Technology Can Help Family Caregivers

Here Are Some Ideas

health care technology for seniors
Technology helps providers give better care and provides peace of mind to family caregivers. Getty

Healthcare innovation is critical to the growing number of Americans needing long-term care. By 2029, The U.S. Census estimates that 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65. Technology is seeing incredible growth and exploration in the way caregivers can deliver quality and timely care to seniors and those with chronic illnesses. It also can provide peace of mind for family caregivers who know their loved one is being monitored.

UnityPoint at Home, an organization part of UnityPoint Health, allows patients to continue the level of care necessary to maintain overall quality of life, well-being and independence—all from the comfort of a patients and/or caregivers’ own home. Today, there are numerous technological advancements in healthcare that support caregivers in their role.

1.     Telemedicine

Telemedicine, or “telehealth” provides interactive healthcare services using modern technology—usually some form of audio and/or video equipment—designed to cut costs and conveniently deliver care to the comfort of one’s home.  The adoption of telemedicine services would cut costs for patients by not only reducing patient travel, but also unnecessary hospital stays.  Patients find the technology easy to use and comment the benefit of having technology with access to a highly trained care team.

Researchers believe that by 2025, the United States will face a potential shortage of as many as 52,000 physicians.

The growing popularity of telehealth has already been received in rural areas and in specialty services for minor issues such as the common cold. This remote access allows cost-effective, hassle-free comfort to caregivers as a substitute to urgent care or emergency rooms visits.  

2.     Remote Patient Monitoring

These devices, which would reside with the patient, could be used to check a patient’s heart rate, oxygen levels, pulse and blood pressure.

Video components can also be engaged for those family members not in the same household, to still have the ability to meet with the patient and care team.

Patients also have access to personal emergency response devices, tied to personal emergency response systems. Devices like these, GPS shoes and medication alarms/monitoring help the disabled, senior citizens especially, live in their own home and not a nursing home.

3.     Mobile Monitoring

Mobile monitoring, also heard in terms of remote patient monitoring, is a type of care that allows patients or caregivers to use mobile medical devices to share their condition with providers or allow for self-management. Smartphones and tablet computers are popular tools used for mobile monitoring. It allows for a close monitoring of a patient’s condition by the physician, even when the patient is on-the-go.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Initiative (HRI) surveyed 1,000 healthcare industry leaders, physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants on the state of digital technology and devices today. A part of the reports’ results focused on the promotion of self-management of chronic diseases using health apps. These are mobile applications that a patient or caregiver can use alternatively to visiting a doctor’s office.

28% of consumers said they have a healthcare, wellness, or medical app on their mobile device, and nearly 66% of physicians would prescribe an app to help patients manage chronic diseases such as diabetes.

UnityPoint at Home aims to mobilize care by providing up-to date information on a patient’s health and how to manage it online, called e-learning on demand. These patient portals will give a patient and/or their caregiver instant access anytime and anywhere.  For those new to the terms, mobile monitoring can be just as simple as a telephone call to your provider, updating them on your condition and needs.

Sometimes, caregivers care for loved ones at the expense of personal health, and other sacrifices.  Some may choose to reduce work hours or leave the workforce all together to provide care.  In addition to technology-based solutions, social support groups – both traditional and online- are available to provide caregivers additional support from those experiencing similar challenges.

This post includes a snapshot of technology tools and rising technology trends that may be of use to caregivers. For additional resources, visit the National Alliance for Caregiving (the “Alliance”) for a report that identifies key steps to better support family caregiving through the use of mobile, online, and in-home technologies.

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