AMA airs concerns about digital strategy for aged care


Friday, 01 December, 2023

AMA airs concerns about digital strategy for aged care

The AMA has responded to the government’s draft Aged Care Data and Digital Strategy 2023–2028. While the medical body commended the government for placing the consumer at the centre of the strategy, it had some concerns about the strategy’s broader aspects.

Crucially, the AMA queried how much the proposed My Aged Care application and Ageing Well application would be able to deliver for older people, considering findings from the Aged Care Royal Commission that pointed to older people’s preference for direct face-to-face contact and supports.

To ensure that the investment in the development of these applications was not wasteful, the AMA recommended conducting a baseline analysis of the need/desire for uptake among the cohort that is most likely to engage with the aged care sector over the lifetime of the strategy.

Secondly, the AMA noted that with digital maturity being low among the older population (as the strategy recognises), it would be an ambitious project to increase that digital maturity over the 5-year time span of this strategy. Australians over the age of 75, who should be the primary target, have the lowest digital ability score of all groups in the Australian community — two-thirds below the national average.1

Thirdly, the AMA was concerned that the draft strategy did not put enough emphasis on underrepresented or disadvantaged groups. These groups are in need of specific consideration as lower health literacy is associated with psychological distress and low English proficiency.2 Also, people with lower educational attainment who speak a language other than English or who have a disability face greater barriers to health literacy.3

The AMA also noted the omission of care finders/navigators, whose inclusion was explicitly recommended by the Aged Care Royal Commission (recommendation 29), which the government agreed to. Unless the government had abandoned its commitment to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, care navigators must be included in this strategy along with all other stakeholders, the AMA said.

The AMA recommended the strategy’s associated action plan include guidelines around the use of assistive technologies in aged care. These guidelines should address who is responsible for educating and supporting the older person, their family members and carers in technology use; maintenance and updating of the technology; and how to respond to information that the technology conveys, particularly in emergency situations.

The association emphasised that large-scale adoption of assistive monitoring technologies would require a holistic approach that considers how care is delivered, specific business models and legal implications of data use. The technology must be safe, regulated and evidence-based, and maintain a high standard of data privacy, as has been achieved with initiatives such as My Health Record.

Unproven and unregulated AI technology must not be used, and urgency of need must not be used as justification for application of unproven technologies, the AMA said.

1. https://www.digitalinclusionindex.org.au/dashboard/Digital.aspx
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37452578/
3. https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/sites/default/files/migrated/Health-Literacy-National-Statement.pdf

Image credit: iStock.com/Pornpak Khunatorn

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