The Australian government’s gateway to the aged care system has been awarded a gold Good Design Award, despite the website having several problems that have been recognised by the royal commission.
My Aged Care was entered in the ‘web design and development’ category of the Good Design Awards, and was judged on the basis of its design, usability, creativity and innovation, content and quality, and commerciality.
A ‘gold’ award is granted to those that ‘exceed the criteria for good design’. An unlimited number of gold awards are handed out, according to the Good Design Awards website.
However, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has taken a different view of the My Aged Care site.
My Aged Care is thought of as the ‘front door’ to Australia’s aged care system, and it is often people’s first contact with aged care services.
People are often using My Aged Care under difficult circumstances, when they first become unwell or are struggling to cope with their situation at home and are no longer able to look after themselves.
Many people who have to access My Aged Care are living with dementia.
Given the challenging circumstances in which many are using My Aged Care, the royal commissioners said it was “questionable” whether an online portal was the appropriate tool for its purpose.
On top of that, the commissioners said the website was often difficult for its older users to navigate.
“Many people in their eighties and nineties find [My Aged Care] frightening, confronting and confusing,” the commissioners noted in their Interim Report.
Many older people do not know how to use a computer, or poor eyesight means it is difficult for them to read information on a screen.
A witness told the royal commission, “At a time of deep trauma this is the last thing that is needed. My mother cannot use a computer and was so upset that she was unable to manage much of what was required.”
“It was all online and very tiny, and I can’t — I have never been online. I can’t access online services due to my poor vision. I wish I could, of course I used computers as a librarian. But it’s just not possible now. And that made it very, very hard,” another witness said.
My Aged Care was also difficult for people from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations to access.
“The jargon is hard to understand, it is difficult to navigate and it is incongruous,” one witness said.
“Expecting an 88 year old with dementia and mental health issues to be computer literate and to deal with letters about her financial affairs is just one form of institutionalised cruelty,” another said.
My Aged Care also doesn’t include much of the information its users need. Information is often incomplete and impossible to verify. Users end up having to ring provider after provider to find out what services they deliver or whether or not they have a bed available.
Compared to other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, My Aged Care has less information available, the royal commission heard.
Since the Interim Report was released last year, My Aged Care has been updated to include more comprehensive information, for example it now shows a ‘service compliance rating’ and enables access to information about compliance infringements.
But given the website’s problems, it’s somewhat surprising that My Aged Care has been awarded ‘gold’ for ‘good design’.
What do you think? Is My Aged Care well designed? Tell us about your experiences using the government website?
Image: Spiderplay, iStock.