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Caregivers don't really want caregiving technology or platforms

AARP/Catalyst study from 2016 matches results from the past.  Assume you can get past the demographics of the AARP Catalyst study -- which were well-described, but vague about the characteristics of the care recipient.  "More than three-quarters say they are interested in technology that helps them check on or monitor a loved one. Available technologies are in use by only 10% of caregivers. Caregivers say these technologies, while attractive in principle, are too costly and complex, and therefore not worth the investment of time and money."  Haven't we heard this before? Remember Caregiving in the US, 2009, when interest in technology was also 'high'? In the Catalyst study, current use rates were low: 71% said they they were interested in using technology, only 7% of caregivers are already using or have used technology available in the market. Greatest interest noted? Technology for requesting and ordering a prescriptionnrefill/pickup.

Do studies like this signal an opportunity for innovators for caregiving technology? This, like similar surveys, implies an interest that might mistakenly send innovators to the drawing boards. They describe very broad populations and are found within the first four slides of a pitch deck. "Simply said, America's caregivers are all of us." But should America's caregivers, clearly people with overwhelming stress and responsibility, be viewed as a unified market segment? Would they recognize themselves as people searching for 'caregiving technology' to help with requesting and ordering a tool for refill/pickup of medications? Look at the example of PillPack, a mail-order service competing with Walgreen's and CVS.  It's focused on a specific task, administered by a pharmacy, but used by the consumer -- and appears to be doing quite well.  Another new entrant, PillDrill, offers 'Medication Made Easy' -- administered by a user, not the pharmacy, which is a riskier venture. Both of these might be viewed as 'caregiving technologies' in the context of what Catalyst survey responders 'want'. But they are strikingly different in approach, administration, packaging, and most important, the consumer profile.   

The study says caregivers want a platform, but do they really? From the Catalyst study: "with many participants in the circle of care, caregivers seek integrated, multifaceted platforms that help them coordinate tasks and selectively disseminate information." That conclusion (based on the response to a question) could send numerous companies down the wrong path of populating PowerPoint pitches of startup and invention. For that matter, so could the 2016 Parks/AARP Caregiving Innovation Frontiers. But platform enthusiasts should curb their enthusiasm. Consider the 2008 AARP Healthy@Home survey -- willingness to use an electronic pillbox was high in the health and wellness category. But fewer than 10% of the responders then (and note that's also true of responders now) actually use such a device. And the AARP study asked what the responder would be willing to pay ($50/month or less across all technologies intended to help them remain independent.)  In short,when it comes to self-described caregivers, nothing has changed.

Platforms are bought by companies, tools are sought by consumers. Specific tools matter to us. Your PC or Mac, your smartphone -- these are hardware platforms.  Your choice of operating system is a platform, and some would say (stretching things) that Amazon, Facebook or Twitter or some social sites are platforms. They are clearly stages for selling more goods and services to you, the user of the various hardware platforms. Companies (like insurers) can buy software platforms that frame multiple tools to attract and retain their customers, helping them to better manage their health.  Caregivers need to interact with insurers, pharmacies, social media sites, online shopping venues. But caregivers are not a homogeneous group -- and designing a platform that aggregates their needs is a 2016 fool's errand, judging by how little has changed from 2008 to 2016 and what we've seen in caregiver self-identification with problems and adoption of technology solutions.   





So, if "caregivers are not a homogeneous group," are you suggesting there could be multiple platforms, each designed for a specific group of caregivers? Or would that be self-defeating in reaching only a small number of consumers?

Caregivers are not a homogeneous group.

​Neither are seniors.

I've always got thoughts and suspicions rattling around in the back of my head - and I can't quite put my finger on it - and then I read posts like this and it's like everything crystallizes. This is so spot on.

Every caregiver I know is... a person. Especially family caregivers: one day you find yourself caring for someone. It just happens. It's not a conscious lifestyle choice like buying a Harley. *Not a homogeneous group* - exactly.

We know that at least the bigger homecare organisations do not want autonomous and independent clients as we are developing and producing a new kind of moving platform for furniture that helps seniors and handicapped people to cook independently and in the same time have a nice looking furniture of their choice. I was told by one of the senior manager of the biggest Swiss homecare organisation that "old people do not want to cook for themself". Of course not all caregivers think like that. But there is a lot of money in the game that attract profit orientated organisations.

We did a lot of research into living independently. Japan for example is the prototype of demographic development and the problems that comes with it. Too many seniors and to few caregivers. Japan is working very hard on building its environment so that people can live independently. Why? Because Japan knows that it could impossibly afford the costs if they don't. Well we have imigration, we talk languages that foreigners very possibly also speak. So we will probably have enough caregivers. But the costs to pay them? Let's calculate just 1 hour per day caregiving for creating food. Depending on country, salary and quality the yearly costs for that single hour are somewhere between USD 5'000 to 28'000 per household. That's a lot of money piled up if you multiply that by the number of affected households. Money that no healthcare system in the world can afford in the future. Especially as the portion of non-productive seniors gets bigger every year and the value/money creating number of people get smaller.

Best regards