Survey: 70 percent of caregivers say tech plays no role or a minor role in their work

By Jonah Comstock
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A new survey of 700 non-professional family caregivers finds that just 30 percent say technology plays a major role in their caregiving. Forty-two percent say technology plays a minor role, and 28 percent says it plays no role at all.

The survey was conducted by the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) to provide some guidance for  digital health companies looking to $470 billion per year home caregiving space. 

Generally, caregivers aren’t luddites or technophobes. Just 20 percent said they were opposed to technology and nine in 10 had a laptop or smartphone. In fact, online research was the most popular way caregivers found new technologies, followed by recommendations from their doctor.

Instead, caregivers are stressed and overworked and the current technology that exists seems like too much of a hassle to many.

“Caregivers are either unaware of the options available to them, or are aware of too many options and do not know how to choose between them,” MeHI wrote in the report. “Without clear guidance, choosing an app, device, or software platform risks becoming one more burdensome task, instead of a tool to help simplify other aspects of care.”

Fifty-nine percent said not knowing which technology was best was a barrier to technology use, and 57 percent said “too many companies and doctors have their own programs that don’t work with each other”.

Additionally, some of those surveyed were skeptical that technology could provide them any relief.

“Some needs, like communicating with health care providers or insurers, could clearly be aided by technology, and caregivers showed more interest in those,” the report goes on. “But most of a caregiver’s tasks require physical work or presence. As a result, many caregivers simply don’t think technology can do very much to help them with many of their tasks. In some cases, they think it only complicates things further and adds another layer of stress to an already difficult situation.”

There was also a clear trend in which technologies respondents expressed the most interest in. The top three, at 57, 52, and 51 percent respectively, were (1) a single access point for test results and medical records, (2) reliable information about their charge’s needs and/or condition, and (3) tools to communicate directly with doctors and caregivers.

The least popular tools, conversely, were tools for emotional support. Only 35 percent were interested in connecting with other caregivers for emotional support or in using technology to feel less alone or less guilty.