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What do Wikipedia and Aged Care have in common?

When Britannica first created its Encyclopedias over two centuries ago there was a market for these books and people would flock to buy them. 

by Michelle Jenkins

With the start of the digital age came the first digital encyclopedia - enter Encarta. Encarta thought it would corner the market for schools and for parents wanting children to excel and have a better resource. It joined forces with the computer giants and provided a free disc with your new computer. Then along came the free, user-generated Wikipedia.

Kodak thought that film would never be replaced, and I am sure that there are some photographers out there who may agree, but along came digital cameras and now mobile phones with under water and digital capability….no film! How long before cameras disappear?

In today’s world of every changing digital disruption, we are told to find online capabilities in everything we do. Indeed we go online looking for most things now…Google!

We are told that we want more control and more choice, but is that really what we want, or is it that we are told this is what we want?

In advertising, the power of marketing is in the subliminal messaging which tells us that we need to have that 'thing' in our lives and now this retail messaging is part of the new marketing in Aged Care and Disability, where the control and choice is being transferred from Government Agencies to the consumer.

Providers are being told to create services, which better meet the need of consumers and embrace the use of digital technology in service delivery to keep costs down. What does this all mean though for the future of your organisation if the consumer holds all the cards and that’s not what they want?

What are the things that you should know about your business, about its future and its strategy that will ensure your still here in 5 or 10 years’ time?  What about the governance changes and obligations or even risk sharing?  What informs your decision making and ensures that your business will be the one consumers choose?

Michelle Jenkins says the aged care sector needs to listen more to consumers and create and co produce the solutions of the future

In the 'good old days' the provider had all the money and all the say.  They worked with consumers to develop a care plan and implement services which were generally around the services that they offered, personal care, domestic services etc., 

In the new world, you could be buying a fridge or a washer, organising a cruise or even taking the dog for a walk!

If your business is offering domestic services you are competing with all the other businesses offering domestic services.  How will you differentiate yours and make sure that your business is the one the consumer purchases their services from?

We can’t determine what others find valuable, but we can influence what they find valuable.

Twenty-five years of neuroscience suggests that emotions are at the heart of our decision making.  Therefore, when it comes to demonstrating value to our customers, stakeholders and funders: ‘What’s in it for them’?

Branding expert, Tom Asacker, says it doesn’t matter what people think about you or your organisation; what matters is how you make them feel about themselves in relation to what you have to offer.

Marketing can go some way to helping you with this as can Brand recognition and even market positioning and understanding what the consumer is likely to want. The question is though, is this what consumers really want?

Some research has actually been undertaken into what consumers will do when they have that choice and control.  Many providers still assume that they will continue to accept the services they offer and that their care plans will continue.  In Canada they made this same assumption and 80% of consumers opted to self-manage. In the UK they made the assumption that people would move and many chose to stay where they are.  Research would say that Australia could go either way, depending on interpretation.

In Australia, we have a golden opportunity to revolutionise our Aged Care and Disability systems. It’s the single biggest change in Government funded services since Medicare. NDIS is now well under way and about to roll out fully in WA.

The Roadmap and other papers will influence the future design of our Aged Care services, but providers  should not underestimate their ability to drive the positive change through their strategies and the creation of value which in the eyes of the consumer makes them the most obvious and attractive choice.  Why not be proactive rather than reactive to what will happen whether you like it or not?  Why not embrace the change and grow into the new environment with services and products – yes products – that the consumer will want to purchase?

Technology is one way to stay current, but what about social choice?

Take societal trends like lip fillers or Botox - here today and replaced tomorrow.  New more effective treatments hit the market that makes the last one a thing of the past. The stigma of beauty treatments pushed by the need of society to always look beautiful for the next photo.  Did digital technology create this phenomenon or has it always been there.  There is no doubt that the so called “Kardashian” effect has impacted the pace of change in the beauty industry.  Can it do the same in aged care?

Joking aside, Botox is being used to unfreeze limbs, to assist with pain and Alzheimer’s is on the verge of being reversed by a pill if the UK research is able to maintain its current pace.

What I know is that the best organisations don’t try to sell me anything, they listen better and then present me with a solution to a problem I didn’t know I had. Apple did that so well with the iPhone, iPad and iMac I now own!  

Perhaps Aged Care needs to listen more to consumer and to create and co produce the solutions of the future rather than working on what it has always delivered and what it thinks consumers will continue to buy, which over time will not be what people want.

Michelle Jenkins is Chief Executive Officer of Community Vision, a not for profit organisation based in the Northern Suburbs of Perth, providing services to people of all ages.


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