December 14, 2009

AUSTRALIA: Old age problem gets new age solution

. MELBOURNE, Victoria / / Technology / December 14, 2009 By Beverley Head With 13.3 per cent of the Australian population now aged 65 or over, iSoft’s decision to launch its first end-to-end information system for aged care providers seems smartly timed. The largest listed health IT provider in Australia launched its Aged Care – Enterprise Wide Health system, on the same day as the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that the median age of the Australian population had risen by more than five years to 36.9 over the last two decades. However according to aged care consultant Greg Russell, a member of the Aged Care IT Council, only half of the nation’s 180,000 aged care beds are currently covered by computerised information systems as the march away from paper in the sector has been relatively slow. iSoft’s new Microsoft based application is modular and offers a range of functions including back end trust account management, government reporting requirements, rostering and care management systems. It can also interface with iSoft’s Lorenzo application which is targeted at acute care and accident and emergency departments of hospitals. Since many aged care providers complain that there is often an information gap which opens up when their residents are sent to hospitals, any possibility of bridging that gap represents a step forward. Knowing what happened to a resident when they were in hospital, and what medication they were prescribed, can help aged care providers improve their care programmes once the resident returns. There are a number of specialist IT vendors which develop applications for aged care providers, covering issues including medication management, rostering, care management and financials. iSoft claims its system is among the first end-to-end solutions that is able to scale, and also meet the needs of community aged care providers. According to Russell, who is principal of consulting firm Waterfall Technology, “In some ways (the sector) has been a bit of a backwater until five years ago. But there has been a rapid takeoff as we move to e-health. “With so many elderly people having multiple prescriptions you need to keep that together in a medication management system. There needs to be a whole lot connected and the e-health identifier is a key component of that.” Last week the Council of Australian Governments edged a step closer to its goal of developing an e-health system for Australia by green-lighting the introduction of unique health identifiers for every Australian. Confirming that national health reform would be a priority for 2010 COAG signed an agreement to develop the legislative, governance and administrative framework that would allow the identifiers, which have been developed by NEHTA (the National EHealth Transition Authority), to be introduced. Australia’s progress toward e-health has been patchy, despite studies suggesting that a national electronic health record system alone could save Australia at least $7.5 billion in the first decade of operation. Aged care’s march toward ICT has also been patchy, but iSoft believes that a shift is now underway as the once cottage industry consolidates and starts to drive efficiencies into the sector which will become even more necessary as baby boomers lurch into old age, bringing with them a range of chronic health conditions which will need long term management. rc] Source: