150 aged care providers lacking technological “maturity” – but how can the sector get up to speed with 60% of operators running at a loss?

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Data from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) shows 18% of the 147 residential care providers audited between January and March 2020 failed to meet requirements on Standard 8 on effective governance arrangements – the second-highest ‘not met’ after personal and clinical care.

Home care services also had similar results with governance systems being the second highest not met requirement.

Data governance systems were a key part of these failures.

Apply that 18% across the whole sector and that is 150 providers that are not technologically up to speed – 150 boards that are not receiving the information they need to run their businesses.

This week, we talked to Head of Client Services’ Kevin Fernandez at data solution provider Novigi.

He says they often find that while parts of a business’s data management system may be performing well, there are pockets that aren’t taking account of security controls.

“A key factor here is technological maturity,” he said. “The challenges that providers are facing moving toward a more mature model of working with data are complex.”

“With so many things to consider a lower level of maturity can lead to security being neglected,” he added.

But software systems require considerable investment and training – at a time when 60% of operators are running at a loss.

We also had the news this week that the Aged Care Royal Commission has been extended due to COVID-19.

This will give the Commissioners time to consult further with the sector – but it will also drag out what has been a series of upheavals for aged care providers in recent years from new Quality Standards and Quality Indicators to Four Corners investigations.

The message from CEOs to the Royal Commission in 2019 was that executives were tired – how will they be coping after COVID?

In my recent conversation with the Grattan Institute’s Hal Swerissen, he speculated the whole system will need to be redesigned within five years – that is just 60 months.

You must ask the question: how is the sector going to achieve this?

How are the leaderships teams and middle management going to be able to transform the system while dealing with a global pandemic, limited funding and a Government that is committed to expanding home care while not supporting more aged care beds?

With the sector on a trajectory to reduce bed occupancy as a whole, operators are still expected to have their house in order – and includes governance systems and ‘mature’ technology.

Many will say it is a bridge too far – particularly when you consider the issues that come with a low-paid, mostly part-time and casual workforce.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed this week, there will be no paid pandemic leave for workers.

If staff are exposed to a colleague who tests positive for coronavirus – as has happened in 10 homes in Melbourne this week – they must go home and self-isolate, with their employers likely to foot the bill.

There is no money to invest – let alone in mature systems.