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Digital health solutions for caregivers

According to Jamie Hartford, writing for QMed, a new survey has asked family caregivers what technology tools they really need to help for those they care for. Such polls are important since caregiving involves millions of people. Take the U.S. for example, here a 2015 survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that some 43.7 million people are providing unpaid care to an adult or child. This could well increase in light of the aging population.

Caregiving also crosses a broad range of people. Although the typical family caregiver is a 49 year old woman (at least in the U.S.), the current trend for caregivers captures a diverse as the population. The typical caregiver provides care for 21 hours per week, although in many cases this is much more.

The act of caring puts a considerable strain on families. Tasks undertake include giving medicine, attending to wounds, and providing other nursing care. Most caregivers are untrained in terms of medical or nursing knowledge. These duties are supplemented by helping the person under care with grocery shopping, ferrying about, general housework, and a range of other domestic tasks.

How can digital technology support this? There are computer programs being developed to provide and coordinate care. Many of the new technologies have been highlighted in a report headed “Caregivers and Digital Health” survey (undertaken in 2017 by the Massachusetts eHelath Institute).

The problem at the moment is that a high proportion of caregivers do not use even basic technologies like smartphones. The same survey found that close to 60 percent of caregivers were unaware of the different digital solutions available. Of those who were more aware of what was on offer, around half said they hadn’t come across an app or other tool that was useful to them.

In terms of what caregivers are after, Hartford’s own analysis has found:

Caregivers want to be able to see test results and other medical records, in one place, for those they care for.
Be able to link to reliable medical sources so they can read up on different medical conditions.
The ability to share information with medics about those in their care.
A tool to organize aspects of care, such as when certain medications could be taken and in relation to exercise regi

Although apps are available it seems that many are falling short of the needs of caregivers. The digital transformation of this underappreciated part of the health economy has some way to go.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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