18 March 2022

Connecting With Care Webinar – new thinking and directions in wellness and reablement in aged care and community services in Australia

This week in its Connecting With Care series of webinars, Community Options Australia (COA) CEO Andrew Harvey welcomed a highly engaged and diverse audience of health care professionals to discuss key topics of interest in the pursuit of better health outcomes in the community. Two focus areas were ‘improved digital inclusion in community health’ and the much talked about and relatively new area in Australia of ‘Social Prescribing’. 

Across three presentations, we heard about exciting activities, plans for the future, and perspectives on ways forward in better health in the community. 

The presentations started with a research study entitled, ‘Making a case for Social Prescribing’, from Elliot Parkinson of Beacon Strategies. It was followed by laying out the strategic priorities and plans for 2021-2022 in Consumer Digital Literacy from Dr Fiona Martin and Ben Cohn of the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA). The final presentation shared some ‘on the ground insights’ from COA’s ‘Wellbeing in Aged Care’ program. This was showcased by Susan Lackey, Mental Health Clinical Lead at COA, and Richard Scenna, Founding Director of YourLink. They partnered with COA to deliver the program in Western Sydney with WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network.

Questions from the audience were encouraged throughout the presentations and were answered as they were raised. Areas of enquiry included how Australia could emulate the UK’s approach of combining the National Health Service (NHS) and social care system. This approach is beneficial because strategic and operational conversations about addressing community needs are made easier. Another question asked was, “how much work had been done in integrating my age care and the my health program”.

Another area of interest from the forum was the aspect of communications with consumers: 

  • How could synchronous and asynchronous communications with consumers be built?
  • How could technologies be used to develop a shared care plan?
  • How could technology drive outcome reporting and monitoring through feedback?

Through the three presentations, the ‘voice of the consumer’, with multiple different contexts and needs, was heard loud and clear. The presentations, questions, and discussion brought varying perspectives of professionals, partners, carers and people seeking care into view. They showed the need to create a person-centred approach to delivering the best care possible rather than a system-centred approach. It was clear that the challenges of wide-ranging and different levels of need, access and literacy, both in the types of services available and the ability to use digital technologies to access them, were being appreciated and addressed, and that impressive progress was underway.

In the following posts, we’ll be going deeper into the headlines and insights shared by our three presentations. We’ll hear about unique research in Elliot Parkinson’s work of experience-based co-design. This approach brought home some consumer perspectives about what people need in Social Prescribing, which Elliot defined as, ‘A contemporary way of thinking about health services and systems that incorporate non-clinical, community-based support’.

We’ll dive deeper into the plans and strategies of the ADHA and the launch of a longer-term program, including:

  • An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program
  • My Health Record education for diverse population groups
  • Youth
  • Focus areas and commitments in the next National Digital Health Strategy, e.g. for specific chronic conditions such as diabetes, connecting with government programs 
  • Resources for healthcare providers about specific population groups.

We’ll also be looking more closely at the work of Community Options Australia (COA) in the Wellbeing in Aged Care program. This initiative featured a digital skills program. One recipient said glowingly, “Very informative course, and we all love it. Thanks so much for guiding us to use all the apps.”

There is excellent work in progress across aged and community services in Australia, and we’re delighted to say we’ll be bringing you details of these and other webinars very soon.

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