Oct 28, 2015

The Customer is Always Right, Right?

The notion that ‘the customer is always right’ presumes the customer knows what they want but this is not always the case. When navigating the aged care system for the first time, most older people and their families have little or no prior knowledge of what is available, how much is it going to cost, the different options for paying, and what ‘quality care’ looks like. This limited knowledge of the consumer causes further complexity on top of an already stressful and complicated decision. Consumers and their families are not provided with benchmarks or a standard quality rating systems; how can they know whether or not they are receiving a reasonable ‘quality of care’? What is acceptable quality of care and what is not? What is reasonable to expect as a base level of service and when should they feel they are entitled to request better care?

Capturing resident opinions is further complicated by the fact that approximately 80% of residents in aged care facilities are suffering from some form of cognitive impairment. Many residents are also without family or regular visitors, and for residents with family or visitors, they are afraid to make any comments – fearful of the reprisal on their loved one in care through potentially risking ‘rocking the boat’ regardless of whether that risk is real or simply an unfair perception of the industry.

This is why health professionals, experts and facility staff play a vital role in this ecosystem. Historically, there has been no efficient way to capture the numerous individual voices, there was no service to share experiences or digital web based engagement platform moderated as an honest broker. By showcasing the positives and registering the negative experiences as a means to drive improvements in a balanced, neutral and open way, Aged Care Report Card is taking steps to change this. With advances in technology, and analogue platforms in other marketplaces, the aged care sector is able to create its own solution to the traditional limited feedback scenario with the provider-consumer relationship and installing a ‘loop’. This is a large part of why I founded Aged Care Report Card – this kind of platform is new to the aged care sector even though similar services can be found in other industries such as hospitality, travel and other service driven marketplaces where the consumer is not only able to, but expected to assess, share and compare. It is not a direct application from other market places either and we need to be considered in this sense with the aged care sector and measuring care as it has it’s own requirements. For example it has less ‘events’, is more highly emotionally ‘charged’ per transaction, and financially is not the same as a meal or hotel room.

The government are performing their role in encouraging transparency by making information available through myagedcare.gov.au and strict policing of its regulation through the accreditation standards to effect change and create a minimum standard. The private sector is also contributing through rating and reviews platforms to facilitate the free exchange of experiences to focus on competition and excellence, which will become even more valuable as upcoming changes in the industry will prioritise consumer directed care and shift greater control to the consumer. Ultimately, age care services are increasingly being expected to de-prioritise the notion of simply meeting the basic standards of accreditation and more and more encouraged to provide greater focus on truly satisfying the consumer’s needs (and wants). It is in fact becoming a necessity and will more so as the consumer (residents and families alike), become more informed and aware of their options and of what it means to experience and access excellence in quality of care.

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