Awareness and education are key to supporting caregivers, who play a major role in health care
There is one aspect of health care that greatly impacts patient care, yet is often overlooked: caregiver engagement. There are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the U.S., according to Pew Research. Of that group, nine in 10 are family members providing care for an aging relative, often a parent.
“These individuals act as a patient support system, and not just emotionally, but through reinforcing care and treatment plans as well,” according to PatientEngagementHIT.com.
Doctors must take the time to understand the role of caregivers and to educate and engage them alongside their patients in order to ensure the best outcomes.
Caregivers’ role in shared decision-making
If a patient brings a caregiver to an appointment, take a moment to introduce yourself to that person and get an understanding of the nature of the relationship. Is the caregiver simply there for moral support, or will they be responsible for making treatment decisions and carrying out care instructions? This information will help guide your interactions.
Be mindful of the fact that patients’ and caregivers’ culture and age can play a role in these relationships. For instance, in some cultures, including Asians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanic populations, an older family member often acts as the spokesperson and decision-maker. Asking questions and avoiding making assumptions is the best way to proceed if you are unsure about a caregiver’s role in the patient’s health care. Speak to both the patient and the caregiver and make eye contact with both.
Caregivers are a key part of shared decision-making and should be included in patient education, such as simulations of treatment options with Rendia’s Exam Mode.
Patients will often look to a caregiver for their opinion on care decisions. For this reason, caregivers are a key part of shared decision-making and should be included in discussions about treatment options. Rendia’s Exam Mode was created with caregivers and patients in mind, to get everyone on the same page.
The Point-of-View (POV) feature shows what the patient is experiencing—for instance, what the world looks like to a person with cataracts, and how their vision would progress if the condition goes untreated. This is highly motivating for patients and caregivers to adhere to recommended treatment plans and schedule regular checkups. By showing powerful visuals that everyone can understand, patients and caregivers have a shared understanding of the problem and are better positioned to discuss solutions.
Adherence and follow-up care
Research shows that family caregivers play a major role in follow-up care. According to a study in the American Journal of Managed Care, patients with family caregivers involved in the hospital discharge process were five times more likely to complete post-discharge care activities and attend a 30-day follow-up appointment, reported PatientEngagementHIT.com.
Research has found that more than 60 percent of patients misunderstood the instructions for properly taking their prescriptions after their doctor’s visit.
Family caregivers can also act as a “second set of ears,” helping patients who are stressed and overwhelmed better retain and follow instructions from their doctors. According to the Advisory Board, research has found that “more than 60 percent of patients misunderstood the instructions for properly taking their prescriptions immediately after their doctor’s visit. Along with increased patient health risks, the health care industry incurs between $100 and $300 billion in avoidable health care costs due to medication non-adherence.”
How patient education technologies can help
Because caregivers play such a crucial role in the care of patients, health care providers should use patient engagement strategies that encourage their active participation.
Providers should utilize technology that helps share knowledge with caregivers, including online web portals, patient education videos, and apps.
Caregivers “often face the problem of continuously learning new information that may be difficult for the layperson to understand,” according to health care market research and consumer insights company, c2b solutions. Providers should utilize technology that helps with the transfer of knowledge to the caregiver, including online web portals and patient education videos and simulations. Rendia videos can be easily shared via email and posted on a provider’s website so that patients and caregivers can access them anytime.
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The caregiver’s role in health care is important. As PatientEngagementHIT.com put it, “Providers simply cannot single-handedly provide the sort of engaging care necessary to care for the whole patient, and therefore need the help of families and caregivers to help fill in the gaps.”