Healthcare // Patient Tools
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Health IT Sees Key Market In Family Caregivers

Mobile devices, personal health records are among technologies most valued by people caring for elderly or disabled family members, finds survey released at CES.

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Family caregivers who use technology to assist them in caring for their family members or close friends are confident that emerging technologies, like mobile health devices and personal health records, will bring significant benefits to both them and their care recipients.

The "e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century" study, which was released Saturday by the National Alliance for Caregiving and UnitedHealthcare, found that among the expected benefits are: saving time (77% believe they would benefit somewhat or a great deal), making caregiving easier logistically (76%), making the care recipient feel safer (75%), increasing feelings of being effective (74%), and reducing stress (74%).

The report is based on an online survey, conducted Nov. 9 to 22, of 1,000 family caregivers who provide at least five hours per week of unpaid care to an adult relative or friend needing help because of a physical or mental illness, disability, or frailty. The study's findings were presented at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Silvers Summit in Las Vegas.

All caregivers participating in the survey use the Internet or some other technology to help them provide care. Nearly half of the survey respondents have used an electronic organizer or calendar to help them with caregiving (47%), and 11% have participated in a caregiving-related blog or online discussion. Forty-one percent have used another technological device or system -- other than a standard computer or cell phone -- to help them with their caregiving.

According to Richard Migliori, executive VP of business initiatives and clinical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, the survey indicates that caregivers are using technology to make their jobs easier. "As the technology and healthcare industries increasingly use these kinds of tools to improve care in hospitals and doctors' offices, this survey is a reminder that these improvements could be equally helpful where care matters most -- in the home," Migliori said in a statement. "The use of new technologies can be a powerful tool to keep seniors independent as long as possible and support family caregivers."

Not surprisingly, of the 12 technologies evaluated in the survey, the top three were those perceived as having the greatest potential to deliver, monitor, track, or coordinate healthcare, and more than half of the surveyed caregivers said none of the seven potential barriers examined in the survey would prevent them from trying each technology. These technologies are:

-- Personal Health Record Tracking: 77% of caregivers reported that a Web site or computer software that could help them keep track of their care recipient's personal health records, including his or her history, symptoms, medications, and test results, would be very or somewhat helpful to them.

-- Caregiving Coordination System: 70% of caregivers indicated that a shared electronic log for their loved one's doctor appointments and other caregiving needs would be helpful. With this tool, caregivers could request support in their duties, and friends and family members could sign up to help on certain dates and times.

-- Medication Support System: 70% said a device that reminds the patient about his or her prescription medications and dispenses pills when they should be taken would be helpful. This device would also provide directions on how to take each pill and alert the caregiver when the dosages were not removed from the device within a certain time period.

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