Using Modern Technology to Humanise Aged Care


For some people, the term ‘modern technology’ is daunting. Despite decades of scientific and medical advancements, the stigma of fear and trepidation has yet to dissipate, and maybe entertainment is partly to blame.

The narrative of Man Vs Machine began for most in 1898, with the publishing of the H.G Wells novel War of the Worlds, and since then, Hollywood hasn’t done a whole lot to change the narrative.

On the cusp of this November’s ITAC conference (Information & Technology in Aged Care,) HelloCare sat down with the CEO of Deloitte Centre for the Edge, Peter Williams, and got his thoughts on what can happen when man and machine work together for the betterment of aged care.

When asked about how he felt that technology could play a role in improving aged care, Peter responded with a real world example of an everyday scenario within the aged care sector.

“Imagine the benefits of simply replacing a call button with something that is voice prompted, that allowed a resident to convey both the problem and the level of urgency.”

“This would automatically eliminate the need of having to visit the patient in order to start dealing with the problem, and allow carers to prepare for the problem upon their first encounter with that resident, not the second.”

“If a resident had a fall and was unable to reach the call button an automated voice prompted system would allow that resident to ask for help, let staff know that it’s urgent, and the carers would know to come down with the hoist immediately, as opposed to finding out once they arrived.”

“Not only would you have halved the amount of time spent on call button responses, you have ensured that the needs of residents would be communicated in a clear and more effective manner, allowing for a better level of care,” said Peter.

While the aged care industry currently embraces medical technology, there is still a fear of the unknown when it comes to other forms of modern tech.

While there may be a number of factors involved in this reluctance, one of the main concerns is the fear of losing the human element in regards to aged care.

Peter addressed these concerns and conveyed his thoughts on how modern technology could be used to enhance human interaction within aged care, rather than hinder it.

“I think the aged care system is currently being overloaded and is drawing in a large amount of new employee’s who may not necessarily have all of the skills that they need yet, but are having to face real-time problems. I think there’s all types of new technology that could help assist in their learning.”

“I’m not talking about replacing carers, or having robots walking around talking to people or anything like that, but more about finding what tech is out there that can assist in providing a better and more efficient level of care.

“We need to look at how technology can improve the connectability of aged care staff within facilities, this way, they can share knowledge and advice in real time if need be,” said Peter.

While the benefits for carers are apparent, the fear of losing human contact is more of an issue for those currently in care. Peter explained how residents and those currently being cared for, actually reap the greatest rewards from modern technology.

“Everyone is doing as much as they can to manage physical wellbeing, the next question that must be asked is, how do we stimulate mental wellness? Which is done through engagement and feelings of purpose.”

“There’s a fantastic woman named Marita Cheng who is the founder and CEO something called AUBOT.”

“She has created something along the lines of an ipad mixed with a segway, to allow someone who is incapacitated to go on a virtual outing with a group, as opposed to not participating at all.”

“This could never replace the experience of actually going on an outing, but for some, it might be the only way to even feel involved. This is only one application for this type of idea though.

“They could also be brought in as a way for patients to have an onscreen visit with family members, or even help those in rural communities who would otherwise have no interaction at all.”

“Technology in aged care is not about being impersonal, it’s about figuring out what problem we are actually trying to solve and utilising technology as a tool that is used with empathy.”

“The next step is figuring out how to use it to bring the broader community around a resident closer together for the betterment of everyone,” he said.

While Peter made a strong case for the usage of modern technology within aged care, the thought of the elderly community themselves embracing technology, is often met with a furrowed brow. Peter ensured HelloCare that this is not actually the case in his experience.

“I’m actually part of a bowls club, and no one seems to have any trouble using the app to find out if they’ve been selected to play or not.”

“If we supply the elderly with technology that is relevant to them and they’re interested in it .. they will figure out how to use it.”

“We should be probably running workshops on how to use technology for those in aged care and the elderly community in general, just like a business does to bring their workers up to speed with what’s going on,” said Peter.

-Peter Williams will be speaking about technology at the ITAC conference in Adelaide, Nov 21 & 22


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