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.