COVID-19 Risks Provider Viability and Ongoing Performance

COVID-19 has been like a tsunami across our lives, our businesses and our thinking. In my lifetime, which now spans 69 years, I have never seen a single event that suddenly appeared, wreaked havoc and continued to do so over considerable time. We seem to have entered the Twilight Zone.

Those who are in aged care are at the forefront of the impacts, being the most vulnerable. They comprise the greatest number who have tragically lost their lives and going forward will, and indeed should, become the focus of more specific attention and added protection.

The Government reacted to the pandemic quickly and the community responded positively to the initiatives, constraints and impositions. But under the inevitable post COVID-19 changes in protocols, systems, accountability and interventions, where will this new regime leave the provider’s ability to meet performance standards while remaining viable in an environment that is becoming more and more resource-scarce, particularly in the areas of skilled labour and finance?

There will be a need for more staff, personal protective equipment, medication, training, reporting and accountability—all not without considerable cost to providers. A further complication will be the drain on resources to attend to increased measurement, monitoring and reporting requirements.

Spanning 42 years in aged care, from the perspectives of provider, consultant and IT developer, I have observed across the industry a general lack of confidence by providers to engage with IT support services, to discuss how the demands they face can be managed and overcome with less pressure being imposed on staff and their organisations generally.

Providers need to develop the confidence to work with their IT providers if they are going to make the most of the software solutions that will help get them through the difficult times ahead.

Post COVID-19, the increased administrative and care burdens could result in a growing desire for providers to service a number of delivery modes with an integrated management of care approach,  with the attendant need to move records seamlessly from the first support point to the last. 

Management of such integrated services will call for a streamlining of data transfer across delivery modes, more efficient management of data through better reporting, more timely data, plus warning processes that ensure compliance and ‘real time’ data are available to managers to ensure any deviation from expected norms are identified quickly and remedied where necessary.

IT and HR companies, as well as other industry suppliers, will have an essential and expanding role to play in this evolution, providing efficient and cost-effective solutions for providers.

Increasingly, the industry will need to marshal the best resources available and open the lines of communication to identify needs, discuss solutions and implement decisions quickly to gain the most benefits. There is also a need for more standardised IT data management approaches, to minimise costly re-skilling and training, together with the need for a consistency of information upon which the industry and government can make timely decisions and interventions. 

e-Tools—as one of the leading IT solution software developers in residential, home care, home support and NDIS—has for a long time partnered with its clients in developing applications that support providers to evolve cost-effective data sharing solutions specific to their strategic requirements. This approach relies on client input and feedback, and can be undertaken across the industry, resulting in a range of support organisations that operate on a multi-partisan basis, for the better management of caring for the elderly, who surely deserve our best care and attention.

In the post COVID-19 world, the age services industry will be required to clearly identify the needs, set the parameters, circulate the knowledge and frameworks, and encourage every service provider, IT provider and other specialties, to work collaboratively with better communication to deliver the necessary solutions. 

Competitive advantage in a commercial world between industry support providers should be based on providing the best customer support and relationships, as well as the best structural frameworks and data management. Perhaps, post COVID-19, we can all consider working more collaboratively to better achieve sustainable performance and viability for aged care service providers, which will inevitably benefit our vulnerable elderly and their families.

David Powis MBA is Managing Director, e-Tools Software

This article was featured in LASA Fusion Publication Winter 2020 edition

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