Skip to main content

Registration for the 11th annual Asia Summit in Singapore September 18-20 is now open!

The New Care Ecosystem: Empowering Family Caregivers through Technology

Power of Ideas
The New Care Ecosystem: Empowering Family Caregivers through Technology

As physicians, family caregivers, and patients, we know firsthand the overwhelming challenge of navigating complex and disconnected health-care systems in support of a loved one. Family caregivers are the glue—filling gaps in care, information, and services. However, new technologies and tools will empower and enable their critical role, timely given both the rapidly aging societies and growing shortage of health-care professionals. With the number of older adults in Asia set to triple by 2060, creating innovative technology solutions, an ecosystem for implementation, and pathways for both to support family caregivers has become imperative. But how do we get there?

We propose starting in the home. The home becomes a hub for connected wellness and care, where health data and insights are generated and safety and security are monitored, thereby multiplying the efforts of care teams.

We know with certainty that connected care at home is the future. As we have seen during COVID, health-care systems are increasingly looking to the home as the site of care. Home is where older adults prefer to thrive, recover, and age. Worldwide, over 60 percent of older adults seek to age in place but are unsure if they will be able to do so.

We know with certainty that connected care at home is the future.

Design principles play a crucial role in creating a home environment that meets both the needs and preferences of older adults and enables them to remain in their communities. A principle outlined in the Design Principles for Health Technologies in Home proposed in 2022 emphasized health as a team sport with family and friends as a critical support system and resource. This means incorporating both older adults and family caregivers into design processes, crafting solutions that align with their preferences and abilities, and addressing real-life challenges.

Advances and adoption of telehealth, remote patient monitoring technology, and smart-home devices have been remarkable, allowing for a vast improvement in how we monitor safety, health status, and care. However, we have just begun to tap the potential impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) within the home. IoT promises to not only support remote response to emergencies like falls or failing to get out of bed in the morning, but also to bring together a multitude of longitudinal data sources on sleep, movement patterns, nutrition, and social engagement to support overall well-being. This can be accomplished while honoring the privacy and data security of the loved one.

This technology is especially powerful for family caregivers who live far apart from their loved one and ultimately bear the health, financial, and emotional burden from their role. It creates options to avoid missing work, to attend in-person appointments, or respond to emergent issues.

To bridge the challenge of supporting family caregivers with the opportunity of a tech-enabled home environment, we must close data barriers by opening access to comprehensive health data and presenting them as actionable information. Consumer health data generated by wearables, sensors, and mobile devices offer a view into a person’s well-being between brief clinical visits. However, they are often siloed from medical records, which are the primary source of data informing clinical care. The lack of integration between data sources represents a lost opportunity to gather valuable insights into the health of the patient during their daily routine.

Recognizing the patient-caregiver-provider triad and equipping all three with access to comprehensive health information is a key step towards personalized care and better health outcomes. By bridging and harmonizing data from the consumer and medical domains and deriving insights from artificial intelligence, physicians and caregivers can make better informed decisions and create personalized nudges for their loved ones’ well-being. Addressing issues related to data privacy, equitable access, and technology literacy will be essential to ensure that everyone can benefit from innovation.

Returning to the Design Principles for Health Technologies in Home, technologies must first support humans’ core need to be loved and their ability to love others. Empowering family caregivers through technology and centering care in the home nurtures emotional connections, strengthens relationships, and supports the core need for love. As we design for the future, the challenge for all is to keep this in focus. Together, let us embark on the journey toward realizing data and technology as transformative forces for health and well-being—revolutionizing health care and improving the lives of billions along the way.