New research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows 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.
“If this is a first report card about how the internet as a health community is serving caregivers, frankly it’s not very good,” said Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew American Life Project. “Fifty-nine percent is a D+. Caregivers, I now think of them as the student who sits at the front of the class and writes down everything the teacher says, doing extra credit homework and pursuing information as far as they can. And yet only 59 percent who have internet access say that the internet has been helpful. Where’s it falling short for them? That’s the question that remains.”
The telephone survey of 3,014 American adults found that 39 percent of Americans are caregivers, up from 30 percent last year. Adults who care for an adult made up 36 percent, while 8 percent care for children with chronic health conditions or disabilities. The increase is notable, because it’s some of the first hard demographic data to prove that, as the population ages and people with diseases live longer, the number of caregivers increases.
Even more interesting, however, is that Pew collected a wealth of data about caregivers’ online habits compared to noncaregivers, even after controlling for other demographic factors.
“Fully 86 percent of caregivers have internet access, compared with 78 percent of non-caregivers,” the study reads. “And 84 percent of caregivers with internet access say they went online within the past year to research health topics such as medical procedures, health insurance, and drug safety. By comparison, 64 percent of non-caregivers with internet access say they did online health research in the past 12 months.”
Caregivers present a market opportunity
The Pew data has specific implications for the market opportunity for digital health, suggesting caregivers could be a group to target for a number of different technologies in the startup market today. For instance, 39 percent of caregivers manage medications for the person they care for, but only 18 percent of those (7 percent of all caregivers) use online or mobile tools for medication management. A number of startups are focused on medication adherence, including Vitality Glowcaps and AdhereTech, and many already market to caregivers. Keep reading>>