Technology creates a more accessible avenue for young caregivers.
The face of healthcare is changing. Baby Boomers, the second largest generation in the U.S., are aging into Medicare and potentially putting a strain on healthcare resources. However, that isn’t the only challenge. They are also straining the resources of their children. Gen X and, increasingly, millennials, are taking on roles as caregivers for their Boomer parents, along with caring for their own children. It’s no surprise that Gen Xers are now just as likely to be called the sandwich generation — stuck between caring for aging parents and young children.
Today, 54 million Americans are living in multigenerational households, according to Pew Research. Caring for parents and children is a big job and many feel there isn’t another choice. One study showed that nearly half of Gen Xers felt that they had no choice when it came to caregiving. In addition, there is the added burden of the time it takes. The study also showed that, for those providing care, usually to a parent, they might be doing so for as many as eight hours a day.
How can healthcare providers support these caregivers and make things a bit easier on them? Using the tools available in a patient relationship management (PRM) system is a good place to start. Most Gen Xers and millennials prefer digital tools to help manage their healthcare. Sixty-one percent say digital services play an important role when choosing a physician. Given the complexity of managing care for multiple people, this makes sense, but it’s more than the tools, it’s how the healthcare organization uses them.
Appointment reminders are a perfect example of how the way a tool is used can be even more important than actually using the tool. Caregivers could be overwhelmed with reminders and other messages. Although there are some best practices for the most effective reminder cadence, patients and their caregivers might want something different. This is why it is so important to ask. Make sure the PRM system that is used allows the healthcare organization to change settings based on patient preferences. The ideal timing of reminders could be three weeks, three days and three hours, but the caregiver might just want one reminder a week before. Asking about patient or caregiver preferences allows them to decide what makes sense for their needs. This is true for the way the message is sent as well. Do they want text, voice, email or a combination? The goal is to make things easier on caregivers by being conscious of their needs.
Another good example is scheduling. Scheduling and registering for appointments is very time consuming. The typical visit to a doctor consumes 121 minutes of the patient’s time — 37 minutes in travel, 64 minutes waiting for care or filling out forms and only 20 minutes face to face with the physician, one study estimates. This equates to $43 in lost time for each medical visit. Another study found that Americans spent 1.1 billion hours per year obtaining such care for themselves or others — time the researchers valued at $52 billion. There are several ways to reduce that time and cost for patients, including digitization of scheduling, form completion and bill pay, in addition to two-way text messaging.
Patient satisfaction is doubly important when you are dealing with a patient and a caregiver. Ninety percent of people no longer feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers that don’t deliver an overall satisfactory digital experience. By offering convenient, digital solutions, healthcare organizations can focus on caring for the patient while supporting the caregiver.
Jim Higgins is founder and CEO of Solutionreach. You can follow him on Twitter: @higgs77
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