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Designing Technology for Caregivers: Understanding What Works and Doesn't



To help shape development of the caregiver technology marketplace and stimulate market growth, it is vital to pinpoint and address key areas of need identified by family caregivers. Project Catalyst commissioned HITLAB to conduct three pilot studies that tested technologies in three areas identified as pain points from prior Project Catalyst research: care coordination, emergency alerting, and in-home aide services. By increasing understanding and knowledge among innovators and investors about the caregiver technology market, they can better support the millions of family caregivers, both today and in the future.

Family caregivers tested either a care coordination platform, a personal emergency response (PERS) device, or a home care aide hiring platform for up to 6 weeks. We asked them to assess whether and how technology could address their concerns, determine plusses and minuses of function and design, barriers and opportunities for use, and areas for future improvement. Most caregivers care for one adult on their own. For half of caregivers, it’s a part- or full-time job.

The Care Coordination pilot offered several benefits and addressed several caregiver concerns about managing and tracking care recipients’ needs. However, room for improvement exists in functionality, complexity, and user-friendliness; additionally, cost remains a barrier for some.

The PERS pilot was well received and benefited caregivers and care recipients. This fostered additional peace of mind as well as some unanticipated benefits. Several features were considered “must have” core components, however, cost was a considerable barrier for some participants. Additionally, flexibility, added functionality, and automated features were highly desired.

The Home Aide pilot addressed several barriers to hiring paid home care aides—cost, vetting/screening, scheduling, and care recipient compatibility in hiring. Its strong success rate demonstrated a clear need for this type of tool, which offers caregivers and care recipients more control and input into the complex and emotional decision-making processes when hiring home care aides.

About Project Catalyst and HITLAB

Project Catalyst fills a gap in the market by putting the 50-plus consumer at the center of innovation. By conducting consumer research of new and emerging products with the 50-plus consumer, we help inform developers about how their products and services are working to improve the lives of Americans as they age. Research was conducted for Project Catalyst by HITLAB.

HITLAB is a healthcare innovation lab that helps leading organizations with the ideation, creation, evaluation, and diffusion of technology-based solutions to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare worldwide. Our scientific, multidisciplinary approach allows us to effectively investigate digital health research questions, providing stakeholders from all sectors of the global healthcare system with meaningful ideas and products, as well as an evidence base across numerous therapeutic and geographic areas.

For more information, contact Tara Dunion at


Suggested Citation:

Project Catalyst and HITLAB. Designing Technology for Caregivers: Understanding What Works and Doesn't. Washington DC: AARP Research, November 2017.

Caregiver Costs

Caregiving Comes with Financial Burdens

In 2016, family caregivers spent on average just under $7,000 per year, or an average 20% of their income, on caregiving expenses.

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