Jun 05, 2023

Is digitising healthcare the support solution our ‘sandwich generation’ needs?

While there are many additional nuances in Australia’s healthcare system, the general idea is the same; digitisation will improve access to safe, transparent and reliable care. [Source: Shutterstock]

The newly announced National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy draft shines a light on the need for older Australians to find quality care, access co-contribution finances and for the recognition of informal care. 

These changes are set to provide the most relief to the informal carers of the ‘sandwich generation’ who are ‘sandwiched’ between caring for their children as well as their own parents. If implemented effectively the suggestions in the National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy will help this generation reduce workload, financial burden and risk and in turn, give better access and quality of care for many of our disabled and ageing population. 

Recognition and support required for informal carers 

Australia’s aged care system is becoming overwhelmed as facilities reach capacity or become too expensive which has led to the increase of those choosing to age in place, where home care has increased almost four-fold over the 10-year period from 2012 to 2022. 

Ageing in place often creates more reliance on family members for care and support.

This effectively places family members into a formal carer role, however as this is not taken on as a typical job or profession, it remains unrecognised by the Government and thus excludes them from any standard carer support and compensation. 

As a result, this generation is increasingly facing financial, emotional, and time-related challenges in balancing all responsibilities, worsened by a lack of governmental recognition and a hard-to-navigate healthcare system. Should the draft recognise informal care, the sandwich generation would be afforded the support they need to care for their children and elderly without putting further strain on the already struggling aged care system and facilities. 

Creating a safer, trustworthy system through digitisation 

Beyond day-to-day care, the sandwich generation is also often tasked with sourcing appropriate care in line with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plans or for their parents. While this may sound simple, to date Australia’s healthcare system remains largely non-digitised, which leaves it vulnerable to fraud and often hard to navigate. 

A similar problem Australia’s childcare industry was facing until it was digitised through a main, consumer-facing platform that collated services alongside cost and location. This effort in digitisation significantly reduced access barriers and simplified service decisions, but it additionally reduced fraudulent activity for a more efficient and trustworthy system. 

The draft takes the first steps in prioritising the need for access to quality care, creating a base for new digital systems like Kismet to centralise and defraud healthcare services so the time and resource-poor sandwich generation can easily source care. 

The draft will further benefit familial or informal carers if it is effective in implementing co-contribution relief. Particularly under a declining economy, families are facing huge financial imposts and struggles in affording quality healthcare. 

Through support suggested in the National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy, the sandwich generation has the potential to be recognised formally for their care roles and gain subsequent benefits and assistance, while the healthcare system as a whole stands to benefit from increased accessibility. 

Digitisation of the healthcare system will also be key to the immediate and ongoing success of these suggestions which, if implemented correctly, has the power to significantly reduce the workload and financial strain on the sandwich generation, allowing them to provide better care for their children and ageing parents.

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