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International expert updates aged care IT use in Australia

The use of information technology is beginning to play a large role in the effort to provide higher quality of care in residential care facilities in Australia, according to early findings of an international study.

Australian aged care administrators have responded positively to an invitation to participate in an international survey assessing information technology (IT) capabilities, extent of IT use, and degree of integration in resident care and clinical support areas of healthcare.

Undertaken by Macquarie University visiting professor Greg Alexander from the University of Missouri, the survey was conducted between February and May 2017 and involved 155 Australian aged care facilities.

Among the preliminary results, findings show that more than 80 per cent of the facilities surveyed use technology for resident transfers, such as admission and discharge information, 57 per cent use technology for medication administration activities while 34 per cent use no technology for pharmacy-related activities (see below for a snapshot of findings).

Professor Greg Alexander

“My previous studies in the US had similar findings indicating that there is a direct relationship between increasing IT sophistication in aged care facilities and the quality of care that they provide,” Professor Alexander told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“When a facility has more IT capabilities, extent of use, and integration, quality measures are influenced by these resources.

“This study shows that the use of IT is beginning to play a large role in the effort to provide higher quality of care in residential aged care facilities in Australia,” he said.

Professor Alexander will present the findings at the sector’s ITAC conference in November.

“The final survey results will provide a robust overview of a regional sample of aged care facilities in Australia, and a valuable benchmark which can be used to inform the design, planning and implementation of aged care IT in the future and the impact greater IT adoption has on quality of long term care,” he said.

Professor Alexander has also put together an expert panel that includes representatives from four aged care collaboratives from the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia.

“One of our projected outputs is a peer-reviewed publication providing an international framework for IT in aged care,” he said.

Snapshot of preliminary results

  • Slightly more than 80 per cent of the facilities used technology for resident transfers, including admission and discharge information while nearly 7 per cent indicated no technology was used for these resident management processes.
  • Within resident care activities, the most frequent electronic resources include physician’s progress notes (75 per cent) and discharge summaries (45 per cent); nursing care plans (89 per cent), incident reporting (84 per cent), clinical reporting documents, such as treatments (80 per cent) and resident acuity/condition recording (77 per cent).
  • Physiotherapist use technology most often for care planning (75 per cent), progress notes (74 per cent), followed by resident data collection (53 per cent).
  • Few early adopters of laboratory technologies primarily for activities associated with specimen label generation (18 per cent), resident admission and discharge (14 per cent), and results capturing (8 per cent).
  • A majority of facilities indicated there is no technology supporting radiology or activities associated with these clinical processes (85 per cent) while a few early adopters indicated they use technology to capture and share radiologic images (11 per cent).
  • Approximately 57 per cent of the facilities indicate they use technology for medication administration activities, such as resident drug profile look up (49 per cent), medication purchasing (48 per cent), and allergy alerts (43 per cent) while nearly 34 per cent use no technology for pharmacy-related activities in these facilities.

Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner for the ITAC Conference.

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