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Friday, December 1, 2023

New UniSA study into tool that measures aged care residents’ quality of life

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A new research project in South Australia will provide an independent evaluation of a digital tool to measure key experiences in residential care and their impact on quality of life.

The University of South Australia (UniSA) has linked with CarePage and Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC) to evaluate the Happy Life Index, which launched in 2019 after four years of co-design with consumers, health professionals and providers.

CarePage is a free online resource for seniors, their families and anyone seeking aged care services, while DHCRC is a national organisation for digital health innovation and commercialisation, underpinned by clinical, research and academic excellence.

Lauren Todorovic, CEO of CarePage, and a co-creator of the Happy Life Index, said as older people move into the stage of their life where they require additional care and support, their priorities and preferences inevitably change.

Many of the existing quality of life measurement tools do not recognise this, and are better designed for more independent individuals.

“Despite recommendations from numerous reports and inquiries, the need for a whole-of-industry program that delivers clear, comparative information on real-life experience in aged care remains,” Todorovic said.

“This research comes at pivotal time for aged care, providing the opportunity for consumers and providers to work together in quality improvement that is guided by evidence-based insights.”

DHCRC CEO Dr Terry Sweeney said the project was closely aligned with the organisation’s focus on aged care and responding to the findings of the recent royal commission report, confirming the individual must be at the centre of reform for the sector.

“Both providers and regulators need access to information about what recipients of care and their families want to see,” Sweeney said.

“This formal validation of the digital platform, the Happy Life Index, has the potential to ensure that aged care is far more responsive to the needs of its consumers.”

The research project will be led by UniSA’s Associate Professor Steven Milanese, who’ll be providing independent validation contributing to the evidence basis supporting future development, such as building in predictive algorithms.

“It is vital that when we collect feedback from consumers, we are confident that the tools we are using and the questions we are asking give us a good understanding of the situation,” Milanese said.

“By assessing the Happy Life Index responses, we can gain an understanding of how well it reflects the individual’s perspective, which will provide us with a solid basis to explore how changes in the aged care sector change an individual’s quality of life.

“We are excited by the opportunity to explore how well the Happy Life Index performs.”

Todorovic added, “through this research project, we hope to continue to build the Happy Life Index and encourage sector-wide adoption of tools to meet this unmet need.”

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