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TELEHEALTH IN COMMUNITY AGED CARE SUSTAINABLE MODELS REQUIRED

The vast majority of older people want to remain independently in their own homes as they age, which has the benefit of being a cheaper option than institutionalised care. Technology is a means to support this end, but sustainable models for funding telehealth in the community aged care setting are required.

PETER YOUNG Managing director DCA eHealth Solutions pyoung@data.com.au

It is no secret that governments are spending more on health and aged care and costs are expected to continue to grow faster than the rest of the economy. The 2010 Intergenerational Report was a wake-up call because it projected that by 2050, unless there are significant policy changes, we will be spending increasing and unsustainable amounts of our GDP on healthcare, putting pressure on the rest of the budget. The demand for health and aged care is increasing as more of us will be older as a proportion of the population, but it is also a result of improved treatments, technology and services that people want to access to let them live longer and healthier lives. The most expensive and complex services are those delivered in hospitals and institutions, such as nursing homes, and whilst it is reassuring that this professional care is accessible when needed, we avoid going there if we can, and older people are no exception.

About the author Peter Young is managing director of DCA eHealth Solutions, a subsidiary of Telstra Health. He has over 15 years’ experience in solutions design and development for the community care sector, and is currently a board member of the Medical Software Industry Association.

Most Australians prefer to remain in their own home and community as they age and choose to live independently as long as they can. There is strong evidence that being able to remain at home also increases life satisfaction, enhances positive well-being and keeps people healthier through better continuity of care

Evidence also substantiates reductions in health and aged care costs when people are able to age in their own homes and communities and thus defer the time they enter residential or hospital care or avoid such care altogether. However, the rapid growth in demand for in-home services cannot easily be met by simply hiring more staff and conducting business as usual. With community care workers themselves ageing, there is an insufficient supply of trained staff to meet demand and it is a costly option. Governments will need to put considerable pressure on agencies to reduce unit costs to ensure they deploy qualified staff more effectively and achieve greater overall efficiency. The Living Longer Living Better policy framework also introduces a new funding model based on consumerdirected care (CDC), which will provide resources directly to clients so they can choose the service options that best suit them.

Proven benefits of telehealth There is significant opportunity to use innovative technologies to improve staff productivity, improve the quality of in-home care and meet community expectations for contemporary service options tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Telehealth, in its various


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