Family caregivers wanted mobile caregiving apps – they’ve got them now

Caregivers could see the future of mobile apps – and it came to pass.  A few years ago, the National Alliance for Caregiving and United Health Group published a study, conducted during 2010, called the e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century, which surveyed family caregivers about their propensity to use any of 12 different technologies to help them with their caregiving responsibilities. The conclusion: "two-thirds of family caregivers who have used some form of technology to help them with caregiving believe web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving would be helpful to them." But as KHN noted below, it's the wild west for (40,000!) smart phone apps -- doctors are suggesting, but not yet prescribing apps for the e-Connected caregiver:

What caregivers wanted – they got, and then some. In particular, they were most interested (70% or more) in four types of systems, Personal Health Record Tracking, Caregiving Coordination System, Medication Support System, and Symptom Monitor and Transmitter. They saw the future: mobile versions of all of these are available now.  Probably what they might not want to see are the reviews of some mobile apps which complain about app crashing, ads blocking the user's ability to type, important features that are not free and other non-trivial irritations. But anyway, in the categories responders said mattered:

  • Mobile PHR is available today – downloadable and often free. So starting with ones that consumers seem to like -- Personal Health Record Tracking – Healthspek PHR is a free tool (primarily iPad with an iPhone viewer), includes personal health records for a family – caregiver and care recipients -- that can be emailed to the doctor. For diabetic care recipients (or caregivers), Diabetes Companion (iOS) and OnTrack Diabetes (Android) are free apps to track food, medication, blood pressure and related.
  • Caregiving Coordination – a big deal for elder care.  One of the home health care behemoths, Philips, offered up CarePartners Mobile to help caregivers (its customer base) track tasks associated with caregiving – and it also offers 2Together, for family caregivers of seniors who have its Lifeline products. Unfrazzle, a care coordination app (iPhone and soon Android) "keeps track of your day-to-day caregiving tasks, and lets you share some or all of them. You decide which tasks to track, which to assign."  CaringBridge – for communication among family members during a health event -- is now available on iTunes, as is LotsaHelpingHands for coordinating calendars, volunteers, and messages.
  • Medication support Systems – a good start. The Pew study this past week highlighted concerns of family caregivers (stress) and their appreciation of online sites (great) and surveyed their utilization of smart phone medication apps (not so much).  As noted, Drugs.com is a free drug interaction tool in multiple formats, including mobile, GreatCall offers a free app (iPhone and Android) for managing meds called MedCoach. And Medscape did a study in which it evaluated 160 medication management apps, and noted several in its top 10 – RxmindMe, and MyMedSchedule.  
  • Symptom monitor and Transmitter – yes and no.  Symptom checking tools always remind me of that long ago Firesign Theatre skit Beat the Reaper ("You've got the plague!"). Today, smart phone symptom monitors abound to check your symptoms: including iTriage (plus schedule an appointment), WebMD and SymptomMD ($3.99). Transmitting to the doctor?  Not without a willing recipient (that would be the doctor) or the doctor’s system. While there may be no technical limitation, per KHN, the doctor side of the equation is stalled at the testing gate.

With so much noise, where's the real opportunity? A final thought: for price points like free or a few dollars, family caregivers got what they said they needed. But with 40,000 participant/competitors, is this a market? A prelude to a shakeout? Or is it a check-the-box item, a price of entry to be credible in a broader space of caregiver support that is the real market in which to a) make money from subscriptions, b) make money from multi-viewer advertising or c) be reimbursed by an insurance provider and then, hopefully make money.  Thoughts welcome.

A Great Care Coordination Ap

Hi, In our family we use a platform and Ap called Tyze (www.tyze.com). Tyze facilitates a group of family, friends and professionals to support an vulnerable individual in a coordinated fashion. We use Tyze for my son who requires complex nursing care as well as social support (visits from family and outings, etc) as well as for my 92 year old mother who lives in another city. Tyze is highly secure and has a vault for very sensitive document storage. It has a calendar, task list (from which network members can 'claim' a task such as providing transportation to an appointment or delivering food. Tyze is great.

Good apps, but no communication

The search for good apps is only the first part of the battle. The biggest problems is that once you bring in a caregiver or download one of these apps, the information is now in a silo. The key to the best care is communication between all of these silos. This allows accurate information to be communicated in a timely manner across all of the care stakeholders. CareTree is a tool that does this. Whether you've hired a caregiver and are trying to communicate with them or you have data (daily blood sugar readings for example) and are trying to track and relay it, CareTree provides a central hub where all of the care information can be securely stored and shared. It's not in the app store yet, but is accessible from any web enabled device via the web browser and is free for families.

Apps becoming available

I am glad we are getting new helpful apps for care givers. Excellent article.

New Tech

This is a great article highlighting the improved field of apps and other tech products for caregivers. I think this, just like everything, needs to be time-tested with caregivers to flush out what is really useful. Caregivers often don't have the time or patience to try these technologies and would prefer to have a "one-stop-shop" app or software to save time and money for them.

From Merilee Griffin

I read this column first thing this morning on your Aging in Place Techology Watch, and as usual, you hit the nail on the head. Tech/aging products are catching up with need, but it's still a jungle out there for family caregivers trying to figure out which ones would work in their situation.

I wish someone would invent a new category for devices designed to alleviate caregiver stress when the main problem is mild to moderate memory loss. So far as I know, our Memo is the only thing out there. I've been surprised for years that no one else has entered that category. Possibly because it's not a category yet - "memory assistive devices"? How could something so useful be so totally ignored in the health/tech market? If you have a clue, we'd love to hear it!

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