Family caregivers outpace all other groups in their use of the Internet to seek health care information.
"The United States is becoming a nation of caregivers. Roughly 42 million people -- 30% of the U.S. adult population -- provide care to a spouse, parent or child.
Caregivers often are placed in the stressful position of having to make major health care decisions on behalf of a loved one or manage an aspect of care that requires knowledge that most people simply don't have.
So it's perhaps little surprise that a recent Pew Internet and American Life Project report found that family caregivers go online in search of health information at rates that far exceed other groups.
"Your first instinct, especially if it's a diagnosis you're not familiar with or a treatment protocol you don't understand is to go online and Google it and find out more," said MaryAnne Sterling, founder of Washington, D.C.-based Sterling Health IT Consulting. Sterling is also a long-time family caregiver.
According to the Pew report, eight in 10 caregivers have access to the Internet, with nearly nine in 10 of those caregivers using it to find health information on behalf of someone else.
Caregivers are more likely to report having gone online to search for information on behalf of another person, rather than for themselves. Sixty-seven percent of caregivers reported that their last search for online health information was on behalf of someone else, while 29% said their last online health search was for themselves. In comparison, 40% of non-caregivers who went online looking for health information did so on their own behalf." (...)
"There has historically been a lot of information on disease states and disease conditions and the medical elements [of caregiving]. It's been more recent that the marketplace has discovered there is a real need in the caregiving community in managing all of the overall tasks the caregiver has to do," John Schall, CEO of the National Family Caregivers Association, said." (...)
"Some of the most daunting tasks caregivers take on, experts say, are those traditionally reserved for doctors and nurses.
Sterling said that family caregivers regularly perform medication administration, wound care, and they often work with IVs and catheters. "These are activities that family caregivers are ill-trained to perform and if done incorrectly can result in very poor outcomes for that patient. There is no magic bullet yet [or a place] where caregivers can go for this much more complex information."
Despite the technological advances, the complexity of their role still requires caregivers to seek out the human touch.
"My own professional belief is that the Internet is an excellent tool for seeking out information, but for actually making choices once you gather that information, nothing substitutes having someone to talk to who is knowledgeable and can guide you through that process," Feinberg said. (...)
[CE: Useful perspective, especially for digital entrepreneurs wanting to provide real value through apps and the web to people in need of care.]