At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, UnitedHealthcare launched Solutions for Caregivers, an online program that provides resources for caregivers and their family; personalized information, a discounted marketplace of products and services and care circle community for ongoing support.
UnitedHealthcare is addressing the evolving needs of a large population of caregivers. According to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP Public Policy Institute, an estimated 43.5 million adults have provided unpaid care during the prior 12 months, 34.2 million (79%) offering care for an adult age 50+.
“Many caregivers are searching for relevant resources but often don’t know where to start. Solutions for Caregivers addresses the needs of family caregivers through case management services and online resources that help caregivers more effectively care for their loved ones,” shares Dr. Richard Migliori, EVP and Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealth Group.
According to the Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 report, caregivers spend an average of 24 hours each week helping their loved ones. Many caregivers experience their own physical, emotional and financial strain as a result of their caregiving role. Half of the caregivers indicated “they had no choice in taking on their caregiving responsibilities,” and 40% report being in high-burden situations. When asked about their health, 17% said ”it is fair or poor”, compared with 10% of the general adult population.
Many caregivers (60%) admit they had to make a workplace accommodation, such as taking time off or reducing work hours. On average, caregivers assist with “4.2 out of 7 Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs),” including transportation, grocery/other shopping, or housework. Most caregivers (84%) report an interest in receiving more information such as “keeping their loved one safe at home” and “managing their own stress.”
UnitedHealthcare has conducted extensive research with family caregivers to understand their challenges around caring for a loved one. Vidya Raman-Tangella, M.D., head of UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation Center of Excellence, explains, “We heard that each journey is a ‘unique’ and ‘personal’ experience. Family caregivers are often not prepared and do not know where to begin, which causes anxiety. Some caregivers need support recognizing ‘what is good’ when making decisions for their loved one. Finally, UnitedHealthcare heard that the family caregivers did not want to feel alone and wanted to work together with others in their care circle.”
Vidya and her innovation team set out to define a solution based on these caregiver needs. The team started with a portal front end to house a set of tools to help caregivers:
Personalized Information – educational articles and videos that are tailored to the specific medical issues and needs of the care recipient and caregiver. UnitedHealthcare’s articles support the topics requested by caregivers (i.e. safety, stress). Users can save an article for future reference or share with others (i.e. siblings, health coach and clinician).
Marketplace – set of vetted discounted products and services to support the caregiver and care recipient’s conditions and challenges. Product categories include “assistive products”, “home monitoring”, “home safety” and “medication management.” Service categories span “financial”, “in-home care”, “nutrition” and “transportation”. Regarding “nutrition,” caregivers can order meals that are tailored to the care recipient’s health condition (i.e. low salt, low sugar). UnitedHealthcare’s marketplace is designed to support caregivers for activities they undertake on a regular basis, including transportation, shopping and house work.
One service option is for a “Care Manager” who can help the family plan or respond to care recipient/caregiver needs, via online, phone or consult (secure messaging). Some caregivers may have a health plan benefit that covers the care manager service, while others have the option of paying the hourly fee.
Currently, UnitedHealthcare has mostly national companies and a growing number of regional and local offerings in the marketplace. Based on the care recipient’s zip code, there may be a national service provider such as CareLinx, which offers services in the specified geography.
Community Support – centralized place where caregivers and friends of a loved one can connect, share insights and concerns (i.e. how does mom look today), add and view medical appointments & meetings on a daily/weekly/monthly calendar, post and assign tasks (i.e. a ride to the doctor’s appointment) and access a library of documents such as medication lists, doctors list, health records and a living will. The solution serves as a repository of this information, however there is no integration with the EMR or any clinical information
Caregivers can also invite others, such as clinicians and in-home caregivers, and enable them to securely access information and communicate on a common platform.
Although other companies promote online caregiver offerings today, UnitedHealthcare has designed a 'personalized caregiver solution'. During the sign-up process, the caregiver creates a profile by responding to set of questions about the care recipient; relationship, age, zip code, conditions and challenges. The caregiver also indicates their own health conditions and challenges.
For example, when family caregiver Carla responds that her 86-year-old mother has hypertension and diabetes and is dealing with mobility issues, and she (the caregiver) is experiencing depression, Carla will see articles, videos, products and services that are relevant to both of their needs.
Caregiver Solution Pilot
UnitedHealthcare is providing the Solutions for Caregivers program to large employers at no additional cost for employees to access the online services. As of January 2016, Solutions for Caregivers is being promoted to over 1 million employees. Currently, Solutions for Caregivers is also accessible to the public. For people using the employer-sponsored version, the company can cover the costs associated with care management services, enabling caregivers to access more holistic support. In comparison, people accessing the consumer site, or instances where the employer has not purchased the additional care management services, can pay out of pocket for these resources. In both versions, caregivers can access customized content, shop from the marketplace, and use the myCommunity resources.
UnitedHealthcare has received positive comments about their Caregiver solution, that it “saves time” and they would “recommend it to other caregivers”. To date, UnitedHealthcare has also noticed that many users are in the early stages of caregiving.
Future Solutions for Caregivers
“While it will take the rest of 2016 to build the volume of users, we will continue to grow our marketplace through strategic partnerships with product and service companies. We are especially interested in technology solutions for caregivers”, shares Dr. Vidya Raman-Tangella.
UnitedHealthcare is planning to leverage all customer service touch points to identify caregivers who are currently moving along the care journey or will be on the journey soon as potential users of the solution.
“Throughout the year, we will learn how this program is delivering value to caregivers and care recipients. With Boomers turning 70, we will be particularly interested to see how our offering will be used to support the boomers as they retire as well care for their loved ones”, explains Dr. Raman-Tangella.
“This program and others from UnitedHealthcare are making it easier and more convenient to people to take charge of their health and the health of their loved ones. By using technology and personalized resources, we are helping people to live healthier lives”, Dr. Migliori concludes.