Collaboration to improve services in residential aged care facilities through the use of information

1 May 2010

University of Sydney researchers will be engaged in a study of the major information and work process challenges facing residential aged care facilities in Australia.

The project is part of an innovative University and business collaboration with AutumnCare, a software company which designs electronic systems for aged care services.

The University's Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit, led by Professor Johanna Westbrook, will look into how information technology can be used to support clinical staff to improve the flow of information and work processes in aged care facilities to improve the quality of services for residents.

Professor Westbrook said by 2024, 20% of the Australian population will be 65 years of age or older and an increasing proportion of older Australians are living in residential aged care facilities.

"Despite the widespread community concern about the viability and sustainability of aged care services, there is little evidence about what can be done to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and enhance the quality of care provided to residents," she said.

"Residential aged-care facilities remain a largely neglected area of research investigation and this project will make an important contribution to providing new evidence about work processes and how information technology might support improvements in care.

"Information technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to productivity of aged care facilities, leading to better integration of patient records, safe and effective work practices and facilitating clear and concise communication of clinical data across the health care spectrum. Information technology also allows the accurate flow of information as residents move between health care facilities.

"This is the first time we have seen a software company commission such important research and we are very excited to be a part of this project."

Autumn Care Managing Director, Stuart Hope, said the research would be used to inform Autumn Care's design of software packages for aged care facilities.

"Empirical data is required to enable decisions to be made on improving processes in aged care," he said.

"We need data such as this study to help inform our processes as we further advance the technology used in aged care facilities."

"If we can reduce the activities consuming clinician time and improve productivity by applying technology strategically, then all will benefit."

The project is being partly funded by a Research in Business grant, part of the Federal Government's Enterprise Connect scheme.