“We’re shining a new light on the quality of aged care,” said the Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells on the announcement that the National Aged Care Quality Indicator Program was being expanded from five to eleven indicators from 1 April. This isn’t any April Fools message; more than doubling of the indicators has significantly increased the burden of reporting on providers at least threefold.
Since July 2019, every three months, four times each year, every government-subsidised residential aged care home are required to submit a standardised set of data to the Commonwealth government under the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program (NACQIP). Each individual aged care home is required to collect and enter their service level data in a set format following the NACQIP manuals. The Department of Health and Aged Care receives the data and forwards this for analysis to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) which is contracted by the regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, to report on the performance of aged care homes. This quality indicator program was a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Quality and Safety in Aged Care with the aim to provide greater transparency to the public and aged care consumers, the government and policymakers, and to residential aged care services to measure their performance and continuously improve their service. The NACQIP completion contributes to 15% of an aged care home’s star rating.
The AIHW cautions those looking at the data to understand that there is a level of inaccuracy due to the manual approach of its collection at the service level and discrepancies of the interpretation of the manual and the system of collection. Each of the eleven indicators has a specific method for recording the data.
Not only are providers compiling clinical data but also asking residents in their care twelve questions, six on their experience of care and six on their quality of life. There is no doubt that the resident’s experience is an essential contribution to the overall profile of a home, however, the time to individually collect and compile this feedback is considerable. On average it can take 30 minutes to ask these questions, and for an average home that is at least two weeks of one full-time position amounting to eight weeks annually. What makes this of a particular impost is: firstly, the labour challenge of finding care time to meet the care minutes requirements in the midst of a staffing crisis sector-wide; and, secondly, this is not routinely collected data from audits of existing records, unlike the other indicators.
It’s time for digital transformation so that care time can be preserved and data collection can be automated and managed through technology solutions that are well-proven. For example, AI-emphatic chatbots, or the use of interactive TV systems designed for older people as a method of collecting consumer feedback is a low-cost, easy-to-implement solution.
One of the most challenging new quality indicators to report on is resident changes in activities of daily living. Technology has been demonstrated to be effectively measured using a range of sensors in home care in the Smarter Safer Homes Report, the algorithm is used in the wellbeing dashboard in the Talius platform. This is identified as a critical technology that is in the national interest for healthy ageing. This system will be used in the Best Care project and is an example of how we can use these technologies to monitor falls and also to help reduce them. Integration of clinical information systems and medication management systems into a data platform to support data to the government is available now. For each of the eleven indicators, there is a digital solution to automate its collection and a single integrated data platform that links the quality indicator program, and importantly the continuous review of data to help make data-informed clinical decisions that embed quality improvement into the operations of the service.
Given the importance of measuring the care outcomes of older people in residential aged care, undeniably one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society, improved systems for capturing data to improve accuracy, timeliness and reduce the workforce burden is urgently needed.
Get in touch with us. We’ll show you how Talius or technology can help solve the burden of aged care mandatory quality indicators in aged care.