Australia is having the ‘wrong conversation’ when it comes to solutions for aged care
Most observers would be aware of the challenges facing Australia’s aged care sector as the Baby Boomer generation approaches retirement and old age.
To illustrate the scale of that demographic shift, Treasury statistics show that in the 1970s an average of one in 7.5 Australians was aged over 65. Now, that number is one in 4.5 – and it’s expected to continue declining in the years ahead.
Already, the industry has shown signs that its under strain from the imbalance between demand for aged care services and the supply of providers.
And one of the consequences of that imbalance was troubling revelations of malpractice, which gave rise to a federal government Royal Commission into the aged care sector.
But according to Jason Waller, CEO of aged-care tech platform Intelicare, in its attempts to fix those problems the industry is still having the “wrong conversation”.
“The main talking point at the Royal Commission is that we’ve been asleep at the wheel (to poor healthcare practices),” he said. “But the conversation we should be having is that the wheels have fallen off.”
“We really need to change this idea of relying on the government for solutions, because the government won’t be able to do it. The longer the industry faces that way, it’ll be pushing into the wind.”
Waller is adamant that in order to find solutions to the demand-side problems that are only set to intensify, private sector participation will be essential.
To meet that demand, there’s no doubt that significant private sector resources have been devoted to expanding the supply of residential aged care facilities.
But Waller said the economics of the industry faced a mismatch based on the individual resources that families had to spend.
“Right now, around 50 per cent of residential aged care providers in Australia don’t make a profit – that’s not sustainable,” he said.
“So the tech solution to fix that is in developing systems that allow more people to live safely in their own home for longer. That in turn gives families and carers peace of mind that the person is being looked after.”
Developed in conjunction with the WA government, Intelicare operates a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that provides an end-to-end home monitoring service.
The company’s technology deploys remote sensors to track movement patterns, with automatic notifications in the event of inconsistencies.
Intelicare’s aim is to establish a robust proprietary data set that will allow for predictive decision-making, rather than reactive. In other words, calculating the likelihood of a fall, rather than reporting the incident after it’s occurred.
“Our technology allows for two things; first, carers can be more productive because they can manage a larger number of people at once. And secondly, they can provide a higher quality of care because they know more about overall behaviour patterns,” Waller said.
While the scale of the demographic shift continues to place undue pressure on public purse strings, Intelicare is also positioning to take advantage of the scalable market opportunities that shift creates.
The company is currently focused on a business-to-business (B2B) distribution model via commercial agreements with two aged-care providers, which Waller said would increase product distribution “by a factor of 10”.
And beyond that, the dynamics are in place to successfully open up the business-to-consumer (B2C) market as more people put a focus on staying at home for longer.
“Right now there’s around 200,000 people in the WA market alone who receive services from aged care providers that are backed by the government,” Waller explained.
“Australia-wide, that market is around 1.1 million, but there’s currently almost 3 million that sit outside of that coverage. That’s 3 million people aged over 65 who don’t access Commonwealth funding, and that number will climb in the years ahead.
“So the question is – what products and services can fill that gap? And that’s where our B2C model comes in.”
To drive forward with marketing and distribution channels as well as product development, Intelicare has engaged JP Equity to advise on a public listing and expects to lodge a prospectus “in either Q1 or Q2 this calendar year”, Waller said
The end goal is to build out a product to address a problem in the Australian economy that is “structurally driven”.
“Unless the government chooses to spend less on welfare, health or defence – which I don’t see happening – the money to solve this problem won’t exist,” Waller said.
“We’re focused on implementing a scalable solution to a large target market, which is only going to increase in the years ahead.”