The Future of In Home Care – Integrated Care beyond 2020
Article Two, June 2018
The Consumer Beyond 2020
Written by Ilsa Bird – Sector Support Coordinator, Your Side
And Rosanna Commisso – Home Support and Partnerships coordinator, Your Side
Aged care reform is producing momentous change and there is an emerging understanding of the aged care consumer profile. Consumers will no longer be just ‘users’ of services, instead they will be customers exercising their rights and choices over the products they are purchasing. Following the release of the Federal Budget last month, it is increasingly clear that the government focus is to empower individual consumers, by allocating funding to support wellness and reablement, and produce a market-driven environment. This article will outline the emerging understanding of the aged care consumer profile and discuss how these factors will impact service providers.
So who are the consumers beyond 2020?
- They are a growing and ageing population
Currently, the Baby boomers represent 5.6 Million Australians aged in their 50’s and 60’s. This means that the future population will include a higher percentage of people over the age of 70 who are aged 85 years or more; almost 30% by the year 2065. Research shows this generation is progressively digitally connected which means they are more informed. Also, it is expected that future generations will be highly educated and physically active, which will allow them to live independently in the community for longer.
- They are a diverse population group
Consumers beyond 2020 will be represented by very diverse groups, which will require services and care that is tailored to meet their needs. Last year, the Aged Care Diversity Framework outlined some of the changing needs of specific population groups reflected in spirituality, religion, sexuality, culture, socio-economic background and geographic location. Each consumer will have a diverse personal experience which will inform their care needs and preferences. For example, as dementia increases in prevalence and incidence, a larger percentage of consumers will require dementia specific care. Care needs and preferences will be different between consumers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and those who identify as LGBTI. Just like previous generations, future consumers will want to remain in their homes for a long as they can. As integrated care is implemented, the diversity of future consumers will become clearer.
How is the understanding of consumers changing?
- Consumers will have a greater responsibility
Firstly, they will have greater financial responsibility. Consumers who have the financial means to pay will be required to contribute to the cost of their care. They will be required to understand their own role in creating a sustainable aged care system for the future by contributing when they have the means to do so.
Consumers will also have greater responsibility to make informed choices and be responsible for their own care and ageing. The 2018-19 Federal Budget has confirmed funding support and services to improve consumer health literacy so they can make informed choices about care. Also, transparency around pricing and quality will also be enhanced through comparison tools and published market prices for services.
Greater responsibility also bears greater risk. Consumers may make decisions that providers do not agree with, in regards to their choice of services or care preferences. Providers must respect dignity of risk, by allowing consumers to exercise their rights and responsibilities in choice.
- Consumers will drive quality and have greater rights
As greater responsibility is given to the consumer, their rights will also be protected. Consumer rights and safety will be supported by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission being one point of contact for ease of access to address consumer concerns. We know that the Commission will be responsible to ensure compliance to the Aged Care Quality Standards, however there is a greater focus on the consumer outlined in the draft Quality Standards. Consumers will play a role in driving service quality through the consumer outcomes that recognise the diversity of consumers and value their experience and opinion of aged care. To support a single set of quality standards, a new single charter of care recipients’ rights and responsibilities will be developed although there has been no announcement that this process has begun.
As consumers begin to play a more prominent role in aged care quality, they will have a greater understanding of their rights. As consumers become more informed of their rights and choices, they will ask more questions and communicate their expectations accordingly.
- Consumers will be empowered to make informed choices
With the introduction of CDC and moving towards integrated care, consumers will be given power in their choices. Consumers will be able to choose who provides service, what type of care is delivered and how, as well as when and where services are delivered. Consumers can also exercise control over how their care is managed, either by a provider or by themselves.
The 2018-19 Federal Budget has provided funding to empower consumers to navigate aged care more confidently. MAC upgrades and information hubs will be developed to support consumers to access care as well as support each other in doing so. Consumers will have the power to feedback on services, scoring services via online platforms in order to inform their choices.
Further control, choice and empowerment will be exercised through consumer involvement in care planning as well as opportunities for collaboration to improve service provision at operational levels. Consumer feedback can be utilised by providers to inform operational decisions in order to meet their needs.
What does this mean for providers?
In order to remain successful and competitive in this changing market, providers should consider the following:
- Determine who you will be in the new market place. Determine what your offering is, your products and services and how you will deliver them.
- Understand your customer segments and how they fit within your offering.
- Include consumers in care planning to meet specific care needs and fulfil the requirements as outlined by the draft standards.
- Collect feedback and evaluate consumer experience to ensure you are delivering quality services. Place the experience of your consumers at the forefront of your business to meet their needs and desires.
- There will be greater accountability as well as higher consumer expectation as transparency about pricing, quality and safety is enhanced. Providers should ensure that consumers are being heard and that their opinions are valued.
- Organisational focus must be from the outside-in not the inside-out. Organisational decisions must be driven by customer experience and informed by customer satisfaction and feedback.
- Consumers will be more informed and more selective. The market will be driven by competition and passivity will not reap a return. Leave space for innovation to meet the needs of your consumers in ways that others aren’t.
- A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not be successful. Services must be flexible and customised to meet the needs of consumers. This will produce more satisfied consumers and less chance of them changing providers.
- Be clear on your consumer strategy. You will need to invest money to thrive in the new world of aged care. Know what capital you have to invest, and determine measurable outcomes to assess the return on your strategic investment.
The demographics and profile of consumers in aged care is changing and will continue to change beyond 2020. Consumers will understand their role and how they are empowered to exercise their rights and choices around their care. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that consumers are educated and included in these processes.
Legislative changes and funding directions are informing the intended government direction towards integrated care at home. The emerging understanding of the consumer profile will impact the strategic direction for service providers. The next article in this series will discuss the changing role of the provider in more depth by looking at how providers can approach strategic direction, marketing, growth strategies and customer centricity beyond 2020. To receive a copy of this article, sign up to our e-bulletin here, or you can view article one in the series here.
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