The Future of Technology and Healthcare – Medscape’s Interview with Director of Caregiver Services, Linda Miller

Originally posted by Medscape

MEDSCAPE: Medscape recently conducted a survey that had some staggering statistics regarding burnout, depression, and suicide – with almost half of all caregivers experiencing some form of burnout or depression. How do you combat this in your places of work, and what do we need to do to combat these staggering statistics?

LINDA MILLER: There need to be more family caregiver components written into workplace leave policies that allow flexibility for caregivers to be able to work from home, have flexible hours, paid leave, and more education on elder care issues. Employee assistance programs should include case management to help families navigate services of support and help in their caregiving role. No one thinks twice these days about childcare issues and many employers even have onsite daycare. By the year 2030 there will be more people over the age of 85 then under the age of 18, and elderly care issues are only going to become more prevalent for employers than they may be aware of right now. It’s crucial that they get ahead of the game and be prepared.”

MEDSCAPE: What types of emerging technology, platforms, or models are you excited about (or hopeful for) as it relates to mitigating burnout?

LINDA: I’m very excited about family caregiver support program that TCARE offers to care managers, social workers, community outreach workers and others that directly interface with family caregivers. We now have an evidence-based protocol that can determine if a family caregiver is at risk for burnout. For a professional it can be a challenge to determine which caregiver may need a service. After all, some people can put on a good face and look like they have it all together, while others know how to work a system for support.

TCARE takes the guess work out of it for professionals and scientifically identifies those caregivers at medium and high risk for burnout. Resources which may be limited, can be better distributed to those in greatest need. I’ve seen things like medication dispensers and monitoring services that help in many ways. But TCARE is one of the first components that focuses directly on the family caregiver and their wellbeing. It not only identifies pertinent resources targeting their specific root cause of the burnout, but it also gives them a solid tool for linkage to resources to empower them in their role, follow up on their own wellness, and delivers overall better care to the person in need of care.

MEDSCAPE: Where do you see the technology that is helping solve this problem going in the next 5, 10, 15, 25 years?

LINDA: The demands in the healthcare field are only going to increase as our population continues to age. I see it becoming more and more prevalent and needed as a way to support professionals in their role. The demand for caregiver services will increase and the money for those services continues to either decrease or not match the need. Innovation is going to be required.

MEDSCAPE: How do you get caregivers and clinicians on board with new technologies?

LINDA: As we develop new technology, we need to be aware of who the end user is and make sure they are involved in the development stages. Education is the key for caregivers. Some will need time and instruction to learn it and showing [caregivers] the value of how it can help them is key. But if it is not affordable for the caregivers who are already challenged financially, they won’t buy into it.

As far as clinicians coming on board, I think they are becoming more and more apt to accept new technology, but I also think there needs to be a platform for clinicians to be able to take time to learn that technology, which is very challenging when you have large numbers of patients or clients to follow up with.

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