The Australian aged care sector faces significant challenges. The number of Australians aged between 65 and 84 is expected to reach 4 million by the year 2022, and the Aged Care Financing Authority estimates that approximately 76,000 new residential aged care facilities will be required to meet this demand.
Efficient project management will be central to ensuring these facilities are completed on time and on budget. Empathetic project management will be even more important in understanding the unique requirements of aged care providers, and delivering facilities that meet the evolving needs of its residents.
Project Managers Must Understand the Challenges Facing Aged Care Providers
The provision of aged care services and accommodation has historically been heavily regulated in Australia. However, new legislation introduced in 2016 has driven change towards a consumer-centric system of access, which has ultimately presented new opportunities for not-for-profit, private and government aged care providers.
This shifting market, coupled with population growth, has meant that more aged care infrastructure, upgraded facilities and capital works are currently in progress than ever before. As such, more project management companies are dipping their toes in the sector and overseeing the completion of aged care facilities.
The project management companies that succeed in aged care understand the challenges unique to the sector, which include:
It’s hard to have a discussion on the present and future of Australian aged care without mentioning demand. It’s critical that project managers that understand where the sector is now and where it’s going. The following aged care statistics paint a clear picture of the scope of this rising demand:
- The aged care workforce will need to grow by 167% by 2050 to meet resident needs
- Aged care job vacancies exceeded applicants by 400% in 2016
- Australians aged 65 and over will more than double in the next 40 years.
Regulation has been synonymous with Australian aged care, with even Parliament acknowledging that;
“The aged care sector is one of the most highly regulated in Australia. There is little dispute over the need for regulations that protect residents. However, some regulations are considered by the aged care sector to be an unnecessary burden."
Project management companies must navigate the changing regulatory environment to ensure the facilities they manage meet requirements and take advantage of current subsidies.
Government funding of aged care is predicted to surpass $20 billion by 2020, and recent deregulatory measures have presented greater opportunities to government and non-government care providers. In fact, the average EBITDA per resident per annum increased 8.9% from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016.
Nevertheless, aged care providers remain exposed to financial uncertainty - much of which is driven by the constantly evolving regulatory environment.
Changing Resident Needs
One of the most significant challenges facing providers is accommodating rapid technological advances and meeting changing resident needs. Recent initiatives like the INNOVageing network have been created to fuel insightful discussion and practical reform in age services, with the ultimate goal of creating better-equipped care environments for residents and staff.
According to the innovAGEING website,
“The innovation imperative in the age services industry is clearly pressing as providers respond to reform challenges, market opportunities, new technologies and changing consumer preference.
We believe that a national scale, collaborative approach to age services innovation is urgently needed. In response to this, we’ve announced innovAGEING - Australia’s first innovation network for age service - which is open to all who care and support providers in the age services industry."
Project managers must stay abreast of this “innovation imperative” in the sector and champion emerging technologies to create better-equipped care facilities.
Quality and Compliance
This environment of change presents new quality and compliance challenges, such as ensuring the security of technology networks within facilities.
Project management companies should consider complementing well-worn operating standards like ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems) with standards designed to protect information assets, like ISO 27001 (Information Security Management Systems) and environmental consideration like (Environmental Management Systems).
Building With Foresight
As we can see, the age services sector is undergoing significant change from multiple angles. Whether it be navigating government deregulation, understanding technological disruption or meeting the naturally changing needs of aged care residents, project managers must operate with a firm understanding of where the sector is today and where it’s heading tomorrow.