The July issue of STRIDE explored what Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) has to say about the role of multidisciplinary care, and the regulation of allied health and safety, based on insights in the report: Allied health in Aged Care – What is needed. In this final installation in our four-part series, we explore AHPA’s reflections on the allied health data, workforce planning and support and digital integration.
What is needed when it comes to the allied health data, workforce planning and support, and digital integration against the backdrop of aged care?
Starting with the role of allied health, an effective aged care system must be able to ascertain whether people are receiving allied health services according to assessment of their clinical needs, and if care is being appropriately delivered and coordinated.
Consumers can use the data to inform their choices about aged care services or facilities, and future improvements can then be based on evidence. Some data on allied health costs and time spent is now included in the new Quarterly Financial Report for residential aged care (QFR).
However, although the latest iteration of the QFR reflects the AN-ACC changes, allied health care provided will not be publicly reported against each of the 13 AN-ACC classes. It will therefore not be possible to know whether, for example, older people with high needs received more allied health services on average than higher functioning residents.
While the QFR means that at least some allied health data by individual profession will now be reported, in-home care data will only include an aggregated allied health figure. It is important that data is collected for each specific type of allied health service across the aged care sector, not only to address older people’s particular service needs, but also for workforce planning (see below point).
Currently there is also no way for the public to use the basic allied health data reported to assess whether care is being provided via appropriate allied health needs assessments, care planning, and the involvement of multidisciplinary teams to clinically assess residents and match them with the right types and levels of allied health care, which was covered in the first article in this four-part series.
To genuinely enhance the capabilities of the aged care allied health workforce, long-term neglect of the sector must be addressed.
Despite allied health being the second largest health workforce, there is no national allied health workforce strategy and no clear picture of the various settings, sectors and locations in which allied health professionals work.
Without these we cannot effectively address areas of particular disadvantage and lack of access, such as where older persons in rural and remote areas cannot obtain particular allied health services. Workforce planning needs to be supported by a national minimum dataset (see above point on allied health data) so that we can accurately predict workforce shortfalls and ensure the right flow of new graduates.
Allied health students should also have guaranteed placements so that they can fulfil practical training requirements. Students and clinicians must be provided with access to supervision and mentoring, regardless of where they are based.
Interoperable, accessible digital systems are required to enable the efficient and timely sharing of allied health aged care information (Royal Commission Recommendations 68, 109).
Allied health professionals are essential to aged care multi-disciplinary teams (see last month’s article in this series). The client knowledge they share helps other professionals to improve older people’s health outcomes. Yet allied health remains largely disconnected from digital initiatives aiming to enhance service delivery and collaboration within the broader health and aged care systems, such as My Health Record. This is not due to allied health lack of interest and unwillingness. It is the result of past Government failure to provide appropriate mechanisms to build system capacity that would facilitate the digital integration of allied health, which in the private sector often consists of small and even sole trader practices.
Adequately funded integration between My Health Record and allied health clinical information systems, with practical support from the Australian Digital Health Agency.
That wraps up our four-part monthly series on advocacy and aged care, which you can catch up on in previous issues of STRIDE.
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