Many organisations perceive the COVID-19 pandemic as a deterrent to their economy and workplace practices. However, it’s a golden opportunity for Australian aged care organisations to adapt and think differently. In a way, this article talks about future-proofing Australian aged care organisations to adapt to changing aged care regulations.
Aged care regulations are pivotal for organisations to meet quality and compliance standards. It’s crucial for organisations to follow a set of guidelines regarding their patients’ safety, privacy and expectations of the staff.
These regulations are used to implement and convey the service care providers’ standards, responsibilities and values. The values they emphasise are accountability, providing the highest standard of care, and handling responsibilities entrusted well.
These policies should be updated frequently and explain the decision making behind the policies logically. Some examples of policies and regulations in aged care include “Quality of Care Principles 2014”, “Sanctions Principles 2014”, and “User Rights Principles 2014.”
Implications of COVID-19 in the Australian aged care industry
While other countries suffer from inadequate preparations for a pandemic such as COVID-19, Australia has done a remarkable job tackling this virus. They constantly implement new regulations to maintain the low numbers and set aside their political differences to overcome the virus.
Their healthcare staff attributed to the accomplishment by ramping up their COVID-19 testing, tracing and building additional hospital capacity. Adding on, Australia has universal and accessible healthcare – Medicare. This healthcare system enabled Australians to get their hands on a COVID-19 test or book an emergency room without a hitch.
Hence, their numbers remain low as the federal government makes timely and accurate decisions based on data received.
As of December 2021, Australia has invested over $12 billion over five years to administer COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses to eligible people. Furthermore, as part of Australia’s aged care regulations, the government has invested $17.7 billion in the aged care Budget 2021-22.
Despite these contributions, Australia’s government plans to add to the COVID-19 response measures by contributing $540 million to the various aged care beneficiaries, i.e. Support for Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 Program (SACWIC) and The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (VACRC).
Indefinitely, COVID-19 will impact the population growth of Australia, especially the senior population. As of 2020, the elderly, aged 65 and above, takes up about 16.32% of the Australian population.
The elderly have been one of the top priorities for care services during this pandemic, as they are highly susceptible to the virus. In addition, once the virus attacks them, the symptoms and side effects are also more dangerous for them due to their weaker immune systems.
Although these numbers are predicted based on current trends, many uncertainties still surround them. For example, the future demographic population could differ based on recovery measures and the implementation of aged care regulations.
Technology is a driving force in our digital age. It has proved its noteworthiness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such technology usage was telehealth consultation and apps that can track and manage a patient’s activity levels, diet and vital readings, i.e. blood pressure and cholesterol level.
The aged care organisation should demonstrate their responsiveness to the patients’ needs and engage them through optimised patient experiences. While still maintaining the link between virtual health and in-person aged care services.
With the technology of this potency, it’s the government’s role to keep the data private and secure. Organisations also require software that provides crucial insights for innovation and customer experience.
A structured set of aged care regulations can support the implementation of technology in aged care to ensure efficacy, quality and high levels of safety. Hence, the government plays a decisive role in the funding and infrastructure support to integrate technology into the sector.
However, no matter how splendid, Australian aged care organisations are still vulnerable to the virus, the challenges it brings and the ever-changing aged care regulations.
Adding on the burden to the total capacity of Australian aged care
The aged care industry is constantly lacking in staff. “How inadequate is the workforce?”. Based on the 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census, there are 277,671 residential aged care workers in Australia.
That’s merely 1.08% of the total population of around 25 million. Remember, the elderly take up approximately 16%, a whopping 4 million of Australia’s population. So how’s that sufficient to provide the utmost quality of care?
Well, that’s about one aged care worker to fifteen elderly, far from the bare minimum of one senior care worker to four elderly in general wards in the hospital, required by aged care regulations.
Due to the inadequate staffing levels, customers do not get enough care time and receive a subpar quality of service. In addition, the aged care employees themselves do not get adequate care and sleep because of the massive demand for aged care service providers.
Change in consumer behaviour
It’s reported in Australia 2020 that 43% of Australians have reduced their spending. Since COVID-19, consumer behaviour has changed drastically, especially in healthcare. Now more than ever, consumers are extra mindful of how they spend their money.
Less people are going for physical consultation, and they prefer to stay home. Ever since then, residential aged care has been taking on a new life as Australians are more accustomed to receiving care and treatment from the comfort of their own homes.
