The cost of care has again been positioned in the spotlight. This time, from the aged care perspective; with ABC’s Four Corners looking into aged care across a two part series.  Aged care has had significant recent press, most of it highlighting the need for greater rigour in the sector.

At all stages in our lives, we are making decisions, whether in work or personally, on the fine line that exists between the best possible service and keeping within our budgets. This is something in the broader healthcare sector that is an ever-developing battle. As populations age, the community becomes more diverse and measurements become more detailed. The battle facing the decision-makers on how to continue to deliver better outcomes, to more people, within budget becomes harder. As a community, our expectations are that we receive care that is compassionate, correct and sympathetic to peoples clinical and emotional needs.

The traditional health measurements are life expectancy, mortality and morbidity. Another measurement is Disability adjusted life year (DALV) which calculates the number of years of potential life lost, due to premature death and the years of productive life lost due to disability. We need to ensure these measurements are balanced with the need for quality of care (experience) and cost of care. Australia has both public and private health care systems running in tandem and it’s important we take a view that economic status should not become a major influencing factor on patient outcomes.

Life expectancy continues to rise, as does the number of years we can expect to live in good health, with the average age of males and females increasing by more than a year between 2003 and 2011 (Source: AIHW Australia’s Health 2018). The forecasted trends are that more of us will be needing both hospital and aged care services as we live longer.

The new Australian Health Performance Framework has created greater accountability and insight into the health system and allows people to see how the services they access are performing. Access to these insights is provided on the MyHealthyCommunities and MyHospitals websites respectively. These sites allow people to have a clear view on the performance of the services they are accessing, across a range of factors.  The AHPF, which was recently agreed by State and Federal health ministers, is a uniformed approach to working towards better healthcare, irrespective of geographic, demographic and economic status.

By making the system more visible, measurable and accountable, the system has become more focussed on its intent to keep more people healthy longer.  Budgets are forecast to increase as population and life expectancy increases and by having a clear framework and published approach, the dots can easily be joined.

Which brings me back to Aged Care. It is a significant challenge to have a mainly private market that delivers aged care. The cost of entry is high for people looking to access the services, complex agreements are required to be navigated and large deposits required to secure the type of care most people would expect for their ageing relatives. The workforce is such a vital part of this service delivery and the need for corporate operators to maintain standards that deliver sensitive, high quality aged care can be supported by the availability of a high quality, well trained workforce available to deliver it.

The formation of the new commission announced by Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, scheduled to commence in January 2019, should hopefully deliver the market accountability required to tackle these issues. By having a focussed regulator and overseer of the services, we look forward to having a market that is driving better quality outcomes for all who require and deserve it.