I’m preparing a presentation about Caregivers and Health Information Technology to be delivered in a month at the HIMSS14 conference in Orlando with MaryAnne Sterling. So many challenges as caregivers, as persons in the center of care, as health professionals, as administrators, and as developers. First, there are different levels of caregiving. There’s the caregiving of life partnerships: partners, spouses, parents, children, friends. That’s different from caregiving for someone who has challenges with activities of daily living and different from caregiving someone who has diminished mental capacity, is acutely, gravely ill, or is dying. The value of technology for caregivers and the person in the center is to enhance information access, communication, tracking and scheduling. The farther along the continuum of intensity the lonelier it gets and the harder it is to carve out time for anything else, especially technology. What did we do before video links like Skype or FaceTime, before tweets, chat rooms, and social media? They’re easy to learn, easy to execute, immediate gratification – limit loneliness. Tracking and scheduling on paper and spreadsheets has been forever-apps have a learning curve. Searching the web is easy, but getting your personal health information is hit and miss and takes maintenance to keep accurate and up-to-date. Communication with and between health professionals remains, for me, the greatest challenge. Technology can help – but only for those who already prioritize communication. If you’re good at communicating, technology is a wonderful adjunct. If both parties aren’t good at it, technology is no help at all. The main dish of caregiving is person-to-person. Technology is the cutlery and the dessert.
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