Caregivers are a growing and increasingly overburdened population. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the market for tools to ease and improve the daily tasks of caregiving is expanding. According to AARP, by 2030 the ratio of potential caregivers to high-risk individuals over the age of 80 will be 4:1, down from 7:1 in 2010. This trend is expected to continue well past 2050. 

 

Concern for the Caregiver

To care for this aging population, many individuals will become family caregivers before they reach age 45. Whether they realize it now or not, they will find themselves attending to an ill or disabled family member or partner—even while they continue caring for children of their own. This will greatly increase the estimated 65.7 million Americans who currently serve as family caregivers. Many people are not prepared to assume the responsibilities of providing continuous care for aging or otherwise declining family members, highlighting the vulnerability of this population[i].

Studies have shown that the burden, strain, and stress of caregiving results in a wide spectrum of negative outcomes, including:

·       Anxiety and depression[ii]

·       Loneliness and social strain[iii]

·       Financial burden and opportunity loss, which the Rand Corporation has estimated to cost $522 billion in the U.S. annually.

 

Care for the Caregiver

Family caregiving represents a tremendous area of need, and a largely untapped market for technological solutions, among them[iv]:

·       A care task-management tool to help caregivers organize and maintain patient health records, medication, and appointments;

·       An independent-living tool that resides with elderly family members and is designed to alert caregivers to emergency situations as well as collect biometric data of those receiving care;

·       A digital guide to inform caregivers about care services in their area;

·       A marketplace for services that help caregivers with tasks such as transportation, grocery shopping, or chores;

·       A digital platform that helps caregivers map out long-term needs and resources;

·       A digital consulting tool that helps with discharge planning and the transition to out-patient status;

·       A network of support platforms for caregivers.

 

HITLAB® Poses a Call to Action: Innovate the Right Tools (not just tools)

A recent national sampling of out-of-home caregivers revealed that both users and nonusers of technology wanted to expand their use of technology and applications for caregiving purposes.  

However, the study also found that many caregivers did not use existing technologies—such as electronic personal health records, chronic condition management applications, and internet-based educational information—because their care recipient did not need the help that the tool provided[v]. This highlights a critical need and a potentially massive market.

A suite of solutions, grounded in evidence, has the potential to greatly benefit both caregivers and care recipients. To define both the needs and the wider market, HITLAB has partnered with AARP on a study designed to understand caregiver technology needs as well as perceptions of existing technology solutions. The AARP Project Catalyst Study is AARP’s initiative to conduct research on new and emerging products for the 50-plus consumer, with the goal of informing technology developers about how their products and services are working to improve the lives of Americans as they age.

HITLAB, in partnership with Qualtrics, is currently administering a 20-minute online survey for 1,200 family caregivers. The survey will target and confirm needs articulated in the current literature, and identify needs that can be met with existing caregiver technologies. Demographic data, caregivers’ attitudes towards technology, and technology acceptability will also be collected. A subset of survey respondents will be invited to participate in an additional study component that will involve an in-person qualitative assessment across a range of demographic profiles and in different settings, including substantial and substantive interviews in the home where the care is being given. The study is currently underway, and data collection is slated for completion this month.   

 

HITLAB Promotes Healthcare Innovation

HITLAB’s goal in the AARP Project Catalyst Study is to articulate caregivers’ needs in order to galvanize the work of innovators and investors who, in turn, can develop the right technologies for this unsung and overlooked population. This is what HITLAB does best: highlight a critical healthcare need, and bring the right people together to work toward a solution. In December, HITLAB is holding its signature annual event—the HITLAB Innovators Summit 2015—held at Columbia University in New York City. Each year, the Summit brings together hundreds of innovators, public health practitioners, investors, and clinicians to explore new solutions to a range of entrenched healthcare problems. To learn more or to register, click here.

 

[i] Camak, 2015; Smith, 2010

[ii] Haines, 2015; Lou, 2015; Family Caregiver Alliance, 2014

[iii] Cora, 2012; Rokach, 2007; Trivedi, 2014; Doorenbox, 2007

[iv] Camak, 2015; Manskow, 2014; Adler, 2014

[v] Zulman, 2013

 

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