatric care: the patient.