In this guest post, Phil Hanson provides a view of how to approach managing SIRS and compliance, including an approach that supports continuous improvement – recording each incident – no matter how severe. Mr Hanson has an extensive career in police law enforcement and is currently Co-Managing Director and Chief Client Officer for Juvare – a provider of emergency preparedness and response software.
According to the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study, nearly one in six older Australians reported experiencing abuse in 2021. The most common form of abuse to older individuals was psychological, followed by neglect, financial, physical, and sexual, with some people experiencing a combination of these categories.
Home care and flexible aged care have seen many changes in recent years. As of Dec. 1, 2022, aged care facilities in Australia are now subject to the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS), making it necessary for providers of aged care or flexible residential care to integrate an effective incident management system (IMS) in their day-to-day operations.
According to the Report on Government Services 2023, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received 37,833 “serious incident notifications” last year. Integrating technology to manage incidents that fall within the parameters of the SIRS will protect ageing people across the country by addressing events in real-time, streamline compliance obligations for facilities and create a culture of safety and
As providers move forward, all eight categories of notifiable incidents are classed as Priority 1 and Priority 2 will require notification to the Commission from providers of home services. These important modifications to reporting were created to prevent patients from receiving subpar treatment, neglect, or abuse and to protect their rights and well-being. The first step in achieving accountability for the treatment of seniors requires this transparency.
Accountability requires transparency
While recent changes to incident reporting bring on new compliance challenges for providers, they also offer opportunities to transform the culture of incident response across the entire aged care sector.
Instead of creating reactive post-incident reports, this is a more proactive approach that supports continuous improvement – one that prioritises recording each incident, no matter how severe, for absolute transparency. With the right IMS, providers can generate incident reports more quickly and streamline response efforts to ensure all invested parties are notified when critical events occur.
Organisations that invest in transparency will experience the opportunity to strengthen consumer safety. Providers that embrace the ethos of these new requirements and welcome the shift toward proactive reporting will have taken the first critical step in managing risk exposure, ultimately leading to the improvement of consumer well-being and a progression toward better outcomes for patients. In building a culture that leverages technology and continuous improvement, providers will not only streamline compliance but also establish their brand as a forward-thinking superior aged care provider.
Proactive tech for incident management
Many providers have seen that current tools used for day-to-day reporting and patient care have functional limitations that inhibit best practices in incident management and fall short of meeting SIRS obligations. An IMS must be designed to aid in the prevention of future incidents, but many existing aged care incident management solutions such as spreadsheets are antiquated and were not created for high visibility incident response. New solutions include ad-hoc components that can be rapidly configured and deployed to meet new requirements as they emerge. This has raised the awareness in providers that there truly is an immediate benefit from implementing a dedicated IMS solution that can handle incident reporting, management, and response – all of which reduce a facility’s exposure to risk.
When providers support their cause with a solution that can help meet SIRS requirements, they can accelerate and simplify incident response time. This might include reporting and tracking every incident from incorrect meals to inappropriate chemical restraint, and then sending Priority 1 and Priority 2 reports directly to the Commission. An effective solution can help in many other ways by providing:
- Purpose-built workflows to improve response times.
- Notifications that allow stakeholders to focus on an incident and the follow-up rather than fielding calls.
- Comprehensive data that can help prevent incidents before they occur.
- The foundation for all team members to grow a successful reporting culture.
- Direct SIRS reporting that reduces unnecessary paperwork while preventing reports from being overlooked.
Simplify to comply
There is no need for healthcare providers to manage incidents with paper checklists, ageing software, or whiteboards – all of which are difficult to scale, increase exposure to compliance risk, and may ultimately prove counterproductive. IMS tools that are dedicated to effective response in the new regulatory environment will be necessary and pivotal to provider care and accountability.
A culture of reporting where every occurrence is documented swiftly and accurately, regardless of how minor it may be, will simplify and strengthen home care and flexible care workflows to the benefit of both ageing Australians and their healthcare providers.