The State of Technology in Aged Care
This article is taken from the industry report ‘Digital Transformation in Aged Care: 2022 and Beyond’ and was created in partnership with PainChek, the world’s first clinically proven digital pain assessment tool. Using AI, facial recognition and smartphone technology. Download your copy here.
Globally, there are more than 703 million people aged 65 years or older  – and this cohort is only growing larger by the year. At the same time, as we shift into a new technological era, aged care is evolving by leaps and bounds.
Below, we’re exploring the state of technology in aged care and the key drivers of technological uptake.
Changes by region
Region-specific changes that focus on quality of care and better reporting mechanics are pushing an evolved use of technology. One example of this is Australia’s recently-updated mandatory aged care quality indicators (QIs), which is informed by quarterly-collected indicator data from residential aged care facilities. Indicators like this are set to buffer the predicted growth of the Australian population aged 65 and over from 15% in 2016 to 22 per cent by 2056 .
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety also released a technology-centric roadmap aimed at promoting improved quality and efficiency in the aged care industry. The five main pillars of improvement are as follows :
- technology-enabled operational, business and communication systems
- technology-enhanced care and support for older people
- technology-enhanced information and access to care
- technology-enhanced assessment of eligibility and changing needs
- a technology-literate and enabled workforce.
In addition, the Australian Government has set aside $345.7 million to ensure technology-enabled access to care, as well as the effectiveness of quality audits. A further $48.5 million will also be spent upskilling the aged care workforce, which will support the industry to move into the new technological realm  .
Over in the UK, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is exploring a similar path, with the 2021 introduction of a new strategy that focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and data science to deliver more effective and efficient care .
An ageing cohort
In 2018, people aged 65 or older outnumbered children under the age of five for the first time in history – and within the decade, the aged cohort is set to reach a billion. This growth creates a number of challenges and opportunities for the industry, and governments around the world are beginning to take stock.
A larger older-aged cohort puts pressure on the system – both from a resourcing and cost perspective. With more people requiring support later in life, governments and industry decision-makers are compelled to fund and implement more cutting-edge (as well as cost-effective) services. Most of these innovations are technology-centric, which is critical in every aspect of aged care’s growing requirements.
Appropriate technology has the power to ensure ageing populations across the globe have access to quality care. Technology also affords the industry more efficiency, which has the potential to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and reduce the strain on the public health system.
Post-pandemic aged care
Having created a wealth of brand new challenges across the healthcare sphere, the coronavirus pandemic has tested the maturity of our technologies and response mechanism. As one of the largest societal upheavals in our modern era, COVID-19 has accelerated our transition to digital health tools. As a society, we have accepted that technology has the power to serve and protect our communities with ease and efficiency.
A 2021 study found four major categories in which digital technology has become more widely used in Australia to support interventions in aged care as a result of the pandemic. These are:
- independent living support
- communication between patients/residents and carers.
A similar study in New Zealand found that telehealth consultations rose ten-fold to 34,500 per week by April 2020 , and in the UK, 61% of appointments with a GP were carried out by phone by mid-2020 .
Evolving aged care
Studies indicate that patients and care recipients within the aged care industry are eagerly awaiting new technology. Currently, 75% of aged care recipients and 66% of decision-makers feel technology is essential to providing high-quality aged care beyond the pandemic. However, nearly half of recipients feel as if their providers are not yet using technology to its full potential.
With the growing focus on quality of care, an ageing global population, and evolving expectations, harnessing technology is a key strategy to enhance and systematise the aged care standards of the future.