Patient caregivers and mHealth: A natural fit

With all of the recent focus regarding healthcare applications going to the FDA's most recent approval--the Mobile MIM radiology app--it can be easy to forget a less-touted area of healthcare where mHealth technology could prove just as vital in the coming years: patient caregivers.

Often overwhelmed with the burden of organizing, coordinating and maintaining their loved one's health needs, caregivers increasingly are turning to technology to manage the chaos. FierceMobileHealthcare told you last month about about a new National Alliance for Caregiving study showing that more than two-thirds of family caregivers would find web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving helpful.

My favorite so far is the AFA Caregiver app for iPhones, created in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) to help caregivers track loved ones with dementia. The patient wears a Breadcrumbmobile GPS tracking device, which caregivers can check anytime to locate their loved one, according to AFA statements. The unit also automatically sends the caregiver a text message, email or phone call  if the patient leaves predesignated "safe" areas. The app can even display the location on a map, and the route the patient took to get there.

Here are a few other iPhone apps worth a shout, some courtesy of RN Amy Drouin, writing for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York blog "A Day in the Life":

1. Family Health Notebook ($0.99). Allows caregivers to input and track medical appointments for their loved one, with notes on the doctor's name, patient's symptoms and primary diagnoses, treatment plan, medications, etc. The caregiver also can email appointment reminders or notes from physician visits to other family members.

2. PillMinder (free). A medication reminder to help caregivers track their loved one's medication use. Caregivers enter the meds list, dosages, etc., and can record when the patient has (or has not) taken his or her needed pills.

3. Dosecast ($2.99). This meds reminder just gives an alert on your iPhone when it's time to take medications.

4. ELDER 411 ($1.99). This app provides general information about caring for the elderly, including how to hire appropriate respite help.

5. Care Connector (free). This app allows caregivers to record a full medical profile for their loved ones, including appointment times and dates (along with reminders). It provides fields for tracking adverse health symptoms, physician-ordered treatments, and patient response. It even includes message boards to keep caregivers connected. 

6. Public Speech Recorder (free). Simple recording app that caregivers can use to record their parents' favorite tales, or their own memories of good times with their loved ones. Replaying them for a patient with dementia can be a powerful way to alleviate distress. 

7. Tell My Geo ($9.95/month). This iPhone app is aimed at emergency responders, providing access to the patient's medical history via smartphone. Can be programmed as a location device as well. 

8. Personal Caregiver (free). It tracks meds for up to three patients, and offers an upgraded version with automatic alerts about FDA recalls.

9. Pain Care (free). Caregivers can track their loved one's levels of pain, duration, etc., and share that information with physicians. - Sara

P.S.: If you're attending HIMSS11 in Orlando next week, be sure to attend our breakfast discussion on mHealth's role in electronic medical records and achieving Meaningful Use. It all takes place Tuesday, Feb. 22, beginning at 7 a.m. at the Wyndham Orlando Resort. Learn more and register now