Population and Public Health

Accelerating Caregiver Support

Caregiver sharing family stories
 

 

In this episode of the Accelerate Health podcast, host Kerry Amato, executive director of health innovation with HIMSS, speaks with Jay Newton-Small, chief executive officer of MemoryWell. Newton-Small and Amato discuss the idea behind the company, Newton-Small’s personal experience caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease, and how her company helps patients and caregivers uncover unexplored social determinants of health and behavioral health issues.

Like many healthcare innovations, MemoryWell began as a passion project born from a poor healthcare experience, specifically recording a lifetime history as her father entered a care home. Rather than reducing a lifetime to a series of short answers to generic questions on a form, people are connected with professional writers to help them construct full stories of their loved ones' lives to guide people interacting with them, whether professional caregivers or distant relatives.

The podcast episode highlights the story of transforming an idea into a business, from deciding who your customers are to scaling processes to move beyond a boutique service. But more than providing a needed service, we discuss how the process for helping create meaningful stories can also produce output with enough consistency and structure to be mined for information relevant to ongoing care. For MemoryWell, that includes discerning social determinants of health data from the life stories they create, even for more traditional patients and not just those entering long-term care.

We also discuss how stories can help people and families recall when behavioral changes may have begun leading to richer histories, and often, a better understanding of the progression of health conditions. Families often find that by working closely with a professional questioner, they can recall and identify patterns that might be indicative of undiagnosed behavioral health issues, leading not just to better understanding but possibly spurring better care for problems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed in the confines of a care setting.

One of the most interesting angles of this story for Accelerate Health is how it highlights the contribution to care that non-healthcare professionals can make. Often, one of the blind spots for healthcare innovators is all the important things that influence a patient when they are outside of the walls of a hospital or a doctor’s office. And perhaps more importantly, that many people have skills that can contribute to a patient’s overall care, even if they aren’t part of the medical staff. Appropriately leveraging non-medical experts where possible is a frequently overlooked accelerator of innovation.

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