By Quality Forum Staff
As the state-designated entity for health IT advancements in Louisiana, we spend a great deal of time talking to health care professionals and consumers about the benefits of things like electronic health records (EHRs) and the statewide health information exchange (HIE): how they drive improvements in health care quality and outcomes, how they reduce our reliance on fragmented and uncoordinated health care systems, how they lower health care costs, and so on.

But we don’t often get to talk about the benefits of health IT for caregivers, which is why we’re thrilled to have been asked to serve as a guest for a Twitter chat on that very subject this week.

On Wednesday, July 2, at noon (CST), under the Twitter hashtag #ElderCareChat, we will join @ElderCareChat and @Seniors4Living in a dynamic one-hour chat on health IT for caregivers.

Topics will include:   

- Information regarding caregiver and senior use of health IT

- The barriers and challenges to health IT use

- Existing and emerging care management technologies 

- EHRs, HIEs and how caregivers can use them 

- Patient portals

- Concerns about health IT use

- Health IT tools of the future

For us, this is an important conversation because statistically, the caregiver population in our nation is growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, four in 10 adults in the U.S. are caring for an adult or a child with significant health issues, according to Pew Research, and this number has jumped 30 percent in the past four years. The majority of our country’s caregivers are between the ages of 30 and 64, and most of them are still active in the workforce.

A few other quick facts about the caregiver population that you may not know:

The average caregiver spends a total of 19 days per month on caregiver-related tasks, including shopping, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, administering medications, feeding, dressing, grooming, walking, bathing and assistance toiling.

- Of family caregivers who provide complex chronic care, nearly half perform medical and nursing tasks along with assisted daily living responsibilities.

- Of working caregivers, 70 percent report work-related difficulties due to their caregiving roles, and 69 percent report having to rearrange their work hours, decrease their hours or take unpaid leave due to caregiving responsibilities.

- Absenteeism among working caregivers costs the U.S. economy an estimated $25.2 billion annually in lost productivity.

- The number of caregivers providing out-of-home care is increasing. These long-distance caregivers spend an average of $8,278 annually in caregiving expenses, compared to $5,885 by co-resident caregivers.

- An estimated 35 percent of caregivers rate their own health as fair to poor, and 11 percent report that caregiving has caused a decline in their physical health.

These statistics are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to describing the role and responsibilities of the average caregiver. In reality, caregivers are often overwhelmed by the many hats they wear: mom/dad, wife/husband, daughter/son, employee, health care coordinator, care manager, care administrator…. And understandably, they may feel stressed, tired and worried – and yes, they all too often ignore their own physical and mental health to care for others.

But the fact is, the use of health IT can go a long way toward reducing some of their stresses, and we’re looking forward to helping our friends at @Seniors4Living and @ElderCareChat shed some light on the subject.

We hope that you’ll join us and that you’ll invite others to do so as well. Whether you’re a caregiver, a health IT professional, a health care provider, a social worker, or simply an interested party, we know that you’ll have valuable insight to share with us – and hopefully, we can provide you with some insight as well.

Editor’s Note: To read more about the chat, including bios of Nadine Robin and Jamie Martin, the featured guests from the Quality Forum, and specific discussion topics, click here. To follow the Quality Forum on Twitter, click here.