Healthcare Technology Featured Article

June 17, 2016

Caregivers Need Care As Well

Being a caregiver is never an easy task. It always means a lot of responsibility, takes much time and nerve, and requires comprehensive knowledge. For that reason, caregivers, be it a nurse or a family member, are constantly in need of powerful tech assistants that can give them a hand while in the midst of this demanding role.

Years ago, caregivers used any and all tools they could get their hands on to make notes, manage calendars and set up reminders. Those days have passed; today, caregivers have the ability to access all of these tools in one place. There are several mobile health tools available that claim to do just this, but not all tools are equal.

I have been working in the mHealth industry for more than 20 years and during that time, I have gained a clear perspective of caregivers` challenges. The market of health apps is growing fast, but that doesn’t make it any easier for a caregiver to choose the application that will most help to relieve some of the stress. The best tool for caregivers depends on the challenges each individual caregiver faces.

Few people can actually handle a caregiver’s duties, and even less of desire to be a caregiver. At the same time, the need for nurses in the United States is growing exponentially. According to the Atlantic, there are more citizens at the age of 65+ than ever before in the U.S. It is also estimated that in 2050, about 88.5 million of Americans will be in their 70s. About 80 percent of those have at least one chronic condition, 68 percent will have at least two according, according to The nursing workforce in the United States is made up of about 3 million registered nurses, which sounds like a huge shortage of caregivers... which it is. It translates into having just 15 – 20 minutes per patient during a visit, working 12-hour shifts, feeling fatigue at the beginning of a shift and burning out at work. Family caregivers face the same or similar problems. Nevertheless, they still require professional nurse services for things like a tube feeding, injections, etc.

To put it simply, the industry badly needs more nurses, and nurses badly need help. What can digital technology do to reduce this pressure? Obviously, it cannot add more physical workers to healthcare organizations, but it can help nurses to organize their days, provide access to an online data source with all required patient information, connect them to patient’s family members for help, and more.

Digital technology can also help the companies overseeing caregiver management. These companies are responsible for educating the caregivers, managing the process, sending replacements and providing help. That is required in order to provide a base level of quality service. Therefore, a nurse management system that gives them a clear overlook at the situation and provides caregivers with all necessary information and live support can be an invaluable tool.

All the challenges mentioned above actually lie on the surface, but they leave enough room for thought and analysis. Having these basic things in mind makes it is possible to deliver a powerful tool that facilitates the whole process. So, let`s dive into the details.

Time management

Time is extremely important to a caregiver. That`s why a caregiver`s tool should include an appointment manager. The application, synchronized with the nurse management system, can automatically upload the week and month schedules along with patients` addresses, and provides notifications in case of any changes made.

Knowledge is power

The tool should include instant access to patients` cards, contacts, treatment requirements, prescriptions, drug doses, nurses FAQ, and allow for making notes relevant to every patient`s case.

No jokes with pills

A medication manager for every single patient is extremely important. The precise guidelines about drug doses and medication characteristics are crucial.

Daily routine

The to-do lists and journals have always been an undeniable thing in healthcare, therefore having them, especially shareable ones, is of great assistance. The to-do lists help caregivers and family members keep track of daily duties and will help to ensure no balls are dropped in the process.

Stay connected

Quite often, caregivers have a limited time slot for every patient, something like 15 – 20 minutes per day maximum. A tool that provides an opportunity to invite family members to become helpers would facilitate the process immensely. Although the patient`s relatives often become caregivers themselves, they have a number of personal duties and cannot spend all their time with the patient. Thus, the cooperation between caregivers and relatives through the app brings enormous benefits.

Keep track

A symptom tracker allows caregivers to monitor a patient`s state during the day and make changes in treatment in real-time as necessary.

Continuous learning

An app that provides reference and education materials that help to answer questions when a doctor or colleague is not immediately available can also prove valuable.

Community support

The tools described above are of immense assistance for family caregivers spending long hours with patients. In the UK, according to BBC, the number of people caring for someone with chronic diseases like cancer has reached 1.5 million. These people spend an average of 17.5 hours per week with those in need of care. And many of them don’t have a choice. Caregiving becomes a huge part of their daily duties, which is not just time-consuming; it’s exhausting. The connection or access to professional communities can help relieve stress, obtain some advice from colleagues and get support. Just as patients, caregivers also need care, and no one can understand them better than people walking in similar shoes.

These are just a few, but necessary, things that can significantly simplify day-to-day caregivers` duties. When combined, together they create a great tool that allows delivery of high-quality services. Depending upon each patient, the features the tool will need to provide will differ. Regardless, having the opportunity to leverage the Internet and mobile technologies makes caregiving easier and more controllable.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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