The Health Care Paper Trail Isn't an App


The Health Care Paper Trail Isn't an App

During a phone conversation with a colleague on Monday, she asked me, "What's the latest on caregiving technology? I see so many apps out there but I'm wondering if they are being used?"

We do have lots of apps that can help us manage health care information and coordinate a caregiving team. According to AARP research in 2016, 71% of (family) caregivers are interested in technology to support their experience but only 7% of caregivers use caregiving technology.

Over the years, I've shared some thoughts about why we don't use more technology. Sometimes, we find out about the technology during a stressful caregiving time which means we just can't think clearly enough to learn how to use a new app. Sometimes we don't trust that the technology (like an app) will survive so we hate to invest our time in something that may not last. Sometimes, we just decide sticking to what we've always done (using pen and paper) is the best use of our time.

I shared this explanation to my colleague: When we enter the health care system -- either through our caree's doctor's appointment or hospitalization -- we receive paper. The paperwork includes notes about the office visit, follow-up instructions, orders for tests. And, then when we go to more doctor's appointments and our caree has more hospitalizations, we get more paperwork. During consults before a procedure or surgery, we receive a folder of paperwork with instructions. At hospital discharge, we get a paper folder filled with even more paperwork.

What do we do with all this paperwork? We put it in a binder, which becomes our system for keeping track, staying organized and organizing our caree's medical history. The binder becomes our reference book, our encyclopedia and our documentation to dispute and to advocate. (I first wrote about this in the summer of 2015; read Righting Backward Caregiving Technology.)

What if we didn't get paperwork but an app? And, hold onto your hat, what if the app worked across any health care system? What if I have one app that I can use regardless of which hospital system my dad uses? He uses three hospital systems right now -- one for his skin cancer, another for this bladder cancer and another when he requires hospitalization for other medical problems.

What if during that first doctor's appointment we attend with our caree, we leave with an app that includes doctor's notes, prescriptions, referrals and treatment plans? What if I can use the app with all other health care systems and services -- like the pharmacy, the long-term care facility for rehab, the home health agency? The becomes the app we start using immediately which becomes our go-to technology as our caregiving intensifies. If we get that app early on, we don't have to learn how to use the app when we're too stressed during the intense caregiving times.

Even better, the app adds support and help for us as we do more and more for our caree. The app includes training videos for us, a list of caregiving supplies we'll need, a way to connect with others in a similar situation so we give and receive support, a list of community resources and services, access to meditations and helpful podcasts, suggestions for products and services that we may want.

I'm still wondering: What if the health care system gives us an app that helps and connects us rather than contains us to a binder?

Like this article? Share on social


Sign in to comment


I posted on LinkedIn and shared on Twitter. I'll keep you posted if anyone raises their hand to develop something that helps us.


A cross-provider health care app, that worked on IOS or Android systems, and wasn't complicated...that would be awesome. Even better if it had notifications to remind us of appointments, medication times, needed labs...and to stop and breathe! (Add a calming mediation element to it!). But, seriously, this is so needed. And you wouldn't have to remember to lug the binder.