Imagine spending your whole working life paying off your mortgage, only to be struck down by illness or misfortune, then forced to leave the home you’d worked so hard to make your own.

This is an all-too-common situation as Australians with specific needs are sent to spend their autumn years in care facilities, being taken away from their home and community.

In-Home care is now emerging as a growth industry, as a result of it being both a better experience for the person in need of care and providing patients with the option, as well as a more efficient and productive way to provide the required services.

What is in-home care?

In-home care does pretty much what it says on the tin: provide Australians who have specific healthcare needs the assistance they require while allowing them to continue to live in their community. It’s a common misconception that this is a service only for the elderly, although they are the majority of home care recipients, there are also those struck with illness and/or with disabilities who benefit immensely from being cared for in surroundings that are familiar to them.

There will always be an option to receive permanent, round-the-clock care in a dedicated facility, but this is very much a sliding scale. For example, ageing people may only require basic care, such as domestic assistance or social support, while people with disabilities whose needs are complex or high-level can be given the choice of a permanent facility or often continue to live in the comfort of their own home. The goal is to provide the option as the circumstances and challenges of each family and community are different.

In the example of aged care this may be the way forward to care for the country’s ageing population – 16 per cent of Australians are aged 65 or over, a figure that the government’s most recent intergenerational report predicts will grow to 25 per cent in the coming decades – the need for aged care is set to increase dramatically.

And while care should never boil down to dollars and cents, with the Australian government subsidising aged care, it’s logical to find the most efficient and effective way to provide it – and, more often than not, that means ensuring people are comfortable, safe and healthy in the place they’ve lived for years.

What’s required?

My Aged Care is a portal for older Aussies to receive subsidised healthcare and assistance, and is the umbrella under which the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) operates.

As mentioned above, the Government funds large portions of in-home care, which means people are assessed on their individual needs, and then the CHSP aims to fulfil those needs via an accredited provider.

As a result, “All CHSP-funded organisations must meet the performance reporting requirements outlined in the organisation’s CHSP Comprehensive Grant Agreement.”

So while it’s provided at home, it’s still healthcare. As such, providers need to stick to some pretty stringent guidelines – particularly with regards to reporting.

Best-care practices

Reporting is the ultimate double-edged sword when it comes to healthcare. Due to the need to maximise productivity and quality of care with compliance of admin tasks, in particular reporting.

On the one hand, it is crucial that records are maintained in the interest of both the patient’s welfare and so the caregiver can provide full transparency of the tasks performed.

However, time spent reporting is time that could be better spent tending to a patient’s needs.

The CHSP is doing its best to carry the burden with regards to streamlining the reporting process via the Data Exchange, which provides “a simple and easy-to-use IT tool that allows for system-to-system transfers, bulk uploads or a free web-based portal”.

By keeping the reporting largely digital and in the cloud, the Data Exchange allows for similar sessions to simply be copied, while referrals to a more specialised or different provider can be shared with minimal fuss.

But while ageing Australians are increasingly tech-savvy, ‘cloud reporting’ isn’t necessarily the best way to help those receiving home care. That said, there have been some exciting developments in the tech world that ensure the patient is looked after in the best manner possible.

Improving productivity while adhering to Best Practices

The humble printer, for example, has been given a mobile upgrade, which allows caregivers to easily bring the device to all their patients. With many patients on multiple medications, these printers allow for an easy-to-read schedule to be printed off, helping patients keep track of when to take which meds.

Label printers are another means by which caregivers are helping to keep their patients from being overwhelmed by what can be a daunting schedule, by simply affixing a label with plain, easy-to-read instructions on the pill bottles.

Devices such as these also make communication between multiple caregivers – in the increasingly common situation there is a team of people seeing to a given patient – far smoother. Having a single, central care schedule that is easily edited and then can be printed off and left for both the patient and the team to have easy access to ensures  A seamless transition of communication between a multidisciplinary care team and their patients.

With the right approach and technology, home-based healthcare can deliver strong patient outcomes, improve productivity with more effective use of carer resources. It’s a win-win situation, but it’s also a win for common sense. Keeping people living as independently, in their own homes, for as long as possible is clearly the best option for all concerned.

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