Digitising Social Care: An Alternative Vision for Australia’s Digital Future of Care

Chief Investigator: Timothy Kariotis
Melbourne School of Government

The current Australian digital health strategy takes a narrow view of health, which excludes social care services, such as disability and community support services. This narrow focus risks creating a two-tiered system, where innovations, efficiencies and experiences are developed in the health system, while other services are left behind, and have greater trouble integrating with clinical health services. The health and social care system share similar challenges relating to the siloed and fragmented nature of care, which could be improved through the adoption of information technology.

In addition, the adoption of information technology could support the collection of quality data to assist in planning, policy and evaluation. This is especially pertinent with the huge amounts of data collected in the NDIS, and the recent announcement of a National Disability Data Asset.There is limited available evidence as to the current use of information technology across the social care sector. In addition to limited evidence, there is limited formal support, unlike healthcare which has formal structures such as the Australasian College of Health Informatics.

On the flip side of these issues, there are certain parts of the social care sector being digitised with negative implications. One example of these negative consequences are the challenges some service users have in managing self-managed funds through the MyPlace portal.

This project aims to describe the current information technology readiness of the social care sector, including the current state of information continuity between this sector and the health system. Specifically, this project will explore the adoption and use of information systems, data collection and quality, and workforce readiness. Further, working with the social care sector, an alternative vision for digital health that is inclusive of these sectors will be designed to support policy, advocacy and planning.  We've had significant COVID impacts. Most of our work involved direct contact with frontline NDIS workers which was severely disrupted during COVID. We are still progressing data collection, and have started making more progress on this with the changing COVID situation.