Digital transformation vital to meet future aged care needs

LONDON: Digital transformation is vital to enable future aged care needs being met claims a new report.

The Digital Transformation in Aged Care: 2022 and Beyond report has been published by PainChek, the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI)-powered pain assessment tool, in conjunction with VCare, New Zealand’s top residential aged care software solution provider.

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Day 2022 is the power of knowledge surrounding dementia and post-diagnosis support. PainChek, which is used in more than 1500 residential care facilities in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the EU, the UK, and Singapore, and VCare have chosen it as the report’s publication date to highlight the essential role of technology-based tools in improving knowledge and support for carers of people living with dementia, as PainChek’s CEO Philip Daffas explains:

“Technology-based tools and systems are the only way forward if significant improvements in the quality of care are to be made, but more funding is essential.

“The aged care industry is currently in a state of significant transformation, driven by a growing ageing population, a heightened focus on quality of care, changing business models, ongoing workforce challenges, and technological advancement.

“There were 790,000 people aged 65 and over in New Zealand in 2020, with this figure predicted to increase to between 1.36 and 1.5 million by 2048, and to 1.6 to 2.2 million by 2073. Globally, there will be around 1 billion older people – the equivalent of 12% of the world’s population – by 2030.

“Technology-based tools and systems are the key to improvements in the quality of care, and to empower staff to build skill sets, and optimise operational efficiencies.”

In June, staff shortages across all areas of New Zealand’s health and social care sectors hit crisis levels, with the chief executive of New Zealand Nurses Organisation saying there was a shortage of 4000 nurses in New Zealand six months ago, with the situation worsening since then.

The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) also believes staff shortages in the sector have reached crisis point and reported that some workers are doing shifts of up to 24 hours straight.

“The care sector in New Zealand – and globally – is facing significant recruitment and retention challenges, at a time when more staff than ever are needed to deliver quality care to this growing population, says Philip. “Tackling this challenge requires a monumental transformation in the way we train, recruit, and retain care workers, technology-based tools and systems are the key to improvements in the quality of care, and to empower staff to build skill sets, and optimise operational efficiencies.”

“Across the world, harnessing technology is seen as a key strategy for improving care standards and handling the increasing costs associated, he adds, “Digitisation delivers enormous benefits for care providers, from streamlining administration processes, to the development and management of care plans and support functions. This will result in greater productivity and reduced workload for staff that will help unlock effectiveness and reduce stress, so that staff can focus on their primary role – to support and deliver relationship-based care.”

The report includes comments from leaders from the global care sector, among them Dr Jennifer Abbey, founder of the Abbey Pain Scale, developed for the assessment of pain in non-verbal patients and forms the basis of PainChek’s pain assessment technology, who says: “More than ever, challenges around staffing levels and training are creating issues in residential facilities. Time pressures, for example, may mean experienced staff feel they know when a resident is in pain and can remember a score in their head, then record it later in notes. As much as we acknowledge the skills of these experienced staff, research shows this subjective assessment does not work in the management of pain or diagnosis of a resident’s behaviour.

“This issue is underscored by the increasing emphasis on the dangers of using psychotropic drugs as a pseudo-restraint. Facilities need to prove to both prescribing doctors, and to regulators, there is clear evidence that these drugs are needed. Indisputable evidence is required, such as that produced by the PainChek app.”

New Zealand’s third-largest care provider, Summerset, completed a successful six-month pilot program trialling PainChek at Summerset’s Levin Care Centre and will roll out PainChek’s digital pain assessment solution in all 24 of its care centres throughout 2022.

PainChek is fully integrated with Summerset’s existing CMS provider, VCare, meaning clinical staff benefit from significant time savings and workflow improvement.

Lynda Irvine, head of clinical services at Summerset, said: “PainChek really made us think about how important effective pain management is for older people and a key advantage is being able to rule out pain as a contributing factor for residents who are at times distressed. The connection with VCare reduces duplication for clinical staff and means the team can spend a little more time each day with residents.”