Measuring quality in aged care: what is known now and what data are coming

‘Measuring quality in aged care: what is known now and what data are coming’ is Chapter 8 in the Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights.

This page provides a high-level overview of the key messages presented in Chapter 8.

Download the full article: Chapter 8 [PDF 1.2 MB]

Download the full report: Australia’s welfare 2023: data insights [PDF 11.1 MB].

Aged care – delivered in both residential and home settings – is used by many Australians. For these people, the quality of the aged care they receive directly affects their outcomes, including their quality of life. This makes it important to monitor and evaluate the quality of the care being provided.

Data and information are crucial for understanding the quality of aged care services, identifying areas for improvement, and monitoring steps towards better quality.

This chapter examines the following questions:

  • what is meant by quality in aged care?
  • how is quality of care currently measured?
  • what do currently available data show about the quality of aged care services?
  • what gaps remain, and what new initiatives are being implemented or planned in the aged care data system to strengthen monitoring of quality of care?

What is in this chapter?

What is meant by quality of care?

Quality care is about not only keeping people safe and preventing substandard care – but also creating physical and social environments that enable frail older people to have fulfilling lives, despite their illnesses and disabilities.

The chapter explores what is meant by quality of care by:

  • describing various components and functions of aged care
  • describing the aged care setting in Australia, including recent scrutiny on quality and safety of care following the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety
  • defining quality of care
  • identifying quality of life as a key component of care quality
  • noting the Australian Aged Care Quality Standards.

How is quality of care measured?

To describe how quality is measured in the aged care sector, this chapter reports on relevant conceptual models and the current focus on program monitoring in Australia. It also describes the key sources of data currently able to be reported at the national level, such as the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program and the STAR ratings for residential aged care services program.

What do currently available data show about the quality of aged care services?

This chapter recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety identified many examples of sub-standard care, which could have resulted in significant harm to the individual.

The chapter presents a summary of currently available and reported data for national reporting on the quality of services in the aged care sector, including results. It includes data from the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program. Data on 5 domains of clinical quality indicators in residential aged care over 6 quarters between July 2021 and December 2022 show that:

  • around 9–11% of care recipients had unplanned weight loss, around 6% of residents had one or more pressure injuries, and a little over 30% of people had a fall; with little change evident, including variation over time for these indicators,
  • around 35–40% of people living in residential aged care were being prescribed 9 or more medications (polypharmacy), physical restraints were used for a little over 20% of residents, and antipsychotics were provided to around 20% of residents, with small declines evident in these indicators shown over time.

The chapter also covers information about consumer experience surveys, workforce surveys, compliance against quality standards, and serious incidents reporting and complaints. It describes the use of linked data to monitor health service use and the quality of care of aged care.

What gaps remain and what are the new initiatives underway?

The Royal Commission made many recommendations on how aged care quality could be improved, and data development was highlighted as an important component. Data availability has improved, and there are further data becoming available. This chapter also reports on:

  • Data improvements to fill identified gaps in the aged care data system
  • Funding changes, namely implementation of the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) for residential aged care
  • Care minute ‘target’ standards in residential aged care services.

Where do I go for more information?