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Innovation and the Caregiver: How We Can Better Support the Whole Care Team

When we talk about innovation in healthcare, we often talk about its impact on one of three entities in the equation: the patient, the provider and the payor. But a care team is not usually a triad – it’s most often made up of four invested parties, which in addition to the above mentioned three, also includes the (frequently-overlooked) caregiver.

And yet – it is the caregiver who often stands to benefit the most from the assistance innovation in healthcare technology can provide. It is the caregiver who’s running to pick up prescriptions that benefits from data passed from the physician to the pharmacy in a seamless way. They further benefit from a smart pill dispenser, for example, that ensures the right dosage is getting to the patient at the right time.

The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) is committed to incorporating the expertise and observations of the caregiver to inform all stages of medical product development. They report, “Caregivers can often provide remarkable and pivotal insights into what drugs and devices are needed, that therapeutics benefits matter and how much, how clinical research should be conducted, and how safety and efficacy should be measured.”

Case in point: The Catalyst of Caregiving

Avner Halperin, the founder of EarlySense, continually references his own personal story as a parent caregiver (and does so in this Ted Talk), as the catalyst for the origins of the company.

As a parent of a child with serious asthma, Avner and his wife often discussed the need for some type of advance warning around an asthma episode, which inherently made treatment – in some cases just the use of an inhaler – much more effective.

“In fact, 90% of hospitalizations around asthmatic episodes can be prevented with four hours of advance notice,” said Avner. “And that’s not just true of patients with asthma – it’s true of other chronic conditions. Advance warning can save lives.”

The development of the ensuing EarlySense system was comprised of a sensor to collect heart and respiratory data – placed under the mattress to avoid disrupting the patient’s sleep. This resulted in the generation of “the biggest database in the world of heart and breathing data,” which then needed to be analyzed.

“To change medical outcomes – to change the future – we needed to predict it,” said Avner. “So we brought teams of mathematicians, doctors and engineers together to develop advanced medical algorithms to analyze the data points we had acquired. And it worked. The algorithms could identify the beginning of an exacerbation up to 8 hours before a critical, life-threatening event happened.”  

Insights = Caregiver Empowerment

That kind of insight into the patient’s health can offer caregivers an empowering support system, by providing the ability to care for them proactively.

“Making information available on a personal level, shared across organizations in a meaningful way, begins to help patients and their families create their complete health story,” said Alpa Vyas, Vice President and Chief of Patient Experience at Stanford Health Care.

This week on our Vital InSights podcast, we talked to two guests – Mike Tiffany, COO of EarlySense and Clint Cetti, Global Director of Strategy & Innovation at AT&T, about how innovation in healthcare is advancing care across the board – not just for the patient, but for their caregivers as well.

“There is this whole ecosystem of care around a patient [that includes the caregiver],” said Clint. “And offering cellular technology closes a huge equity gap. We cannot assume all families and homes have WiFi. Designing devices with cellular technology eliminates that need and provides those patients and caregivers with an enhanced device for monitoring health in the home.”

You can tune in to hear more about how the future of caregiving will be impacted by cellular-enabled devices, 5G, edge processing and how we can ultimately share patient data in a more comprehensive way – across the whole care team.

By better supporting the caregiver, we better support patients.