Digitalisation at Services Australia will enable the Federal Government to pay all NDIS invoices in the future, streamlining a system that currently requires hundreds of thousands of Australians to track and invoice the agency, then pay providers themselves.

The new approach will be made possible through investments in systems integration, along with a digital invoicing system, which will also plug into a new Salesforce CRM.

It will also help the government better track and understand how the program is meeting client needs.

More robust integrations will also make it easier for application developers to create new services. One such example is Weejah, which is an app that seeks to create an Uber-like experience for customers of the NDIS.

According to a spokesperson for Services Australia, the NDIA issued a Request for Quote (RFQ) for an eInvoice solution on Friday 12 February, which closed on Friday 5 March. Responses have been received from potential Access Point partners providing their quotes. Evaluation and selection process has now commenced.

Minister for Government Services and the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Stuart Robert, told Which-50, “We’ve got a really good understanding now about what we want, about what the market can provide and where the market can meet all of our requirements and our view is that it can.

He said once the tender was settled the government would move to rapidly implement the capability and will then seek to legislate this as part of its legislative reform package.

Currently, according to Robert, about 50 per cent of participants in the NDIS self manage. This means they are provided with a plan for a certain monetary value, they then book the services, and invoice the NDIS. The NDIS then pays them the invoice and they, in turn, pay the service provider.

“Importantly the agency doesn’t have any visibility on where the money’s flowing to, how much has been paid, what debt exists, and it’s an encumbrance upon self manage participants,” said Robert.

Choice and control

He said once the new system is in place the NDIA, the agency responsible for the NDIS, will pay 100 per cent of all invoices. “So, if you’re a participant, you’ll have a plan with a volume you will still book the supports or services. If you’re self-managed, you will have choice and control, an invoice will be raised in the CRM. And then the agency will pay. That’s the big difference.”

In earlier remarks to guests at the Weejah launch, Robert described the kind of transformation the government wants is its approach not just to the NDIS but also Veterans Affairs and Aged Care.

“The government will have more to say on this in the budget, including how we bring regulatory harmonisation across the care industry.”

“How do we have a single worker screening model, a single worker banning model, a single worker registration framework, a single audit framework, a single compliance framework as much as possible, to ease the burden? The last thing the government wants is [for service providers like] Baptist Care to have NDIS clients within [its] residential aged care settings with completely different audit requirements for staff to work in that area compared to staff who work elsewhere when those staff are working across the continuum of care.”

The scale required is significant. “There are four hundred and thirty thousand participants right now, 50 per cent of them receiving support for the very first time. And we expect over the coming years the number of participants to rise to 500,000. That’s an extraordinary number of Australians receiving support.”

That scale is also an issue that companies like Weejah need to address.

The company screens NDIS service providers like carers and therapists, undertaking, for instance, things like police background checks.  Users then identify their needs and the app recommends local care workers that fit the customer need. Users can interview service providers in person or via video or phone — if they are not happy, they can get a new recommendation.

According to Andrew Cronan, CEO of Weejah, “The machine learning, and the pattern matching is really the secret sauce. How do you judge people? Usually with a star rating.  But that really just shows that you’re good at getting a five-star rating.”

The company has a range of metrics it can test to build out recommendations for service providers. “Rather than rely on ratings we actually monitor how are you doing. Do you get repeat visits? Do you get your invoices disputed? Are you on one time? Do you cancel? Do you do more training?

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