This article by Service Works Global was published in the Winter 2018 edition of Facility Perspectives, the FMA’s flagship publication, and can be read in the online magazine here.
Aged care facilities are in danger of failing our elderly at a time when more of the population than ever is greying. Around 15% of Australians in 2016 were aged 65 and over, and this is expected to double by 2057, according to figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Government investigation into standards and compliance has resulted in significant reforms, including a new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and unannounced inspections. As a rapidly growing sector with increasing competition and transparency, facility managers have an important role to play in providing environments where the elderly can thrive.
Financial cuts combined with a shortage of personal care workers and registered nurses are inhibiting the standard of care received by many, and stressful, inconsistent surroundings have the potential to be overwhelming to residents. Slick facility management is therefore vital, in managing not only cleaning and grounds, but also medical assets, safety and security.
Managing these services through spreadsheets and paper is cumbersome, slow and unwieldy, providing limited scope for insight and service improvements. The impact of a failing asset or medical equipment can have dramatic repercussions in an aged care setting, but technology can have a huge impact in this area. Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) track each asset across its lifetime and provide the ability to calculate and create the most efficient maintenance schedules in order to reduce expenditure and improve performance. Linked to an FM help desk, field-based change orders, repairs and calibration requests are managed and prioritised by urgency. Work is immediately sent to the FM team or contractors, reducing and avoiding delays that risk senior safety.
Healthcare settings like hospitals are increasingly using such software to improve patient support services such as porterage and housekeeping, which can be scaled to accommodate smaller aged care facilities. Touch screen devices provide a degree of independence to those residents with a lack of mobility, allowing them to report problems or request services easily and without waiting for someone to answer their call and subsequently duplicate the request to the helpdesk or nearby operative. Large, clear icons representing each service (such as spillage or lighting issue) can be used rather than hard-to-read text and essential information such as the tablet’s location can be pre-programmed into the software, removing additional admin steps for the resident and improving resolution time. IWMS helpdesk services can also be integrated with nurse call systems, ensuring that all work requests are prioritised appropriately.
Recent research published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health established a link between green spaces and slower cognitive decline in older people. The ten-year study found that risk of dementia can be adversely affected by environmental hazards such as air pollution and noise, stress and sedentary behaviour – all of which are factors that may be improved and controlled by the FM team. With potentially fragile inhabitants, each part of the aged care setting must be monitored and managed. Where process automation can be implemented this takes a great weight off the FM team’s shoulders, whether it be detecting leaks in the irrigation system or monitoring rainfall and temperature via outdoor sensors, or using an IWMS to manage work scheduling or ensuring contractors are compliant with the correct qualifications and insurance before setting foot on site.
With reputation a commodity in this competitive industry, and human lives at risk as a result of poor resource management, the pressure is on the FM team as much as the care professionals. Aged care is ripe for FM innovation and growth, and with technology like IWMS offering return on investment in around year, we will no doubt see improvements in standards and a reduction in the cost and required to make better, more comfortable future for everyone.
For more information and advice about how QFM can help your aged care facility meet the new Aged Care Quality Standards, ask us for a demonstration.