Classifying caregiver portals is a challenge

At least with directory sites -- you basically know where you stand -- somewhere in them is a business model for listing long-term care housing and service directory entries, referring and being compensated for leads about those entries, and advertising. Not so with caregiving portals. Here, if there is a business motive, it's about advertising and a cut of the commerce, if any, on the site. Caring.com was a caregiving portal, now inclusive of a directory since began using and then acquired Gilbert Guide. Not so easy to categorize sites (which sometimes add a directory search as an afterthought, some are really augmented blogs, and some are part of companies with a vested interest -- like Genworth Financial and the sale of long-term care insurance.

Many and general for caregivers. In the caregiving portal arena we find non-profit/for-profit, with information, sharing/forums, expert advice, and/or ads. A plethora of portals for caregiving, with information and support mechanisms for those who provide support and care to those who need it, including seniors. From ad-free CaregiverConnect in Canada -- launched by the Victoria Order of Nurses, a national health organization on the one hand -- to CaringSource, started by an individual, Robyn Blakie Collins, ad-enhanced. Or they range from a portal associated with a magazine, Today's Caregiver -- Caregiver.com to a non-profit site FamilyCaregiving.

Many have a disease or long-term care focus.  PatientsLikeMe (funded by partnered research providers) and DiabetesMine (funded by ads) -- are portals and/or blog sites for disease-specific discussions -- they fit into the universe of more than 60,000 health-related sites, many of those disease-specific. Long-term care focused include ElderCare Online, SilverPlanet and Doctor Marion. CareScout (now owned by Genworth Financial and focuses on the corporate market) is in a different category, consulting to long-term care providers as well as a resource for families seeking care.

And some offer a platform -- licensed for customized portals. This approach is sometimes referred to as 'white box' labeling for specific uses, some sites license their software to providers and organizations that want to establish a portal for families. Connect for Healthcare, for example, offers the ability to privately share updates about a long-term care resident between a facility and interested family members, and CareFlash (which includes educational videos about various diseases, including Alzheimer's.

...And finally, sites that sell or describe discounts on caregiver products.  These are really found by searchers who are seeking something specific, whether it is incontinence supplies, wheelchairs or discounts (like AARP). The Caregivers Marektplace or ParentGiving.com, or InvisibleCaregiver.com (which has a mobiity focus). There are pages and pages of them -- most searchers wear out quickly, so sites that are serious about growth invest in search engine optimization teams to boost their chances of being found.

Those who are searching for sites, whether professionals or caregivers, should keep in mind a few questions to tease out whether they should stop at a site or keep looking:

1) Who runs the site? Quickly look for the About page, figure out the ownership sponsorship (like insurance for example), find the revenue-generating mechanics. And who are the executives who manage the environment (to me it's always a bad sign when you can't easily find that on the About page.)

2) How current is the material? Look for content dates and/or signs of rust -- aging content pages, copyright dates, and old blog posts, unfortunately, stay on the Internet forever, like the empty buildings of broken page links (sigh).

3) How much community is there really? These sites are great ways to find others who share needs -- underpopulation is a signal to keep moving the search.

4) How much commerce is possible? Sites just recently launched may have few advertisers -- so that's a reason to match up the dates from 2) above or look for a date om 1) above. Sites that have been around for a while with few advertisers -- keep moving the search. Sites that sell what you want should be checked out through reputation sites like ePinions.com.

There's no real barrier to entry in setting up a non-commerce portal -- a website, content links (like some of them have to this site), featured experts -- and it's off and running. Being a platform for other sites or selling goods directly has a far higher barrier to entry and requires consider funding to keep alive.

[Disclosure Note: In case anyone was wondering, this blog site does not accept advertising, nor is there any payment to link to it or feature content written by the author]

 

Don't Overlook the Emotions

Hi Laurie,

I would add one other suggestion to your list of whether a site will meet your needs as a family caregiver: Does the site's content really understand the emotions of my experience? And, does the site have staff qualified to understand my emotions?

I think too often business and websites targeting family caregivers miss the core of the caregiving experience: The emotions. It's an emotional experience wrapped within family dynamics, the health care industry and community resources (or, unfortunately, lack thereof).

Denise Brown
Caregiving.com

Great article

Hi Laurie,

Thanks for this article on caregivers--this calls out the fact that there are many opportunities out there to provide greater support to this population. Caregivers are a prime resource for ensuring that seniors age with dignity and safely. However, many do so at their own expense. Hopefully, the market will soon address this need with novel easy-to-use/low-cost products and services that offer meaningful benefits to caregivers.

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