It was mostly about technology at the New Zealand Aged Care Association’s annual conference, held this week in Auckland.

After an unexpected and well-received performance by the Summerset Young at Heart Chorus and a witty welcome by conference MC Te Radar, delegates from all over the country turned their attentions to the impact of technology on aged care – a subject embraced by Canadian professors Jenny Basran and Dan Levitt.

Dr Basran discussed the need to take a more collaborative, integrated approach to collecting and utilising data to inform people’s care plans. We’re living longer but with multiple conditions ─ a situation Basran described as “the new normal”. She said we need to overcome the propensity for all disciplines involved in a person’s care – the GP, nursing staff, pharmacist, physio and so on – to carry out similar assessments and collect the same data for their own purposes. Instead, we should be contributing to a single interdisciplinary assessment tool, which feeds into a single care plan for the person at the centre.

Director of the National Health IT Board, Graeme Osborne put this message into the New Zealand context, describing the New Zealand Health Strategy’s vision for patient portals, community and hospital e-prescribing, data from interRAI and other systems, to feed into a single shared care plan for each person.

It was a message that filtered through the conference, with Dr Greg Garratt providing an example of interdisciplinary integration with MediMap, a Cloud-based medication platform that is joining the dots between pharmacists, GPs and aged care providers. Kristene Powell also demonstrated this through her case study of how smart mobile technology was used to achieve consistency and accuracy in a major Australian aged care provider’s facilities and services.

Michelle Dickinson, better known as ‘Nanogirl’, talked about the role of nanotechnology can play in helping people with conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Everyone felt for Associate Minister of Health Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga as he struggled with a nasty cold as he delivered an update on the Review of Older Person’s Strategy, and touched on contentious issues, including interRAI and the ongoing pay equity case.

interRAI, while still managing to produce groans from delegates every time it was mentioned, was still a hot topic at this year’s conference. Now that it has been embedded and made mandatory, the focus has shifted to how the assessment data is being used.

Outside of technology, palliative care and its place in residential aged care was another big issue and Professor Heather McLeod’s presentation on this topic was well-received.

Education and training also featured, not only in presentations by Careerforce and Health Ed Trust, but also in the NZACA Excellence in Care Awards. Oceania Healthcare took home the Health Ed Trust Training and Staff Development Award with its two-tiered, colour-coded system for helping staff achieve national qualifications.

The awards were presented at the conference gala dinner, held at Eden Park. In addition to its education award, Oceania also won the Bidvest Excellence in Food Award and the Supreme Award for Overall Excellence in Aged Care. Horowhenua Masonic Village, Elizabeth Knox and Te Wiremu House also featured on stage.

As usual, the gala dinner was a highlight of the conference. With the theme of ‘a team game’, delegates transformed into royals and rugby players, wonder women and Where’s Wallies, ninjas and ninja turtles. By the next day they had morphed back into members of the aged care industry, ready to embrace the challenges facing their sector.

NZACA chief executive Simon Wallace said the main issues for the sector emerging from the conference were around palliative care, interRAI, the ARRC contract and equal pay.

He said that while detailed feedback was being sought from delegates, overall he felt the conference went really well.

“It was a very well attended conference, with the highest number of delegates and the highest number of trade stands yet.”

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