Is Technology Really the Answer to all of Our Health + Wellness Prayers?

There can be no doubt, we live in a digital world. And increasingly, our expectations are framed by the comfort and ease with which we interact with the Internet, our digital devices, and the mobile apps we download to navigate our increasingly interconnected lives. Artificial intelligence. Autonomous vehicles. Virtual reality. They all have the potential to drastically remake our very existence.

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But does our comfort with these tech-enabled tools mean that there will always be a digital solution to every challenge we face? Especially the health and wellness challenges that come with aging?

Well we’re getting some insight into these questions with a new report from the Massachusetts eHealth Institute. Several of the Institute’s findings (here: 2017 MeHI Caregivers and Digital Health Report) are revealing, particularly as they relate to caregivers.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, in 2015 more than 43 million adults in the United States provided unpaid care to another adult or to a child. And as the population of Older Americans grows, those caregivers understandably look to technology to help them manage their caregiving responsibilities. But as the report notes, “the most common challenges for caregivers have nothing to do with the complexities of providing care.” Instead, survey respondents noted that “more challenging is the time and energy required while trying to balance caregiving with their personal lives and other daily tasks.”

Yet, almost 70% of people surveyed for the report said that available digital solutions had little or no impact on their caregiving.  Respondents noted that “the most appealing technologies for home-based caregivers are those that can:

  • Serve as a platform to facilitate peer-to-peer support;
  • Provide access to medical records and/or resources; or
  • Manage and/or consolidate tasks and time.”

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And of course, maybe the least surprising finding in the report – given the overwhelming supply of digital solutions present in the marketplace – is that “caregivers are either unaware of the [digital] options available to them, or they are aware of too many options and do not know how to choose between them.”

In the end, digital tools are just that – tools. And we should use them to get the job done. But technology alone isn’t going to solve every health + wellness challenge. Caregivers are people. And people helping people will always be the first and best answer to the challenge of aging well.