Parks: 41 percent of caregivers use a digital health device

By Jonah Comstock
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A wearable device with an emergency button, from Lifecomm. A wearable device with an emergency button, from Lifecomm.

Parks Associates has released new research about caregivers and the role digital health devices play in their lives. According to Parks, 41 percent of US caregivers in households with broadband internet use a digital health device. Eight percent use some kind of online tool to coordinate their efforts.

The report, "360 View: Health Devices and Services for Connected Consumers 2014," draws from multiple surveys including a survey of 10,000 US broadband households conducted in the second quarter of 2014. The report looks ahead to the technology due to launch at CES next month.

"Among US broadband households, 22 percent have a head of household who currently provides care for a family member or anticipates doing so in the near future,” Harry Wang, director of health and mobile product research at Parks said in a statement. “At 2015 International CES, we'll see many new digital health devices and software on display...These innovative solutions will find strong interest among current caregivers, but they will also have high standards to meet in improving the ways caregivers can monitor their family members.”

The feature caregivers are most interested in is an "electronic panic button" -- something like a mobile personal emergency response system or mPERS. The survey indicated that 44 percent of those who identify as current or future caregivers are interested in such a device, with a further 30 percent interested in an wearable wristworn tracker with the same panic button functionality.

In terms of current adoption, 27 percent of US broadband households currently own and use at least one connected health device, according to Parks. Eight percent of caregivers use "an electronic watch" to track the family member under their care. Parks released more general data about digital health tracking tools in August.

In June 2013, the Pew Internet and American Life project tackled caregiving and found that adults who are unpaid caregivers for a parent or child use online and mobile health tools considerably more than the average American, but only 59 percent of connected caregivers find internet tools helpful in giving care. Fifty-two percent said that online tools helped them deal with the stress of being a caregiver.

Pew also revisited data on self-tracking -- not just with digital tools -- to see if those numbers were different for caretakers. They found that the overall percentage of self-trackers was slightly higher — 72 percent of caregivers vs 69 percent of Americans total. There was no difference between caregivers and the general population in whether or not they used digital tools to track health data — only about 21 percent did.