I recently caught up with a couple of my aged care contacts to discuss the need for self-assessment and the impact on front line services. The introduction of Australia’s new aged care quality standards, on July 1, 2019 has meant that now one of the requirements for providers is to show a ‘continuous improvement process ‘. The focus is attempting to shift providers to self-assessment as a core component of the continuous improvement.
We discussed what is continuous improvement and how do Aged Care providers find the resources and time to manage this with increasingly strained workforce?
So, a little background information first. The Aged Care Quality and Safety commission defines Continuous improvement as: “a systematic, ongoing effort to improve the quality of care and services.” The system requires the ability to continuously monitor the standard of care and services provided. It also requires a provider to be able to quantify the levels achieved and validate improvements made. Importantly, it requires everyone to be on-board as continuous improvement requires cooperation and commitment.
Aged Care providers will require a quality plan and to be implementing that but how do you evaluate results? Traditionally surveying residents periodically is one way but increasing this will add workload to existing staff, cost if outsourced and could frustrate residents. Surveys are point in time and often have low response rates. Continuous improvement will need to be able to endlessly monitor feedback from residents and visitors and be a results-focused activity.
Continuous improvement requires a solution which won’t heavily impact resourcing, won’t negatively impact residents and be able to feedback information continuously.
I discussed the need for continuous improvement with Ross Gallagher an Executive General Manager for Home Care at Illawarra Retirement Trust (IRT). His team is made up of over 450 staff servicing more than 4000 customers. IRT was founded in 1969 with a mission to provide better options in housing and care for older people. Now 50 years later, they look after 9100 people every day in NSW, the ACT and Qld.
Ross commented that IRT are fully committed to continuous improvement within the organisation. They have invested quite heavily in senior quality leadership to drive continuous improvement throughout the organisation. Their objective ultimately is to ensure continuous improvement is ingrained in all aspects of their standard daily operating practices. It has been their number one focus especially in the home care division. He went on to comment along with ensuring benchmarks for the standards are in place that regular internal audits are equally important to ensure standards are being met.
I recently caught up with a close aged care contact David Fleming also to discuss how his clients which also includes smaller providers manage continuous improvement. David is a senior exec who has an outstanding record in the sector for shaping and implementing policy, operations and people development. He often consults to the sector.
David said ‘It is important to proactively seek feedback from consumers and staff to gain information to guide continuous improvement actions. Don’t just passively wait for comments to arrive. This puts organisations in the driving seat when managing their resources to respond to required changes in a planned way.”