Good morning - in West Australian Noongar language I say “kaya wangju” – hello and welcome.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which you are meeting, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
Although I can’t be with you today, I’m pleased to welcome you to the 2018 Healthcare Innovation Australia Summit.
What an exciting theme - ‘Optimising Investment and Technology to Deliver Sustainable and Affordable Healthcare.’
Technology is absolutely transforming care delivery in Australia – particularly in aged care – and I believe Australian-developed technology has the potential to contribute strongly to care improvements across the world.
Senior people are among our greatest treasures – and we owe it to them to provide them with the highest possible quality of life.
As the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, I’m delighted to be involved in supporting innovation to help usher in what I like to call “the golden age of ageing”.
With dementia now affecting more than 430,000 Australians and many million more worldwide, Australia is now a global leader in many aspects of dementia research, thanks to our Government’s $200 million Boosting Dementia Research Initiative.
A recent report on the first three years of this five-year initiative has highlighted major milestones towards dementia prevention, management and cures.
These include promising new ultrasound technology that can improve memory and slow the onset of dementia, by helping clear the toxic amyloid protein from the brain.
There are also new eye scans to reveal biomarkers associated with early signs of memory loss and cognitive decline, and new systems to harness the power of music to help people in managing and living with dementia.
Following our $34 million investment in the Dementia and Aged Care Services fund last year, we are now seeing a glimpse of the future – with new technologies emerging from concerted national research and development.
One of these projects is a world-first, and is set to be launched next week.
Run by McLean Care Ltd in partnership with Deakin University’s School of Engineering, the trial uses interactive Virtual Reality in a specially built driving simulator
Sensors measure the driver’s reaction times and heart rate, to assess the physiological responses to certain situations that can happen when driving.
There is widespread interest in this simulator, which will help older people maintain their driving skills, as well as providing a potentially life-saving test of their driving ability.
Another new development is the Verily Connect online meeting place, now being rolled out to support carers in country towns and remote areas.
Participants have access to a new smartphone app, a website and videoconferencing technology that helps care for carers.
Verily Connect is the exciting result of harnessing technology to help humanity, promising to reduce the challenges of distance and isolation.
Meanwhile, the Government-backed Moving Pictures project aims to help thousands of Australians and millions more worldwide, by improving dementia awareness, leading to earlier diagnosis and aiming for a better quality of life.
Moving Pictures is producing 15 specialised new films in an online and app format, in five languages - Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Tamil and Arabic.
Our Government is supporting Australia’s aged care sector to innovate through $400,000 in seed funding for the innovAGEING project – funding that is being matched by the organisation that is coordinating the project, Leading Age Services Australia.
innovAGEING is encouraging innovation through a number of initiatives, including:
o a national awards program to encourage and reward new systems and technology that improve consumer choice and experience, improve care and productivity, and increase access to services;
o twice-yearly national Aged Care Open Innovations Lab workshops;
o innovator speaker events across Australia each year;
o an eight-week innovation program for new and emerging businesses to solve aged care industry problems; and
o an online network linking participants with experts and business development coaches.
innovAGEING aims to bring together progressive thinkers and practitioners to accelerate innovative practices that are already benefiting aged care and the experience of senior Australians.
Complementing these developments will be a $5.3 million new pilot project to trial technology to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia, as well as their families and carers.
More broadly, we are seeing the implementation of smart aged care innovations that are already helping to change lives and deliver better value for money. These include:
o online solutions like Mable and Ubercare which link people with affordable, in-home care services from qualified care workers at the touch of a button, when and where they need it;
o sensor and alarm mats to prevent the risk of falls and wandering; and
o robotic seals to reduce anxiety in dementia sufferers.
While technology like this will never replace the need for personal, people-centred services, we know it can complement care and take safety and efficiency to new heights.
Our ageing population will see Australia’s aged care sector grow enormously in the coming years.
But there is also great potential for our aged care sector to grow by exporting our expertise into overseas markets.
For instance, the China Aged Care Industry Report 2016–2020 suggests the Chinese aged care market may be worth in the vicinity of $790 billion today – a figure that could more than triple by 2030.
It is estimated more than 400 million people in China will be aged over 65 by 2050.
We are seeing a number of Australian providers moving into the Chinese market for new business opportunities and to support the country as it embarks on a rapid aged-care industry transformation.
Some are delivering on-the-ground coaching and development services to staff, while other are helping build aged care facilities and planning to introduce new technologies and health care products.
China may represent a particularly large and lucrative export market – but there are many other overseas markets that Australian aged care providers can service.
Australian aged care enterprises and innovation can flourish way beyond our shores.
So, I wish every one of you a most productive and successful conference and I look forward to hearing the outcomes – as we continue harnessing technology to help humanity.