Starting a new conversation
about aged care
Liquid Interactive was appointed as the supplier for the build and operation of the new My Aged Care website, an Australian Government initiative managed by the Department of Health. This story provides insight into the project we've released so far. There's a lot more to come and will be rolled out over time.
We're all living longer but that doesn't mean we are finding it any easier to talk about the care we might need in our later years. But if we are to enjoy healthy, happy lives well into our 80s or 90s, perhaps we need a new, more constructive way of looking at aged care?
That's the challenge we have recently been tackling for My Aged Care, the Australian Government's aged care gateway.
My Aged Care is the Australian Government's entry point to access aged care information and government-funded aged care services for older Australians, their families and carers.
Why we need to talk
With over 4 million Australians now over 65 and expected to live into their 80s, there are more people needing aged care than ever before.
Yet many prefer to struggle on independently for as long as possible rather than seek help. It's understandable, and deeply entrenched in the human psyche. No one wants to lose their independence. We fear not being in control and not being able to make our own decisions.
Added to that there are many stigmas around aged care, and media reports of poor care and abuse have further affected people’s views. These stigmas need to be broken so that people feel empowered to access the care they need.
The good news is that there is already a wide range of support services aimed at helping people live independently for as long as possible. Everything from subsidised travel for getting to doctor's appointments, to help with housework if you're dealing with an injury.
The challenge is that it's complicated. With over 2000 aged care service providers providing different services with different fees, how do you know what's best?
It's a complex problem and just the sort we like to work on.
So how do we start to change the conversation? The first step is to get better informed.
Our research showed that senior Australians and their families were worried and overwhelmed. It was all too hard. If we were going to change attitudes, then we needed to start by equipping seniors to make informed choices about what was best for them.
We needed to turn complexity into simplicity. We needed to guide people who might arrive with misconceptions about what kinds of care are available and introduce them to options that better suit their needs. If we could pull it off, it would be a win-win for them, their family, the service providers, and the government.
Creating an engaging experience
By developing a deep understanding of their journey, needs and pain points we identified two key points where they wanted information to make informed decisions: starting out and choosing a provider. Using a human centred design approach, these became our focus.
The first priority was developing the right tone. To resonate and encourage action, it needed clarity and empathy in equal measure. Through customer testing we developed a finely nuanced tone that conveyed active not passive, informative not overwhelming, support not loss of control, real not glossy and understanding not sympathy.
Feedback from our customers told us when we had the balance right:
"Loss of independence is not something any of us want. This site says we are here to help with what's right for you."
"General look and feel is softer, nice and clear. Good large print. Less government feel (more approachable, not so daunting)."
Pace and structure was the next critical element. To make this complex environment and process easier to understand we crafted a subtle, supportive online experience that guides customers through the process and answers their questions as they arise.
"It's really good, it's very clear and it's sequentially answering the things that are coming up in my head."
Focus on what customers need
Only when we understood our customers' needs, expectations and behaviours the new website's navigation, design, functionality and content was designed and built. This means the customer experience is consistent across the site. New concepts, solutions and features were iteratively developed, tested and refined with customers across Australia as well as Government and industry stakeholders.
The result is a site that looks so simple. And that's its beauty. No flashy design or clever new technologies. Just an experience that delivers what's needed to help more Australians take action.
It's early days. The new site was launched in June 2019 but we can already see small changes in the conversation.
"I am sure I would find all the information that I would need in the future, so I felt relieved."
"It was a struggle finding care for mum, this would have made it so much easier for us."
"These tools will save me a lot of time and energy."
A process of iterative improvement
We're now continuing to work on the next stages of the strategy which includes a number of new features and enhancements to improve the platform experience for all users, and help more Australians live happy healthy lives into their old age.
Our initial customer research showed that customers wanted to be able to apply for an assessment online.
At the time, the service was primarily delivered over the phone. On the call, the operator would ask a list of questions, which people sometimes needed help answering. Because of the amount of information required—to determine eligibility for an assessment—these calls could take between 15-45 minutes, sometimes longer. It was especially challenging for people with hearing and speech impairments. The goal of this project was to provide an easy and equitable option for people to complete this process online.
To meet customer expectations as well as meet security, privacy, usability and accessibility requirements, we needed to take a user-centred approach. It wasn’t just a matter of taking the questions from the phone screening or the Make a referral tool (which health professionals largely use) and putting them online. We had to make sure that we were gathering the right information from users that would provide equitable access to assessment and services.
We also needed to be able to validate customer information (e.g. date of birth) on the fly. This would involve checking the information against Medicare cards or health records and then feeding each completed application to the back-end system—ensuring that they would be processed in the same way and timeframe as they would on a call or through a GP. Working with legacy systems isn’t ideal, but it’s a common challenge for government agencies. Our challenge was to find a way to apply a smooth, easy-to-use front-end experience that worked seamlessly with a heavy-duty legacy back-end system.
Making the complex simple
Our challenge was to turn the complexities of a manually guided process into an interactive experience. To do this, we started by asking questions like:
- How can we ease the burden on the user?
- Where might someone experience doubt, and how can we alleviate that?
- How can we inform without overwhelming?
We spoke with users and call centre staff, and we sat in on support calls to understand the problems people face and identify the key pain points. Customers from all backgrounds, needs and locations were involved in the co-design process to ensure the solution would meet everyone’s needs. Together with Australians across the country, we explored:
- customer needs and emotions at this point in their journey, including alleviating doubt
- simplifying the process, including letting customers know quickly if they weren't eligible
- comprehension around eligibility criteria
- benefits versus complexity of adding representatives
- granular usability design patterns and content to help users complete an application
We considered everything from capturing communication preferences, to help arranging the assessment, to the visual cues required to support comprehension. It was particularly important we got it right for customers with hearing or language issues who had previously been uncomfortable or had difficulties calling the contact centre.
Using a human-centred design approach, we were able to reduce friction and ensure an experience that is supportive, engaging, and respectful of the user’s time, attention, and emotional wellbeing. From discovery to build, we co-designed the digital service to be easy to use, easy to understand, quick to complete, and seamless.
Meeting the needs of all customers
Apply online works as an eligibility screening and application for assessment service on the My Aged Care website. Now older Australians or their loved ones can check if they are eligible and apply online. They can even set up a representative at the same time, if they wish to. And the whole process takes no more than 15 minutes.
The service provides multiple approaches aimed at helping people build understanding and take action. Much of it involves a strategic layering of information, along with specialised tools like the Fee Estimator and the Make a Referral feature for health specialists.
Apply online is making it easier for all Australians to access aged care in a way that’s intuitive, supportive, and engaging.
Since its launch in late January 2020, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Take-up of the tool was immediate, with an average of 12,000 customers using the service each month, and over 35,000 successful applications between January 2020 and January 2021.
Typically taking 10-15 minutes to complete, customers are finding it very convenient, and the feedback has been consistently positive, with a 70% customer satisfaction rate. It’s also delivering efficiency benefits to the government by reducing demands on trained staff.
"So much easier to do online rather than my elderly parents trying to understand and hear someone over the phone."
"Being hard of hearing it was much more convenient to use an online service rather than the telephone."
"The questions were easy to follow and understood. It made submitting the application easy and not overwhelming."
"Easy and clear questions. Easy setting up my son as a representative."