Significant opportunity awaits those providing technology to the aged care sector. Understandably, there is a strong pull towards agility and speed to market. As part of a recent aged care technology panel, Envisian Consulting Director, David Robinson, discussed important considerations for developers and technology providers to take on board. Considerations that must trump agility.
We’ll leave idea generation, coding, UX and UI to you, but we do have some advice:
1 Understand the Regulations. Healthcare and aged care sectors are very highly regulated. You’ll need to develop accordingly, and in some cases you may need medical industry approval. Plus there are government regulations around data management and security to account for. We outlined security and regulatory concerns in an earlier post: Cloud Security and Compliance for Health Start-ups. Make designing for compliance a priority, and if that comes at the cost of speed to market, then so be it.
2 Go beyond user experience. We said we’d leave the UX to you, but keeping the aged care user in mind goes beyond user experience. We keep hearing that the current generation of senior Australians is becoming more tech savvy as they leverage mobile devices and apps to support healthcare, communicate with loved ones and stay connected to their chosen communities. We regularly hear that the next generation of senior Australians will be the most tech savvy yet and have increased expectations around how technology is leveraged in support of their care and quality of life.
True and yet something important was highlighted to us at that aged care technology panel. Individuals who begin their senior years with a high level of technological capabilities may simply lose them for a variety of reasons … loss of dexterity, shaking extremities, deteriorating eyesight, loss of memory, deteriorating mental capacity, and the list goes on and on. Apps will need to cater for the inevitable oversights, mistakes and errors that can be made to avoid what could be drastic results. For example, an app that helps track medication must have fail-safes built in to avoid overdose.
On the other side of the equation sit the medical professionals who have specific requirements around data quality and integrity and the home care/aged care workers who need to be supported to do their work effectively. So know all your users, their differing needs and objectives, and where in the process your innovation will be used.
3 You can’t afford errors. Your designing and testing will need to be carried out with a certain duty of care. Potential for user error will be higher in an older demographic. And how well will your app recover if there is an outage? When your user’s health and/or well-being depend on accuracy (for example, scheduled measurements or medicine taking) you can’t afford for it to reset to the wrong day or event. Security of transmission is essential, so the encryption and protocols must be able to deliver the right packets, in correct order and – depending on the type of application – in a timely fashion, as delays could prove fatal. And this is before you even take into account the dependability of the transmission technology.
4 Think ahead. So your tech is selling and you want to expand? A one-size fits all approach won’t work. Will your app replicate to other parts of the country or the world? An app developed for our Aged Care providers in Australia may need to be re-worked extensively to function elsewhere. How will national / regional / global market regulations impact on your innovation? Not all jurisdictions are alike, so be aware of differences in services across international boundaries and even between states, at the start of your project.
Technology can, will and must play a significant role in safety, security and quality of life for older Australian as they age either at home or in aged care facilities. That’s pretty obvious when you consider technology advances, connected devices, the Internet of Things and the development of a whole range of mobile device applications for personal health, exercise, communication and entertainment uses.
If you’re going to play a role and act on the opportunity, agility will be one of your goals but it must be trumped by considerations that will determine the usefulness, success, accuracy and viability of your solution. Good luck!