Healthcare

End ‘siloed’ approach, prioritise care economy collaboration: CRC

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The Care Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has welcomed the Albanese Government’s investments in health, mental health, aged care and early childhood education in the 2024-25 Federal Budget, but says there needs to be focused investment in technology and innovation in order to improve sustainability of care outcomes for Australians.

“It’s great that there’s investment in the individual sectors within the care economy, but we really need to stop thinking in siloes if we are to realise the full benefits of these investments across the whole of the care economy,” Interim CEO of the Care Economy CRC, Carmela Sergi, said.

“Australia’s care economy right now can be likened to attempting to insert a CD into a streaming platform and questioning why it isn’t working — it has become incompatible and outdated.”

“Investment in technology and innovation is critical if we are to bring the care economy into modern and contemporary practices,” Sergi said.

The care economy encompasses services starting from birth (early child education and care services); to healthcare provided in community settings (mental health, rehabilitation), aged care, family and social services and disability care; to death (palliative care and end of life care).

“Collaboration and innovation across all of these sectors is critical to the long-term sustainability and efficiency of the entire care system – and we need to start investing in the care economy as a whole.”

“When we talk about ‘Made in Australia’, we should also consider how we can foster technology and innovation in care that is also made in Australia,” Sergi said.

“To do this, we urgently need to bring together researchers, technologists, and care providers to collaboratively develop, adapt, implement, and commercialise innovative technologies, data solutions and new care models.”

Sergi says the care economy faces compounding challenges including increased demand, a shortfall in skilled workers, low levels of productivity and poor technology uptake, none of which have been addressed in this year’s Federal Budget.

“We welcome the Government’s investment to establish a national digital mental health service that is free of charge and free of the need for referral. This is the type of innovation we absolutely encourage and want to see more of – right across the care economy, not just one sector at a time,” Sergi said.

“If we continue to treat the care economy as individual siloes, expertise is not shared, investment is not maximised, innovation is stalled, and care participants do not always have great experiences.”

Sergi said investment in collaboration across the care economy will make it more cost-effective, more productive, and more sustainable, leading to better quality outcomes for Australians and a sustainable care system that can respond to growing demand.

“We need investment in innovation to transform care so that it remains high quality and sustainable into the future.”

The Care Economy CRC is a partnership of 53 organisations across Australia – including research partners, industry partners including care service providers, technology providers and training organisations. As a CRC, it seeks to unite Australia’s care economy for the first time to co-develop, customise, implement and commercialise new technologies, data solutions and models of care.

“The care economy creates and supports jobs, fosters innovation, and enables Australians to live well so they can work and participate in the community,” Sergi said.

“It is the nation’s single biggest and fastest growing employer, with one in every seven Australians, mainly female, working in the care economy. However, it is often seen as a welfare – as a cost to the economy, instead of the economic driver it is.”

“This has led to long-standing underinvestment in translational research and innovation across the care economy that has seen it fall short of what Australians expect of effective and contemporary care services.”

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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