It has now been one month since the introduction of the My Aged Care portal as the one stop shop for people needing to access aged care support. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been speaking to remote aged care coordinators who have used the portal to refer new clients for services. The process of application has often been lengthy and occasionally frustrating, however it appears that initial teething issues are being addressed and coordinators have found the My Aged Care staff to be helpful and responsive.  Following is a summary of the processes these coordinators have used over the past few weeks to refer their clients to the My Aged Care system. Thanks to the Gapuwiyak and Willowra aged care services for sharing this information.

In remote settings the aged care coordinator will continue to be the main point of contact for clients wishing to access aged care services.

There are three methods of referral that have been successfully used over the past month to refer clients to My Aged Care. While this post is directed at remote coordinators, these processes are also relevant to families or friends of an elderly person or other health professionals wishing to refer a potential client to aged care services:

1.       Online Referral – The My Aged Care website allows anyone to populate a referral form with basic information about the person needing support, themselves as the referring person and some information on why the person is requiring support. To access this form, navigate to the My Aged Care website and in the search field type in the word ‘referral'; this will take you directly to the form.

On page three, you have the opportunity to upload one document as an attachment. After discussing this with one of the coordinators, it was decided that (with the client's permission) this could be your organisation's intake form, a document which identifies key health and personal information about the client. If your organisation does not have an intake form, consider creating one with the My Aged Care questions in mind.

The Gapuwiyak coordinator also prepared a short description of the community including its location and services available and pasted this into the ‘more information' section on page three of the electronic referral form. We had discussed this need in my last visit to the community when exploring the My Aged Care website and realised that the assessors would have little concept of the remoteness or what is available on communities.

This is obviously an easy way to complete the referral for remote indigenous clients as you can obtain a signature from the client or their carer on your internal referral form and send through when you find a convenient time. There were some initial problems with this pathway as the portal didn't appear to be active, however I have been told by one coordinator that they successfully completed a referral last week using this process.

2.       Phone Referral – The second option is to talk to an assessor on the phone. Most people have experienced a 20+ minute wait, so make sure you have a speaker phone and something else to do while on hold. This timeframe should improve once the system is bedded down. Note the following tips when making a phone referral:

  • The client needs to be with you so they will need to be prepared to wait – make them a cup of tea to enjoy while they pass the time.
  • The client can give consent for you to speak on their behalf. A simple ‘yes' is all that is needed when asked by the My Aged Care assessor for their permission. The client can also use a local interpreter (perhaps a family or staff member) to ask and respond to the questions on their behalf.
  • The My Aged Care assessor will ask a series of ‘functionality’ questions along with questions about home safety, access, service needs, etc and based on the answers to these questions and the services identified as needed, they will determine the next course of action, whether the person being referred can:

a) Be approved and commence services immediately, where the person only needs a couple of services such as meals and laundry (low/medium needs – HACC/Commonwealth Home Support Program).

b) Be referred for a face to face assessment with the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) where the My Aged Care Assessor is unsure of the client needs due to language barriers, the client appears to require a number of services or simply because it is unclear what the client's needs are. In this instance, the person will need to wait to be contacted by the RAS, or more likely in the remote context, you – the Aged Care Coordinator – are contacted, to assist the RAS in facilitating a face to face assessment.

c) Be referred to the Aged Care Assessment Team for assessment to access a Home Care Package including case management or complex respite services. For many services this will be where an existing HACC/CHSP client has been identified as requiring additional coordinated supports.

3.       Fax referral1800 728 174. If you have access to a fax machine, which thankfully most remote communities still do, this might be your fastest and most efficient way to tackle the initial referral process.

You will need to send through a referral with a cover letter, and your own internal referral or intake document. Your cover letter should also advise, if applicable, that the client is unable to communicate over the phone. You also need to state the reason the client is unable to communicate – eg the client is unable to communicate in English, they speak an aboriginal language and an interpreter is not available; or the client is unable to speak and can only use sign language to communicate, etc.

Using this referral method, the RAS team may be engaged to conduct an assessment for the client if they aren't able to speak via phone with the My Aged Care intake team.

How fast will the response time be? Apparently any ‘urgent' referrals may still take 48 hours  to upload on the computer system with the outcome / next steps in the assessment process being advised after this time. As a service provider, you will occasionally have clients who require immediate support. Your organisation will need to develop a policy and procedure around responding and supporting clients who are awaiting approval. This could take anywhere between 3-14 days.

I'm sure that over time this system will become more streamlined. At this point, it requires patience. If you can share information with your peers on issues identified and ways you have handled these, you will help to improve the system over time.

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