Consumers want greater transparency about aged care costs and services.

Aged care consumers are wanting more transparent pricing and service descriptions, and to be able to get that information from My Aged Care, said Professor Ian Yates, AM Chief Executive of COTA Australia, at the Customer Experience in Aged Care Criterion Cota Australia Conference.

Professor Yates said the consumer includes both the person who requires support and care, their families or partner, and the broader community, which has expectations about the level of care provided to the community.

In providing more information about costs and services, Professor Yates said the aged care industry will create a better relationship and improved trust with aged care consumers.

There is some concern in the industry about how many providers don’t share information on My Aged Care, said Professor Yates, adding that the reluctance to share information must change.

Professor Yates said that community feedback has focussed on the consumer’s inability to go online and find what services aged care providers offer, and what the costs of those services are.

Transparency is a key issue for the industry, Professor Yates said, and is essential for consumers to understand and trust the aged care system.

Transparency also has to encompass complaints, as well as industry challenges and successes.

“It’s important for families to have the information and to know where to get it, and to be able to compare it,” said Professor Yates.

Connecting with consumers

Professor Yates said it was key that aged care providers engage with consumers.

The interests of the person being cared for, their friends and family, and the provider, usually converge – although he noted that sometimes they don’t, for example, in cases of elder abuse.

Professor Yates said that ideally the three arms of care can engage by operating as a partnership, and the person requiring care and their families be closely involved in the planning and managing of the support and care.

Today, care is more often focused on rehabilitation and is restorative, with the aim of helping the elderly person to live the remainder of their life as well as possible, not to simply step onto a one-way “conveyor belt”. Professor Yates said the elderly should be supported to achieve their goals, no matter how limited those goals may be.

Helping the elderly stay connected with family, friends and community should also be a key component of care today, he said, and to remain safe, while at the same time being able to retain some control of their lives.

Draft consumer outcome standards

Professor Yates noted the new consumer outcome standards, currently in draft format, expected for elderly care in Australia:

  1. I am treated with dignity and respect and can maintain my identity. I can make informed choices about my care and services and live the life I choose.
  2. I am a partner in ongoing assessment that helps me get the care and services I need for my health and wellbeing.
  3. I get personal care and clinical care that is safe and right for me.
  4. I get the services and support that are important for my wellbeing and they’ve enabled me to do the things I want to do.
  5. I feel I belong and am safe and comfortable in the organisation’s service environment.
  6. I feel safe and I’m encouraged and supported to give feedback and make complaints. I’m engaged in processes to address my feedback and complaints, and appropriate action is taken.
  7. I get quality care and services when I need them from people that are knowledgeable, capable and caring.
  8. I am confident that the organisation is well run. I am a partner in improving the delivery of care and services.

Dealing with grief, guilt part of the core business

Professor Yates said dealing grief, guilt, and a sense of powerlessness are part of the professional space that providers work in. “They are not a nuisance; they are actually part of the core business,” he said.

In the past aged care has kept these feelings distant, but that is changing, said Professor Yates.

The future: new models of care

Professor Yates said the industry needs to prepare for portability of aged care services, for example, to allow residents to move between residential and home care without constraint.

This shift will change culture and the market quite quickly, he said and there will be opportunities for new aged care models. For example, Professor Yates said aged care facilities with waiting lists could be able to expand to meet them.

We are moving to a system where consumers will be able to determine “what, where and when,” he said.

Professor Yates said it’s likely that consumers will be asked to make a greater contribution to the costs of their care in future, and that will also mean greater flexibility in the industry, and will be coupled with tighter regulation.

“There will be lots of opportunities for new business models in the delivery of support and care in this new world,” concluded Professor Yates.

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