Telstra Health’s Michael Donnelly: data to predict residents’ deterioration to become the norm – 60,000 beds in the residential space and growing

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Instant messaging to families that is recorded in your clinical software, technology to predict which residents will deteriorate, and digital tools to assess if a resident may have coronavirus – it’s the future of aged care, according to Telstra Health’s Head of Aged & Disability, Michael Donnelly.

Last week in The SOURCE, we reported that Telstra Health was back in the game. This week, Michael tells us how COVID has fast-tracked their plans for the future.

With a background in accounting and marketing, he has spent the past 12 years immersed in aged care software – seven under Telstra Health’s former platform iCareHealth and five following its buyout by the eHealth company.

Over 450 clients and growing

Its Aged and Disability platform now has 450 residential care and home care providers on its books, covering over 60,000 aged care beds and more than 200 home care clients.

Michael notes that the increasing financial pressures on the sector are impacting on their clients in both spaces – but technology can help to optimise funding.

In the future, he sees the line between residential care and home care becoming more blurred with future software to be across both and staff provided with a common user experience.

“Providers want to ensure a recipient record is easily transferred from home care to residential care,” he said.

Software to move between home care and residential care

While Michael doesn’t see providers using the same software, he says Telstra Health has spent the last five years redesigning its clinical products to have an open architecture so that one platform can be developed for use by providers from home care through to residential aged care.

Providers now prefer to store information on the cloud whatever their size, he says.

“The days are gone when providers want to see all their data sitting in a box in the corner of head office,” he adds.

SMS tool delivers instant updates to families

Telstra Health has also introduced an assessment tool to assess residents for coronavirus as well as fast-tracked a new communication tool – released in February – that provides an email and SMS messaging service to families.

“What providers were saying – and this certainly ramped up with COVID – was that the amount of time it was taking to communicate with families was really challenging,” he explains.

“They wanted some proactive way – not just around COVID – to quickly get out important information.”

This tool is embedded in their clinical software so when a message is sent out to families, it is automatically recorded.

Further consolidation on the way

Looking forward, Michael sees more tough times for providers, but also opportunities – including for further consolidation in the sector.

“Providers optimising their funding is obviously critical,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder so they need to make sure they are securing every dollar that is warranted.”

This means embracing some of the new technology, he says.

“The trend towards fewer but larger organisations is happening and it has certainly rocketed on a bit amid the pandemic.”

Tools to predict residents’ deterioration

Michael also predicts the smarter use of data to predict residents’ health will help providers optimise their funding and resident care.

Telstra Health is currently involved in a project with Digital CRC and RMIT University around predicting resident deterioration in residential care.

While the pandemic put this research on hold, he says the focus will be on forecasting a residents’ likely care journey and responding with interventions.

He adds that smart technology in home care will also be the norm.

“Data and technology will play a more important role and one would hope better health outcomes are a result of that,” he concluded.