The ‘AT for Older Australians’ research was commissioned by Australia’s National Aged Care Alliance. A Rapid Evidence Review found firm evidence that AT delivers independence, autonomy, safety and participation. AT is demonstrated to substitute or supplement formal and informal support work such as the need for home support hours. AT offsets health-related expenditure for example minimising falls and secondary complications, thus decreasing the need for health interventions such as GP visits, emergency presentations, or admissions. Research demonstrates that spending on AT has downstream impacts such as slowing the rate of admission to residential aged care services. Finally, social benefits, while difficult to cost, are extensive and include psychosocial factors such as confidence, satisfaction, autonomy, maintenance of valued roles, quality of life, and overall improved health and wellbeing for AT users and their circle of support. AT products are most effective when delivered in an AT ‘bundle’ with AT services. Appropriate funding and service delivery contexts are therefore critical to ensure AT is provided in an effective way.
An economic pathway analysis was conducted into AT costs and outcomes for a representative range of AT user profiles. In all cases, costs and benefit were identified from the base (first) year, growing exponentially over a projected 5 year time horizon. Very few of the profiles would be able to establish the required AT bundle up front with the current earmarked amount for AT within the aged care reforms. The economic modelling demonstrated that substantial cost offsets and downstream costs will be lost if AT cannot be introduced at point of need as an ‘early intervention’. A range of further sensitivity analyses and extensions of this method are possible to enable forecasting and policy formation to meet the needs of the full range of older Australians who require AT to live full lives.
The evidence base identified in the rapid evidence review, and the economic pathway analysis, support a clear range of policy directions which are expressed in the NACA position paper on Assistive Technology for Older Australians.