Project Catalyst: Understanding caregivers' technology needs.



Rapid pilot test, study design, panel survey, ethnographic research, semi-structured interview, whitepaper production, infographic design

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Client overview

Project Catalyst.

Project Catalyst fills a gap in the market by putting the 50-plus consumer at the center of innovation through research processes that support quality of life. By conducting consumer research of new and emerging products with this often underserved group, Project Catalyst helps inform developers about how their products and services are working to improve the lives of Americans as they age. Founding partners of Project Catalyst include AARP, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, MedStar Health, Pfizer, and United Healthcare.



Project highlights

Conducted a nationally representative survey panel, ethnographic observations, and semi-structured interviews to better understand how caregivers are currently using technology.

Wrote and designed a widely distributed whitepaper and helped diffuse finding to stakeholder groups.

Read the full paper


The challenge

Bridging the gap between caregivers and innovators.

Despite enormous advancements in consumer health technology, there is little research on what digital solutions family caregivers want and need  to help them care for their loved ones. Project Catalyst and HITLAB partnered to generate an evidence-based understanding of caregivers' relationship to technology.

We wanted to shed light on the unseen barriers that prevent caregivers from using technology. Knowledge of these challenges would help companies identify unique and innovative opportunities to improve the lives of aging Americans.

Geographic distribution of caregivers in the US

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“This study reinforces the existence of two noteworthy trends:   Caregivers are increasingly enthusiastic about technologies that make caring for others easier and, secondly, there’s near-endless opportunity for entrepreneurs to develop products and tools that serve the burgeoning caregiving marketplace.”



Team insight

“This study is a call to action regarding the tremendous challenges facing our society and unpaid family caregivers, who are unsung heroes. We are putting together a road map for innovative companies to produce technologies and services to address unmet needs in the caregiver marketplace.”

Laura Pugliese, Deputy Director of Innovation Research at HITLAB


Our solution and findings

Listening to caregivers.

From October through December 2015, Project Catalyst and HITLAB conducted a nationally representative survey, ethnographic observations, and semi-structured interviews to better understand how caregivers use technology, which technological functions they are interested in, and the barriers innovators need to overcome to adequately meet caregivers’ needs.

Three key areas emerged as the biggest need and opportunities:

1. Tools that will provide caregivers with peace of mind that their loved ones are safe and secure. More than three-quarters say they are interested technology that helps them check on or monitor a loved one. Available technologies are in use by only 10% of caregivers.

2. Nearly all caregivers cited challenges with organizing and managing the various tasks related to caregiving across their care teams. Overall, caregivers cited a strong need integrated, multifaceted platforms that help them coordinate tasks and selectively disseminate information. Only 13% were currently using technology for this purpose, most citing nothing more sophisticated than spreadsheets and digital checklists.

3. When looking to hire help online, caregivers have low levels of comfort with existing services. The online service economy is growing, but caregivers are hesitant to use services procured online for their loved one, citing fears around security and safety. This indicates a need to understand if and how online services can be tailored to better support caregiving activities.


Our impact

Opportunities revealed.

The caregiving market shows relatively high rates of interest and likeliness to use technologies, but consistently low rates of technology use across many functions.

Giving care is challenging, and caregivers are rightly concerned that services for their loved ones are dependable and of high quality. Given these realities and caregivers’ prevailing interest in technological solutions, especially among those who are younger, it's our position that innovative technologies are falling short of caregivers' needs and in most cases have yet to adequately meet them. Exciting opportunities exist in this massive market.

Diffusing our findings.

Insights generated from the study have shaped public understanding of this technology space, along with increased investor and venture attention and entrepreneurial focus. Our work has the potential to transform the lives of the nearly 40 million family caregivers in this country, as well as their loved ones. Data from the study was rigorously analyzed and published by Project Catalyst. Read the full paper.

Building on the impact of the initial study, Project Catalyst and HITLAB conducted a second study culminating in a whitepaper. Read the highlights.

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