Challenges in Aged Care can present Real Opportunities for Innovation
Present challenges facing the aged care sector can seem overwhelming at times, however, for the savvy organisation they can represent opportunities for innovation and growth.
The challenges represented from an aging population have been well documented. As we discussed previously the Australian Bureau of Statistics population projections1 show that in 2012, over 14% of our population were aged 65 years and over. This is projected to increase to 22% in 2061. Factor in a projected resident population increase from 22.7 million to between 36.8 and 48.3 million over the same time frame and you get a pretty clear indication that the potential number of clients for aged care organisations is on the increase.
Baby boomers are expected to redefine aged care over the next several decades. As asserted in an article from the Sydney Morning Herald this year, as the generation of baby boomers are poised to turn 65, they are "positioning to redefine old age, just as they have recast every other category of the demographic continuum on the push through."
According to a new report by the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), the median household’s wealth for older Australians is on the increase. Before 2014, the median wealth of those aged 65 and over was less than that of those aged 45–54, but by 2014 the former age group had overtaken the latter. The report’s author, Roger Wilkins from the University of Melbourne indicated that large increases in house prices have helped fuel the change.
This increase in household wealth will equate to future buying power. Providers that offer higher quality of care, better access to facilities and cater to changing expectations of care can expect a competitive edge over those that simply maintain the status quo.
In its initiative Shaping the Future of SA, a number of leading South Australian organisations will come together to examine the challenges–and perhaps just as importantly–the advantages of "aging well". The aims to challenge some of the perceived negatives of an aging population. Some of the potential perceived benefits are expected to include opportunities for housing, transport, tourism, education, and recreation as well as aged care.
With the pure rise in numbers, some providers are facing limitations securing new land and development opportunities close to already established population centres. They are facing a demand for well-located care with access to conveniences and community spaces. As reported by digital disruption advocate, Julie McStay in Aged Care Insight this month, "One concept that has proven highly successful in other markets and is rapidly gaining traction in Australia is idea of co-location." These arrangements mean that aged care facilities are being integrated into existing community facilities. In turn these clubs and organisations are refurbishing community facilities and opening a new stream of potential members.
The emerging implications for aged care providers is that to capture these opportunities, they need to be capable of delivering innovative and varied services. These providers will also need to establish a clear care path, offering different levels of care as mandated by government legislation.
This might seem like unwelcome pressure to many aged care providers. These dynamic changes, in addition to changes to government legislation, can mean that many providers won’t meet the challenge. The providers who do, may anticipate some unique opportunities for innovation and growth.
The role of technology in aged care is evolving all the time. The original case for the paperless office has evolved into a discussion around cloud technologies and digital disruption. Hardware such as mobile and tablets are also changing the way care can be managed and delivered.
From an operations standpoint, providers who innovate with software fit for purpose, may find they are better equipped to capture the opportunities presented. As we discussed earlier this year, if your current aged care software was not built as a senior living solution, but rather catered for the independent living, residential aged care, and community care market as an afterthought, then you really need to consider the deficiencies and limitations this places on your capacity to meet growth targets.
Quality aged care software can help you analyse and identify important opportunities for innovation. The data and reports the software can support often allow you to drill down to granular level, to provide key operational insights, as well as dashboards that provide executive summaries at-a-glance. With support for integration, flexibility and data analysis, it can be a foundation from which to grow, and turn many of the challenges faced into opportunities for innovation.
For a more detailed look at how aged care providers can better facilitate growth through software, we recommend our eBook The Australian Aged Care Guide to Facilitating Growth Through Software.
Posted by Lee Robbins, Senior Product Manager, Senior Living Solutions, Epicor Software
1Source: ABS, Population Projections, Australia 2012 – 2101. Cat. 3222.0. November 2013.