A rising number of older people in New Zealand are entering aged care. While many of them are healthy and fit, some on the other hand, are fragile, vulnerable and require a high level of care and support. The New Zealand population projections show that the most vulnerable group—those over 80—will significantly increase over the next two decades. Not only are these age groups at risk of growing mental or physical disabilities but they also live a poor quality of life.
This leads to the question—What support is required in improving their quality of life and extending their health span? Only with effective healthcare services can the old age objective be met. Third Age Health is a leader in providing healthcare services to older adults residing in all settings, including aged care homes, private hospitals, secure dementia units, retirement villages and their own homes. It involves a team of general practitioners and nurse practitioners who provide weekly on-site clinics for over 60 aged care facilities throughout New Zealand. They are committed to in-hours and after-hours medical advice for on-site aged care staff who are caring for residents.
In an interview with Insights Care, Tony Wai, the CEO, sheds a light on Third Age Health which has reshaped the model of care within the community, in a way that best suits the complex needs of the ageing population.
Following are excerpts from the interview.
Kindly tell us the source of inspiration. What led you to venture into the Healthcare Industry?
I have worked in the health sector for the past ten years. It is always nice to be involved in work that provides a sense of ‘doing some good.’ Working in healthcare certainly provides that. I am motivated by the fact that there is a great need in our communities for sustainable models of healthcare which are accessible to people of all ages, stages, and ethnicity. As our population ages, with an increasing number of people over the age of 65 years, we need to ensure that they are providing a trusted, quality primary healthcare service which meets the specific needs of people as they age to improve their quality of life.
Brief us about yourself and shed some light on your role and responsibility at the company.
I began my career in FMCG and the manufacturing sector with some of New Zealand’s best-known brands where I held senior finance, operations, and advisory roles. I made the transition into health first with Atlantis Healthcare Group as their COO NZ Managing Director before moving to ProCare Health, New Zealand’s largest primary healthcare provider where I was GM of Corporate Services and interim CEO. I have been the CEO of Third Age Health since October 2021. I also hold several advisory and governance roles relating to the disability sector, health IT and health consulting.
What are the mission, vision, and values shared by the company?
We aim to be the healthcare provider of choice for older people living in all settings, including aged care homes, private hospitals, secure dementia units, retirement villages and their own homes. Our vision is that no matter where someone chooses to age, they will have easy access to trusted, quality and timely medical care which improves their quality of life. Our team align their services with the values of trust, care and kindness.
Tell us about the core products and services that the company offers to support the healthcare needs of the patients. How are these different from other companies in the market?
Third Age Health’s team of general practitioners and nurse practitioners provide weekly onsite clinics for over 60 aged care facilities throughout New Zealand. In addition, our team provide in-hours and after-hours medical advice for onsite aged care staff who are caring for residents. Our medical practitioners also meet with families as and when needed to support the ongoing healthcare needs of someone who may be frail, cognitively impaired or in palliative care.
Residents across the age care facilities are all registered patients with Third Age Health and so as well as their acute medical needs being met by our practitioner team, they also receive scheduled health and medication reviews.
Brief us about the rising need for the healthcare sector in your area. How will it impact the way patients receive treatment and the clinical decisions taken by care providers?
New Zealand has an ageing population, with the number of those aged over 65 years expected to accelerate dramatically over the next 50 years, accounting for 23% of New Zealand’s population by 2036. In May 2022 there were 780,880 people over the age of 65 years, this is expected to more than double by 2048 when an estimated 1.5M people will be aged over 65 years. The 85+ years age group is also forecast to increase by more than 30% by 2048, from 88,000 people in 2020 to between 270,000 – 320,000 people.
As people age, their healthcare demands increase, with those aged over 65 years accounting for 16% of the population but using over 42% of healthcare services. The average 85-year-old uses 16 times more healthcare than the average 40-year-old. More emphasis is being put on prevention strategies to help people age positively and remain healthier for longer. With increasing numbers of people entering aged care, often with complex health needs, the demand for quality healthcare services will continue.
Funding is also very constrained across the NZ health system and our funders (specifically the government) are increasingly looking for providers who are aligned to well-being impact and value effectiveness; specific areas of focus and expertise that Third Age Health is increasingly delivering.
Private sector aged care providers need trusted partners – Third Age Health is committed to meeting this need as well.
What specific R&D operations is your company leading at present? Why do you find them essential in developing or improving healthcare solutions?
Under the guidance of our Clinical Advisory Group, which brings together a range of thought leaders in health, aged care and solution design, we are reshaping our model of care so it best suits the complex and evolving needs of someone as they age.
In what way do you consider technological advances to be a pathway in conducting your company’s operations?
There is an acknowledged shortage of medical professionals worldwide and this is no different in New Zealand. With an increasing population and patients with more complex health needs, we must find ways to deliver quality healthcare in a sustainable way, therefore technological advances are crucial in regards to using data and improved triage to deliver care. Well-integrated technology can speed up the administrative tasks that are often of great burden to our medical team. Better technology solutions allow clinicians to spend more time with patients and to see an increasing number of patients at the same.
What endeavours is the company currently pursuing to improve its service measures for the clients?
We’re well aware that if something can be measured, it can be improved and so we’re focused on using data to drive clinical improvements for patients. In addition, we are planning to introduce new technology that reduces the admin burden for aged care home staff preparing clinical rounds for our practitioners. We’re acutely aware that the aged care facilities we provide services to have their workforce challenges so we will be working closely with our clients to realise efficiencies.
Our focus is on implementing a new model of care for people over the age of 65 that focuses on prevention and well-being and is consistent whether someone is living in the community or aged care.
What advice would you like to give to budding entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who desire to venture into the Healthcare Industry?
The healthcare sector offers many opportunities but it can be complex, so it pays to speak to people who understand the various funding mechanisms. Taking a niche approach and focusing and delivering well on this area is always the best pathway to get immediate credibility.
How do you envision scaling the company’s services and operations in 2023 and beyond?
Third Age Health will be focused on supporting our existing medical practitioner workforce and recruiting new team members. Our highly skilled medical team are highly valued and of course crucial to enable us to scale our services. We want to be an employer of choice for General Practitioners and Nurse Practitioners.
We will be integrating technology and continuing with a blended model of both in-person and virtual service delivery so that patients get timely care and to enable us to leverage our national reach in terms of practitioner team and
Please mention client testimonials or recognitions that your company may have attained along its journey to success (if available/permissible).
“Third Age Health provides our residents with excellent general practice healthcare. They have a holistic approach to older people’s health which focuses on improving quality of life.”
Business and Care Manager,
Oceania Elmwood Village,