Family Caregivers Want More Health IT Tools

More than two-thirds of family caregivers believe that Web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving would be helpful to them.

More than two-thirds of family caregivers who have used some form of technology to help them with caregiving believe that Web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving would be helpful to them, according to a new survey released by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company.

The survey also showed that 77% identified medical websites as the source they are most likely to trust for information to help them decide whether they want to use a caregiving technology, with 67% saying that they trust a government website and 66% reporting that they go to consumer review websites.

Although family caregivers provide an estimated $375 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually, studies have shown that many lack support systems and tools that could ease the burden financially and emotionally.

The survey—e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century—examined family caregivers' receptivity to technology and assessed how helpful 12 particular technologies would be in supporting caregivers or helping them provide care. The findings were presented last week at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show’s (CES) Silvers Summit.

“We know that our nation’s caregivers often put the needs of their care recipients ahead of their own, which can compromise their own health and create a stressful lifestyle,” said Richard Migliori, MD, of UnitedHealth Group, in a statement. “The use of new technologies can be a powerful tool to keep seniors independent as long as possible and support family caregivers.”

All of the caregivers who participated in the survey have used the Internet or some other technology to help them provide care. Searching the Internet for information or support related to caregiving was the most commonly cited use of technology (70% of survey respondents).

Nearly half of the survey respondents have used an electronic organizer or calendar to help them with caregiving (47%), and 11% have participated in a caregiving-related blog or online discussion.

According to the survey, caregivers were most receptive to technologies that help them deliver, monitor, track or coordinate their loved one’s health care. Results of the survey are as follows:

  • 77% said that a website or computer software that could help them keep track of their care recipient’s personal health records
  • 70% indicated that a shared electronic log for their loved one’s doctor appointments and other caregiving needs would be helpful
  • 70% would use a device that reminds the patient about his or her prescription medications and dispenses pills when they should be taken, and provides directions on how to take each pill and alert the caregiver when the dosages were not removed from the device within a certain time period
  • 70% said an electronic device that would send information such as blood sugar or blood pressure readings to a doctor or care manager to help them manage their care recipient’s condition would be helpful.
  • 62% would use a TV-based device such as Wii Fit that would allow the caregiver to create a schedule of gentle physical activities and mental games for the care recipient
  • 61% would use a phone with video capability or an Internet-connected computer with webcam that allows the caregiver to see the care recipient when they’re not able to physically be together
  • 69% report they would be somewhat or very receptive to using a smartphone for applications to help them with caregiving

Finally, the survey identified barriers to new technologies, reported that they would be more likely to try a technology if:

  • A health professional who is involved with the caregiver or their recipient explained that the technology would be helpful (88%);
  • They saw a how-to explanation showing that it is very simple to install and use (80%);
  • They were offered a three-year warranty on the technology (78%).
  • The Internet remains a strong source of information, with 57% of those surveyed identifying caregiving magazines or websites (57%) as a commonly used resource, and 50% reporting that they visit caregiver forums on the Internet.

To access the survey, click here.