In the United States alone there are 34.2 million caregivers providing support to an adult over the age of 40. Of these caregivers, roughly one-third have full-time jobs while providing more than 21 hours of care every week. The overall economic value of this unpaid care amounts to $470 billion a year. As baby boomers age, and medical advancements lead to longer lives, these numbers will increase. Caregivers will continue to experience financial and emotional as they care for their loved ones.
Fortunately, health tech companies are stepping up and creating much-needed digital solutions that make caregivers’ lives easier.
Just as advancements are being made to elongate life spans, new technology can also providing much-needed support to caregivers. Now more than ever, digital resources and platforms allow caregivers easy access to tools that can help them navigate the challenges of caregiving, including
- Access to Support – Caregiving can be an isolating experience, and many caregivers end up battling anxiety and depression. Applications are now available that can virtually match caregivers with others in similar situations, creating an open dialogue of shared experiences and advice. Digital caregiving solutions can also provide access to mental health professionals.
- Access to Resources – Curated digital repositories eliminate the need to spend hours scrolling through articles online. Additionally, many caregiving platforms offer video tutorials demonstrating how to perform standard caregiving tasks, like administering injections, dressing wounds, or testing blood sugar levels.
- Access to Records – New technologies allow caregivers to securely store information online through HIPAA compliant platforms that provide an organized user experience.
Providing care to an aging loved one can be extremely gratifying, despite the challenges. In fact, 88 percent of those who have provided care to their parents say it’s rewarding. The beauty of these emerging digital platforms is that they allow caregivers to focus on the rewarding elements, rather than getting caught up in stressful, time-consuming tasks.
Critical Components of Digital Solutions for Caregivers
Many health tech companies are launching new product lines focused on supporting caregivers–and there is certainly a market need. 71 percent of caregivers are interested in technology to support their caregiving tasks, and the size of the caregiving market opportunity is estimated to reach $72 billion by 2020. 10Pearls has been working with a number of organizations to create digital solutions for caregivers and has developed a series of best practices for creating applications for caregivers. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Focus on Establishing Trust through UX
In the health tech industry, gaining and maintaining the trust of your users is of the utmost importance. This is particularly true for caregivers. A 2016 study by AARP found that caregivers were most likely to report a lack of trust as the primary barrier to adapting available technology. Caregivers are protective of their loved ones and only want to use digital services from trusted providers. Establishing this trust begins with a well-designed user experience that enables transparency about the data the application is collecting, how the data is being used, and how the application maintains the privacy and security of the user.
Consider HIPAA Early
All protected health information (PHI) must be transmitted and stored in accordance with HIPAA’s rigid security and privacy requirements. Of course, HIPAA became a law in 1996, long before the debut of innovations we now take for granted (e.g. cloud infrastructure, biometrics, step tracking), which means that HIPAA compliance is anything but straightforward. It’s critical that companies account for HIPAA early in the development process when they are making choices about customer experience and which data will be collected, stored, and transmitted. (10Pearls offers HIPAA Compliance Assessments to help our clients avoid the hefty fines that are associated with noncompliance.)
Plan for a Connected Future
The number of connected medical devices is expected to increase from 10 to 50 billion within the next ten years, so scalability will be important if you want your platform to be compatible with future technologies. Plan now for how your application could be easily integrated with other devices so that you’re prepared to seize opportunities for partnerships and growth quickly.
Leverage Voice/Language Technologies
Voice-enabled technologies will soon be standard: Gartner predicts that 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. Health tech companies should leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, such as natural language processing (NLP) and natural language generation (NLG), can be integrated to make it easy for caregivers to operate your application while they are doing chores, cooking, or administering treatment.
While there are some helpful technologies already available to caregivers, demand is outpacing supply and caregivers are searching for new, efficient ways to manage their duties. Companies interested in this space have a unique opportunity to pave the way, provide value, and gain a loyal following.