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Using new digital tools to meet caregiver needs

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It’s no doubt that the digital health industry is a hot commodity, seeing significant growth and new investments every quarter, with IPOs and funding rounds setting new records. According to Allied Markets, the digital therapeutic segment of the industry is estimated to reach a market valuation of $23 billion by 2030.

However, the growth of the industry leaves out an important segment who provide guidance throughout the care journey and have a major impact on patient outcomes.

Caregivers are the newest segment to adopt digital health, using them in conjunction with their caregiving support to loved ones, and deliver necessary feedback to evolve the industry forward.

How does the growth of digital health tools intersect with the role of caregivers, and can there be a future without one or the other?

Ageing population, and ageing at home

The Baby Boomer generation is set to become the largest senior population on record, according to the US Census Bureau, creating an increased need for caregivers to support the health and lives of a large ageing population.

At the same time, children of Baby Boomers increasingly find themselves part of what’s considered the ‘sandwich generation,’ helping to provide care to both ageing parents and children who still live at home.

As today’s ageing population is living longer, more active lifestyles, the option to “age at home” has become the norm, with support from caregivers to assist with certain tasks.

New digital health technology in the home is also making it possible for 76M boomers to consider staying in their homes as they get older, allowing caregivers to stay connected to older relatives.

Elements such as Amazon Alexa, Google Health, and Apple devices help to support an interconnected network that allows for connection among patients and caregivers to stay informed on a loved one’s health, medication, daily activities, diet and other health info.

These new devices are also helping to advance the role of caregivers, improving connection to a loved one and providing oversight without removing the independence of a senior.

Caregiver support becoming increasingly important

While most caregivers are usually family members, friends, clergy and support professionals can also serve as caregivers to patients in need. And a patient’s caregiver circle helps to encompass all those who provide care, extending reach to physicians, clinicians, and ancillary support such as physical therapists.

In the U.S., there are more than 53M caregivers providing care to others. But being a caregiver can be a complex undertaking and is often overlooked in the healthcare continuum.

With a greater understanding of who are caregivers, and who they are caring for, the digital health industry is also working to recognise and meet the unique needs of caregivers themselves.

New digital platforms and applications enable patients and caregivers to have access to the same patient health information, without compromising security or changing algorithms.

As part of the increased focus on caregivers and their role in patient health, Medisafe recently completed a survey of more than 3000 caregivers to understand their needs, how they are impacted, and how they’re using new digital health tools to provide care to loved ones.

These users are increasingly turning to new technology to automate processes, provide assurance, and reduce (some) challenges of being a caregiver,

Using digital tools to support care

According to the Medisafe survey, most caregivers spend time monitoring and managing medications for a loved one (85 per cent), while 63 per cent spend time attending doctors’ appointments, as well as staying updated on medical supplies and navigating insurance challenges.

According to the survey results, some of the top challenges caregivers face are around managing their loved one’s symptoms and side effects, many of which come from a complex treatment regimen.

Ninety three percent of caregivers said the complexities around medications, dosing schedules, and refills are the largest challenge to being a caregiver.

Interestingly, caregivers reported their own burn out and finding support and time for themselves as a lower priority, putting all the patients’ needs ahead of themselves.

The survey also found that caregivers are increasingly turning to digital health devices to help deliver care to their loved ones.

Most survey respondents indicated using digital health tools to manage information with physicians and monitoring medications (80 per cent).

Respondents also use digital health tools to track various health measurements and review existing medication for refills and contraindications (47 per cent).

The survey results also found that 52 per cent of caregivers are under age 50 and are more tech savvy and inclined to seek out digital support.

Sixty one percent of caregivers are women, and the majority of caregivers (80 per cent) are friends or family who provide unpaid care to a loved one.

The future of caregiver support

Caregivers play an essential role in the delivery of care, and recognition of their role is changing perceptions of the care journey.

Today’s caregivers are using more advanced digital tools that anticipate patient needs and reduce administrative burdens, while creating a digital feedback loop.

Digital health tools can take many different forms from remote patient monitoring via a smartwatch, or an advanced digital health platform delivered on a smartphone, or even the use of AI in healthcare settings to provide updates to both the patient and the caregiver.

These tools recognise the unique needs of caregivers and utilise AI and ML to tailor digital health interactions and provide reassurance to support those who provide care.

With the largest senior population on record, the healthcare system will soon face a greater demand for ageing adults, and by extension, caregiver involvement.

More individuals find themselves in the role of caregivers and want tools and engagement that helps to support their role, streamline processes, and advance the delivery of care.

By developing new digital health tools that support patients and involve their caregivers, the future of the healthcare system can improve the lives of both patients and those who care for them.

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  1. Pingback: 'Digital twins' help give each patient the correct treatment

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