Digital Health

Caregiver Support and the Potential of Technology

 Millennial providing caregiver support

Are you a fan of healthcare apps, wearables, and immediate access to your electronic medical records? As much as connected care speaks to you now as an individual, there’s the potential that in a few years, thanks to innovation and policy, connected health will impact you in a more significant way than you could ever imagine.

Future millennial caregivers, I’m talking to you.

Developments on large and small scales in healthcare technology policy should not just be of interest to innovators, regulators and policy wonks out there. Let’s get real for a second, these technologies are going to directly impact us as the user in the biggest way, especially as we start to look for caregiver support tools.

I came across a Forbes article written by Joseph Coughlin, a leader in the space of aging and technology, that spoke to the idea about Millennials living life on-demand and it resonated with me because it’s not only how I view the direction of the current landscape of health information and technology, but how we live in general. I can attest that this on-demand approach is how I live my life today and will expect to even more when it’s time for me to participate in the health and well-being of my older loved ones.

Coughlin discussed technologies including voice technology, home monitoring systems and behavior change apps. He prompted the reader with the question: When does this become too much?

Finding a Balance through Policy

Having been heavily involved in the reading and analysis of major proposals by federal agencies this year, I think it’s safe to say this is a question the federal government is thinking about as well. How do we balance the good, the bad and the ugly that may come with the use of technology in the healthcare space and how we can leverage it for the good?

Lucky for us and our loved ones, technology will move with us as we head into a more challenging phase of our lives as we age and as caregiver support is needed. We just have to be willing to welcome anticipated bumps in the road and also be open and involved in the conversation that’s happening all around us.

Federal agencies in the U.S. are asking stakeholders for more and more input on hot items in health information and technology, including major regulations related to telehealth visits, interoperability, information blocking, and guidance on artificial intelligence and machine learning software as a medical device.

With the help of a very engaged and vocal membership, we have responded to a variety of comments and intend to keep the dialogue between federal agencies open and consistent to help guide the conversation around what is too much when it comes to connected health innovation.

How to Find the Right Caregiver Support Tools

As a future caregiver, I know there will be many questions when it comes to the technology I invest in, especially if its intended use is to help my loved ones live more fulfilling, happier, healthier lives for longer. Even as more regulations are put into place, as a caregiver, it’s important that you ask yourself what is most important to both you and your loved one in a connected health caregiver support tool. Here are some questions to ask to help get you started.

  1. Does this simplify my or my loved one’s life? Because chances are, if this is making more work for me than the act of caregiving itself, I won’t use it for long.
  2. Is it helpful? This seems like it could be easy question to ask, but I think a lot of the time we get caught up in wanting something to make our lives easier that we lose sight of whether it’s actually meeting our needs.
  3. Is it user friendly? Is there a lot of additional work needed for me to get the results I want?
  4. Is it expensive? Are the costs to obtain it or maintain it worth it?
  5. Is it safe to rely on? Are the available data points accurate for me to rely on in making decisions about my loved one’s care?
  6. Does it come well recommended by people I trust including my loved one’s healthcare professionals that are familiar with their conditions?

These are just some of the questions that I, as the user, may be thinking of when committing to use a piece of technology to assist with caregiver support for my parents, for example, who may develop complex medical conditions as they age.

Staying optimistic, I think technology will help and is already making a huge impact on the health and wellness front both for the aging population and those who care for them. From the very most fundamental aspect of keeping us connected to others to what’s going on in our everyday lives (to the extent that we are willing to share), to apps for storing important health vitals and recorded information to illustrate trends—these are big steps in keeping people informed about their health status and in making our lives a little easier.

Originally published January 14, 2020.

Podcast: Accelerating Caregiver Support

This episode of the Accelerate Health podcast explores how sharing stories can make a difference in the lives of patients and their caregivers.

Listen to the episode now