The government is an epoch-making factor for the aged care regulations set out to keep track of COVID-19 cases and the aged care providers’ vaccination statuses. This ensures that the employees in close contact with the patients are well and not carrying the virus.
Evidently, this is an excellent chance for aged care providers to re-evaluate their strategies and identify opportunities to reach a greater audience.
What’s new in Australia’s aged care regulations?
As the pillar contributor and regulator of the aged care industry, the government is responsible for the changing regulations. Here are some of the changes made recently.
Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) program
Australia’s aged care regulations recently released a new residential aged care facilities (RACFs) program. The program aims to re-engage volunteers into residential aged care facilities to nominate themselves for non-clinical support staff – to address the decline of volunteers during the pandemic.
The RACF program recognises the importance of tackling emotional and social isolation in aged care. It emphasises the significance of emotional support and companionship during these dire times.
Aged care regulatory framework
The Australian government has also been developing a new aged care regulatory framework in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. This enhanced framework supports other aged care reforms in the future and aims to improve the approach to regulating aged care compliance.
There will be certain aspects of the framework the government will focus on, although not limited to, such as:
- Registration and obligations of aged care service providers
- Compliance – assessment of a provider’s adherence to the registration
- Transition – how smoothly can organisations help customers shift from the current to the future regulatory framework
COVID-19 case reporting tool
Lastly, Australia’s Department of Health has been rolling out a new COVID-19 case reporting tool. It allows aged care organisations to submit outbreaks and exposure data at their site.
According to aged care regulations, all service providers must submit weekly reports of COVID-19 cases to the government department via email. However, this new tool streamlines the process of case reporting for aged care providers, so they can utilise their time and focus it on more productive and meaningful tasks.
The report includes critical data such as the number of cases, vaccination rollout in the workforce and provision of PPE.
Keeping updated with the ever-changing aged care regulations is monumental for aged care organisations to proceed with their services and ensure compliance.
Integration of tools for Future-proofing
In June 2021, the Australian government announced new reporting arrangements for aged care providers on their vaccination status. Employee vaccination tracking is, thus, vital to comply with the aged care regulations and vaccination proof during an audit.
Since COVID-19 is here to stay, we must prepare and embrace living with the new norm. That being the case, there’s no software better than vaccination management software to future-proof your organisation against the current and future pandemics.
Zipline’s vaccination management system can significantly improve efficacy and productivity in your organisation. It reduces admin and labour cost compliances risks and, most crucial, enhances employee and customer experience whilst in compliance.
Albeit customers are turning to residential aged care services, there are still a number of them visiting healthcare facilities. Thus, it’s no surprise that the Australian government has implemented new aged care regulations regarding visitation guidelines.
Instead of restricting visitation, which may take a toll on the patients’ mental health, the government has proposed measures to allow at least one visitor per day. This new guideline encourages visitation and reduces the impact of the restrictions. Additionally, the government closely monitors aged care facilities’ visitors through Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs).
With the massive increase in COVID-19 cases and the implementation of the guideline recently, it’s beneficial for aged care organisations to have a visitor management system in place.
This system consists of a visitor booking system where visitors can schedule allocated time slots to visit their loved ones. This seamless booking system will enhance customer experience and redefine visitation in aged care.
One of Australia’s focal aged care regulations falls under the Aged Care Act 1997. It covers government-funded aged care and lays out rules such as, and not limited to, funding, diversity, quality of care received, and approval of aged care providers.
Aged care providers in Australia are expected to comply with Aged Care Quality Standards set out by the act. However, with the surge in workload during this pandemic, and the daily challenges aged care organisations face, it is challenging enough for them to provide quality care.
Based on the Safety’s Commission’s assessment, aged care organisations are rated against four bars. If the organisations meet all the compliance requirements, it will receive four-bar. Else, they will receive a compliance action.
However, with a compliance management system in place, the organisation can assure quality service through ongoing assessments and comply with the aged care regulations.
In a nutshell
Australian aged care organisations must be quick to adapt to changing aged care regulations. There are a few aspects for them to take note of:
- The implications of COVID-19 to the aged care sector
- Key challenges faced presently and in the future
- Understand the full-blown impacts of the pandemic to make wise business decisions
- Newly implemented regulations to stay in compliance and,
- Grab the opportunity to think and do things differently by integrating various technology systems
Therefore, mastering these aspects will future-proof Australian aged care organisations for what’s to come and take their organisation to the next level.