The Deadline for the implementation of the Increasing Choice in Home Care Reform is nearing.

By now, most people working in the aged care industry will be aware that there are significant changes ahead as a result of the Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms which are scheduled for implementation on 27th February 2017. This latest reform introduces the linking of the consumer to their Home Care Package. The package will no longer sit with the organisation. Vacant packages will sit within a National Pool and will be awarded to an individual based on their relative assessed need against every other person on the waitlist.

Is your service ready for the new Home Care Reforms?

The benefits to the consumer are fairly obvious. They will have access to a package at their assessed level, rather than being limited to what their preferred provider has available, plus the ability to take their package to whichever provider is their preferred choice. Potentially, they will also have the ability to access additional support and services not offered by their current provider, although in remote settings where there is only one provider this will be harder.

For many organisations, this change is seen as just another step forward in the on-going “Living Longer, Living Better” reform process. However, there is a very real risk that some smaller organisations will be unprepared for what the changes will mean to their bottom line.

Preparing your organisation for the change

It is unlikely that anyone intimately linked to the aged care sector such as coordinators and aged care managers will be unaware of the impending change. However, in some organisations, the coordinator and their aged care managers are only one element within a larger entity; therefore there is a possibility that senior management and other sections of the organisation may not be on-board with what this latest reform will mean.

Coordinators and aged care managers need to be proactive in ensuring that their team are fully aware of the impending changes. It is also an opportunity to work with senior management and Board members on a plan to not only address any risk, but to improve both service viability and consumer experience.

Here are some ideas for preparing your organisation for change. Even if you believe your service is ready, use these points as a checklist – it never hurts to double check.

1. If your CEO, Finance Department or Board are not fully aware of the changes, make the time to hold a meeting with them.

  • Help them to understand the new model and potential impacts.
  • You may need to discuss topics such as variations to income, expenditure and staffing levels due to the change.
  • Don’t forget to discuss what happens with unspent funds and the timeframes around forwarding client funds when individual consumers move away from the service.

2. Discuss the upcoming changes with your staff.

  • Frontline staff are your primary connection with your clients. Ensure they have the correct information about what the changes will mean, how it will impact on consumers and promote why they need to become your ‘sales’ team.

3. Review all your current Home Care Package (HCP) clients.

  • Look at their assessed needs, goals and care plans. Ask yourself – are you providing the sort of support that makes them want to stay with your organisation?

4. Review the package levels that clients accessing your services are assessed as eligible for.

This is particularly important for those organisations who have a number of clients assessed as eligible for level 3-4, but only hold level 2 packages currently. These clients may be granted a level 3 or 4 package after the 27th February 2017.

  • Is your organisation prepared to offer additional support to these identified clients?
  • What are their additional needs?
  • Do you need to look at ‘buying in’ other services or expertise to meet their needs and identified goals?

5. Current HCP recipients will be receiving a letter from the Commonwealth Government in the near future explaining the up-coming changes.

  • Be prepared to explain the changes in a simple and clear way as some older people will find this information confusing, particularly if English is not their first language.

6. Better still – hold a meeting with your consumer base.

The upcoming holiday season is a good time to have a brief meeting about the changes that will come early in the New Year.

  • At your Christmas / Holiday party take a few minutes to reiterate your commitment as an organisation to quality care and support to your current clients.

7. What about your strategic alliances?

  • If you have a transient client base, make sure you talk with potential partners and, where appropriate, develop Memorandums of Understanding (MoU).
  • Talk with potential brokerage partners about providing support to individuals who choose to spend a few months away from their home base each year. The development of joint care plans and agreements can support continued care for that individual – their home organisation can provide case management and the partner organisation can provide services through a brokerage arrangement.

Develop a plan for the future

All of these suggestions may form part of your overall plan to ready your organisation for the changes. One activity we suggest to organisations we work with is to create 90-day action plans. Action plans are a great tool for moving your service forward at anytime, but a 90-day action plan defines a goal that is not too far in the future that it appears unattainable. It also helps you focus on what the most important activities are for reaching the goal.

Next week, I’ll be discussing how to set up an effective 90-Day plan. This week, however, I suggest you review where your service sits in relation to reform readiness and what you will need to do to address any gaps.

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