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Matt Durston, Managing Director of Allocate, APAC, explains how technology is tackling the growing staffing and quality crisis in the Australian aged care sector.

Solving the challenges around the aged care sector is back in the spotlight  and could be rescued if the Government responds positively to a new campaign launched by opposition leader Anthony Albanese.  The ‘Aged Care, Action Now’ campaign is calling for a package of measures to be delivered before Christmas following the findings from the recent Royal Commission’s report into the sector. The report itself shows that the greatest challenges the aged care sector is grappling with is inadequate staffing and skill levels.  These have been linked to  major contributing factors in avoidable hospital visits by many aged-care residents and lengthy delays in being discharged after a hospital stay.

So how can aged care organisations tackle these issues around staffing? Funding is of course key, but we can’t simply find more qualified staff to plug the gaps. So what support can funding deliver in the short-term?

Technology could be a big part of the solution.  Here at Allocate, we work with a number of aged care providers who are turning the problem of resourcing around – and making cost savings too. Working with providers across the sector, we are demonstrating the value of e-Rostering when it comes to better managing staff ratios and ensuring safe patient care.

So is e-Rostering the holy grail?

There’s often an assumption that rostering is relatively straightforward and it can be done easily on a spreadsheet.  And that’s a big misconception.  Just having a roster and putting people on it isn’t enough – that’s not effective rostering.  Managing rostering with technology solutions – e-Rostering – delivers insight by providing staffing information at the most granular level.  An e-Rostering system will deliver intelligence about how an organisation is running and highlight staff utilisation – providing the data to make future staffing better and highlighting immediate issues. For example, it can track your patient to nurse ratios on a live basis, to ensure shifts are safety-compliant and give managers the confidence that the right skills are being deployed across the setting.  Conversely, it can flag staff shortages and more importantly non-compliance – so staff can address problems quickly.

Planning & control

One of the greatest advantages of an e-Rostering system is the ability to plan ahead.  It enables you to have a proactive view of your ward or across your organisation by gaining insight and hence understanding some of the trends in workforce demand – these are critical and can help with planning and forecasting.  Increased acuity during winter months for example can be planned for along with holiday cover and any other planned staff shortages.

And it is this area where healthcare organisations looking after care of the aged are struggling and this is costing them.  Most aged care healthcare operators in Australia are not for profit organisations so cost is a very real issue.  Many providers operate tactically and often only reactively, focusing simply on getting the day job done rather than looking ahead to drive improvements – in staffing levels and spend.  Because when healthcare organisations are in reactive mode, they are often left with no choice but to pay a premium for agency staff.  Whilst we know how demanding the day job can be, not allocating time to analyse workforce data means costs can quickly get out of control against their staff ratios.  Effective rostering helps you make data-driven, more accurate and more effective decisions – based not only on what the requirements are now, but also what they are likely to be in the future.

Reporting & tracking

Whether funding is granted imminently or in 12 months’ time, the Government is certainly going to want to track improvement in the sector – so how can organisations monitor their progress?  Some of our customers have found that our e-Rostering tools allow its users to quickly track KPIs and pinpoint cost savings after as little as four-to-five roster cycles.  They can make decisions early about budget, training, skills and additional support, rather than waiting until it’s too late and not only face spiralling costs but ultimately not provide the best care possible to aged patients.

We know the aged care sector is facing a staffing crisis. So, make sure you’re looking laterally at the problem and embracing technology to gain control of your staffing issues and learning to both maximise resource and save costs.

If you would like to find out more, please join us on 3rd and 5th of December at our forthcoming breakfast seminar in Sydney and Melbourne. For more information and to register click on the link.