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Tech trials put IRT in driver's seat

Innovation & Research Connectedness Health Independence Positive Ageing Retirement
24 January 2018

IRT’s exploring a range of options to see how technology can improve the lives of older people, including trials of driverless cars, smartwatches and virtual perimeters at aged care facilities.

Driverless cars that can zip you from one destination to another without you needing to be at the wheel.

A smartwatch that gives you 24-hour access to support and can locate you in an emergency, without cramping your style.

‘Virtual perimeters’ that utilise GPS and mobile networks to help keep Care Centre residents safe and secure.

Does it sound like an episode of the Jetsons?

The technologies might seem futuristic but they’re all available now and being trialled by IRT. In big ways and small, IRT’s exploring a range of options to see how technology can improve the lives of older people, as well as support better communication and business systems.

According to IRT Chief Strategy Officer Sam McFarlane, there’s lots of emerging technology that will help solve problems now and in the future.

“It might be an autonomous vehicle, helping people with limited mobility regain independence.

“Or it could be a wearable device that gives the wearer and their loved ones peace of mind because it allows us to monitor their wellbeing and track where they are.

“We need to investigate the different technologies that are available and understand the ones that will work best for our residents and customers.

“As a result of reforms to the sector, older people now have a lot more choice and control over the services they receive. We want to be in a position to help them choose the technology that best suits them.”

IRT’s not alone in recognising the need to embrace technology.

In June Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt launched A Technology Roadmap for the Australian Aged Care Sector, noting that technology in residential and home care will be “critical to maintain and improve delivery of care and services”.

An initiative of the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council, the roadmap was developed with a team from the Medical Device Research Institute at Flinders University. It aims to guide policy makers, as well as help the sector embed technology in their operations.

John Vohradsky, IRT’s Group Head of IT and Business Excellence, says the organisation’s determined to stay ahead of the curve and has developed its own IT Technology Roadmap.

“We’ve seen customer behaviour change dramatically in recent years. Our customers’ needs are changing with regard to how they live their lives; how they bank, how they buy things online and how they travel.

“Aged care is a logical extension of that. Where appropriate, the services our customers receive should be underpinned by cutting-edge technology that improves their quality of life.”

John says IRT is currently operating trials of technology aimed at improving lives in three areas: mobility, connection and safety. It is also exploring self-service tools that will simplify and make accessing IRT a lot easier.

“These are really exciting trials. At the moment we’re keeping an open mind about our options but we’re learning lots from the trials and the early feedback is very positive.”

The challenge for the industry is to ensure any new technology that is introduced is comparable with those already used in other sectors.

“We can’t start at version one and go to version ten. We need to start at version ten, because the expectation will be that whatever we introduce will be comparable to those technologies already available in other markets such as banking and travel.

“A payment system will need to be as simple as PayPal; a catalogue of services should be as intuitive as eBay, while a communications tool should be as friendly and inviting as Facebook.”

Another challenge for existing aged care providers is the number of new, tech-savvy players joining the aged care sector.

“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of new entrants and a lot of them are leading with technology,” John admits.

 

“Our response to that is that we know aged care and we know our customers, so we can do technology better than someone who’s simply a technology expert. Rather than customers selecting a technology company that’s learning aged care, we think an aged care organisation that knows technology is a much better option.” 

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