How AI advances and education can help improve aged care efficiencies

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
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A researcher from James Cook University will be adapting Artificial Intelligence to assess frailty in elderly individuals, aiming to make the care of older people more efficient.

JCU PhD candidate Jonathan Kong says there are already more than half a million Australians over 85-years-old in 2019, and that number is expected to treble by 2058.

As a Data Scientist with Helping Hand Aged Care (South Australia), Mr Kong told EducationDaily he is “deeply invested in addressing the increasing challenges we face with our frail clients who require specialised daily care in our aged care homes”.

“One of the persistent issues we encounter is staffing, coupled with the complexity of the needs of our clients. Frailty is a decline in physical strength, endurance and physiological function and an increasing vulnerability to adverse health outcomes.

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“In aged care, understanding frailty is essential as it impacts the level of care and resources required by people,” Mr Kong says.

Driven by desire to enhance care capabilities

The inspiration to integrate artificial intelligence into the aged care sector’s operations, says Mr Kong, stemmed from “our desire to enhance the quality and efficiency of the care we provide”.

“AI offers promising solutions in areas like predictive care, personalised treatment plans, and operational management, all of which can significantly improve outcomes for our clients and streamline our processes,” he told EducationDaily.

A sustainable approach to an enduring issue

Creating a more sustainable approach to aged care management is fundamentally important to him for several reasons.

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“First and foremost, with an ageing global population, the demand for aged care services is increasing rapidly,” he told EducationDaily.

“This rising demand presents a challenge that requires innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure that we can continue to provide high-quality care without compromising future resources.”

Sustainability in aged care, he says, not only addresses environmental concerns “but also encompasses economic and social aspects”.

“By developing sustainable practices, we aim to create an intelligent system that is economically viable, socially responsible, and environmentally friendly. This approach ensures that we can provide continuous, comprehensive care that adapts to the changing needs of the elderly population while maintaining a focus on the well-being of our staff and the broader community.”

Access to accurate data drives AI training

One of the primary challenges Mr Kong says he faced in his team’s AI research and development was ensuring access to the right data to effectively train their AI models.

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“The accuracy and utility of AI in healthcare heavily depend on the quality and relevance of the data used. Identifying what data was most predictive and valuable for making our AI models ‘smarter’ was crucial and challenging,” Mr Kong told EducationDaily.

“To address this, we adopted a rigorous data collection and analysis approach, working closely with healthcare professionals to understand the key indicators of frailty and care needs. This collaboration helped in curating a comprehensive dataset that enhances the predictive capabilities of our models.”

Another significant challenge, he says, was implementing these AI solutions in a clinical setting, which involved not only technical deployment but also ensuring that the people using the system could effectively enhance their decision-making processes.

“It’s crucial that AI tools are seen not as replacements for human judgment but as enhancements that complement and augment the capabilities of our healthcare staff. By providing actionable insights, our AI applications support staff in making more informed decisions, ultimately improving the quality of care provided,” he says.

Career goals include a commitment to learning

Mr Kong’s own career goals are, he told EducationDaily, “deeply intertwined with my commitment to improving the quality of aged care through advanced technologies, particularly artificial intelligence”.

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“My primary aim is to harness AI to not only enhance the care for our frail clients but to expand these improvements across various aspects of aged care. By integrating AI-driven solutions, I hope to address a range of challenges from personalised care plans to operational efficiencies, ensuring that all clients receive the best possible care throughout their stay in our facilities,” he says.

In the future, his aim is to expand his research to cover other domains within aged care. This includes exploring how AI can assist in areas such as mental health, physical therapy, and personalised medicine.

“Each of these areas presents unique challenges where AI could play a transformative role, improving outcomes and optimizing care processes,” Mr Kong says.

“AI fits into my career goals as a crucial tool that enables innovative solutions and drives significant advancements in care quality. My aspiration is to become a leader in applying AI within the aged care sector, contributing to pioneering research and the development of technologies that not only enhance care delivery but also improve the overall wellbeing of the elderly population.”

AI helps manage complex assessments

For now, though, his focus is firmly on frailty assessment – an issue he says is complex and currently lacking the benefit of a uniform system.

“I’ll be using systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence – otherwise known as AI, and machine learning algorithms – where computers learn and improve their learning over time autonomously – to analyse health records and uncover indicators of frailty in these reports,” Mr Kong says.

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The ultimate objective of his research, he says, is to improve the accuracy of predicting the length of stay of patients in aged care homes.

“I’m planning on producing a dashboard for real-time visualisation of frailty data. So, if you can imagine a top-down plan of an aged care facility, with each room colour-coded to indicate accurately the amount of care and assistance the resident needs in real time, that’s my goal,” says Mr Kong.

He hopes the research could lead to better aged care management strategies and enhancing the quality of care for the elderly.

“The efficiency it will bring to addressing the challenges associated with resource and workforce limitations in the sector will also help support the sustainability of aged care into the future.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live