Does technology have the answer to an overburdened care sector?

If you work within the care industry, then you are one of those rare people who are drawn to the service of others. This is true for those on the ground and those in HQ, ensuring compliance and service development. But how are you served in these roles? With staff shortages, ongoing pay disputes, and drowning administration, injecting competent technology seems necessary to automate low-value tasks. But does tech have the power to unburden the care sector while improving customer-centric care?

Where are the results from the 2021 aged care report?

It’s been two years since the Royal Commission’s Aged Care Quality and Safety report and we’re yet to see any significant changes come out of its 148 recommendations (Nichols & Barclay, 2023), —other than aged care workers winning a 15% pay rise in late 2022, a sum that’s still 10% short of the union recommendation. (Remeikis, 2022).

“For the last decade this industry has relied on the goodwill of an exploited, casualised workforce,” says Gerard Hayes, the national president of the Health Services Union, believing that the pay raise isn’t going to fix the crisis.

It’s this criminally low pay that has contributed to staffing shortages across the sector. (Remeikis, 2022), and the more staff that leave positions due to high stress and low reward, the more the system struggles to keep up with demand. Sure, the providers are suffering—with a sector-wide loss of $440 million in the first quarter of 2023—but it’s the vulnerable Australians who are feeling the cost of an inefficient and overburdened system. (Nichols & Barclay, 2023).

Wesley Mission is one of many providers that has been impacted. After government-implemented staff ratio requirements and difficulty finding workers, they have been forced to close their three remaining aged care homes—displacing nearly 200 residents. Family member Donna Paul says she had no idea the homes were closing by the end of May, “Mum doesn’t want to move. She’s very happy here and that will be the hardest part, actually saying to her we need to find you somewhere else.” (Meacham, 2023).

The issues are mirrored in disability services

Low pay and staff shortages seem to be a trend amongst some of our most vital industries, with disability services reflecting the issues seen in aged care. For the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rollout to be successful, they need an estimated 83,000 more workers by 2024—but one in three disability support workers are planning to leave the sector in the next year (McAllister, 2022).

High staff turnover and decreases in permanent employment have created higher costs for NDIS providers—and consequently, less supervision and mentoring for new staff. Also, with less staff comes less access to services, which means that NDIS funds are going unused and long wait lists for vital services are affecting the well-being of NDIS participants (Kutchel, 2022).

The burden of compliance regulations

On top of ongoing staffing issues, new compliance regulations are adding to the burden. In aged care, there’s an array of new governance arrangement responsibilities for providers, while in the disability services sector, every state is now expected to implement NDIS worker screenings to assess the reliability and safety of employees.

In an already high-pressure industry, the introduction of extra compliance regulations and HR admin tasks, while necessary for transparency and safety, is another responsibility for the overworked staff.

There is a constant demand for transparency, with clients, their families, and regulatory authorities all seeking more information. And with technology, providers can meet these requirements while also improving operational efficiencies. (KPMG, 2019).
Workforce compliance technology expert and Kinatico CEO, Michael Ivanchenko, says, “It’s now more important than ever for organisations in the aged care and disability space to find time-saving technological solutions to these ongoing and evolving challenges.”

Technology is the necessary salve for an overwhelmed care sector.

“Technology provides an immediate opportunity to reduce the workload of the staff of a residential aged care facility by automating low-value tasks.” (KPMG, 2021). “This approach to care does not only directly benefit the customer, but it also improves business outcomes, staff morale, and increased job satisfaction.”

The care sector has the option of using technological innovation for the support they need, rather than constantly searching for more staff. With streamlined digital systems, it creates space for staff to focus on what really matters, delivering transparent, effective care to the people who need it.