In a time of uncertainty and change for the aged care sector, we spoke with Benjamin to understand how a leading provider like Silver Chain is developing strategies to ensure a sustainable and vibrant future. Benjamin is an experienced business development leader and strategist with over 15 years of experience in the health, aged care, disability and community services industries.
Benjamin had interesting insights to share with us on the current Aged Care Home Services
What is your take on the current aged care climate?
It’s a very interesting and exciting time in the aged care sector. While increased scrutiny, policy changes and market deregulation are placing some pressure on the sector, there is a wealth of opportunity for providers who are keen to expand their impact and provide services to more clients.
Any time of disruption is a time for potential growth. Providers who are planning for the future and embracing opportunities will do very well in the coming years. As old models are challenged and the rules of the system change, there can only be room for more innovation and better outcomes for consumers. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can take your eyes off today’s rapidly changing aged care environment.
What do you think the new opportunities for growth are?
With consumers having increased control over their care and the barriers to entry into the aged care market lowering, there are opportunities around every corner. I think there is growth to be found in everything from new products and services to innovative new business models and financing mechanisms. Programs like the Government’s Home Care Package program provide such a great opportunity for providers to think differently about their offerings and go beyond traditional services. Supporting people to live their best lives requires some innovative thinking and I can’t wait to see what comes into the market in coming years.
The challenge I think we all face is managing the different horizons of growth. The businesses of tomorrow will be born from the investments, decisions and choices we make today, and it is really challenging to balance investment in today and tomorrow at the same time. The companies that are sowing the seeds of future growth today will vastly outperform those who only worry about the immediate challenges in front of them. If there was one takeaway message I would give to people thinking about growth, it would be to really think about not just where will my growth come from right now, but where will it come from in the future?
Carve aside time to think about the future and start to make small steps and investments towards that future now. You don’t need an “Uberised” business model or to incorporate drones into today’s service delivery but consider what do those developments tell us about possible futures and how you can create some options for us moving forward.
What is the role of technology and new products in shaping the business of tomorrow?
My caution to organisations would be to guard against viewing innovation and high technology as synonymous. Bringing more value to consumers and Government can be as simple as a better experience when they pick up the phone or a more seamless transition between care environments. Too often I think we get swept up in the latest technologies and don’t start with the simple question: “What do people want and need?”. At Silver Chain we really focus on the impact we’re trying to have for individuals and technology as stretching the realm of what is possible, rather than starting with technology and trying to force it into our offerings.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t 100% focussed on what possibilities are afforded by new technology. Take for example EMMR, our new Enhanced Medical Mixed Reality interface. It will use ‘mixed reality’ technology to combine real life, projected holograms and video conferencing, allowing our nurses, clinicians and clients better access to information and services. Holograms sound like something out of Star Trek but our focus really started with the recognition that travel to and from appointments and access to doctors can be really challenging. Once we recognised that problem we explored the space looking at what solutions might be available. Using the latest developments in virtual services we can give people access to face-to-face consultations with their doctor via ‘holoportation’. They can be confident that they are receiving the world’s best health and aged care when they need it, in their own home.
But some challenges aren’t technology challenges at all, they are challenges in the way services are delivered or designed. In our Integrum Aged Care+ solution for example, we provide an inclusive health services for older Australians with chronic health conditions. The major innovation in this space is our approach to ‘wrap around’ care which brings together a dedicated care team including a nurse, doctor, care aides, allied health professionals. The innovations are more about providing more time for the doctor to work with clients and a dedicated case manager, these aren’t technology dependent solutions at all.
Sometimes the solution is more about financing models. For example, in NSW Silver Chain, in partnership with NSW Health, delivers a palliative care service supported by Australia’s first social impact investment in palliative care. This is an outcomes-based payment arrangement where Silver Chain receives payment for services based on our proven ability to reduce hospital usage and allow people who choose to do so to die in their homes.
What are new technologies that Silver Chain is looking to integrate?
We’re always looking to integrate new technologies, but as I mentioned we try not to go technology first. We are not looking for the latest piece of technology and how do we get that into someone’s life. The real question we are asking is, what are the challenges that people are experiencing? What needs do they have? What will help them feel that they could be in control of their health, in control of their experience, and able to stay at home? If that is a technology solution then that is fabulous, if that’s a new service or new product then that is what we will do. If that is looking at influencing the policy environment then we’ll do that too.
I think that’s where organisations get caught up and they get very excited about having this new product development pipeline or technology development pipeline rather than starting with the problem we are trying to solve. What is the value that people are looking for from us? Then we can explore whether technology is the right solution, because often there are simple solutions that don’t involve us integrating a whole new technology platform. It might just be about reconfiguring a way we deliver a service or improving the experience for consumers.
Benjamin has worked with a variety of social purpose businesses to achieve transformative growth and impact across Australia. Today, he leads strategic growth for Silver Chain Group, a national leader in the provision of in-home health and age care services. Prior to this he was the Chief Innovation and Development Officer for Ability Centre Australasia, one of Western Australia’s largest disability charities. Benjamin has an MBA with Distinction from the University of Western Australia, is a Tracey Horton Scholar, Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and Foundation Member of the Social Impact Measurement Network of Australia.
Hear more from Benjamin at the Financial Sustainability in Aged Care Conference, 21st & 22nd November 2018, Sydney.