As I described earlier this week, in my line of doctoring I frequently find myself struggling to obtain the kind of big data that I need: data on a frail elder’s symptoms and behaviors over the past days to weeks.
So I was delighted to meet yesterday with Julie Menack of 21st Century Care Solutions, a Bay Area geriatric care manager (GCM) with a special interest in applying technology to the care management of the elderly. She pointed me towards eCaring.com, an online platform for managing and monitoring home care services. (Disclosure: Julie is a paid consultant for eCaring. I have no current or planned financial ties to either eCaring or to Julie, although given that Julie and I provide complementary services to frail elders in the Bay Area, we will probably have an opportunity to serve the same client/patient eventually.)
The idea of eCaring seems to be this: caregivers, especially the ones hired by care managers, often keep daily logs to record the care provided, as well as how the care repicient is doing. Of course historically records have been kept on paper, often in a “care binder.”
The trouble with paper and binders, however, is that this information is difficult to share and analyze. I personally hate it when people refer me to a binder for information. It’s the 21st century, people. If the information counts, it needs to be in a computer, AND backed up.
Enter eCaring. This company provides a computer-based platform for caregivers to record all this information (this part is called CareTracker). The information can then be shared with family, case managers, or healthcare providers, through review of the CareJournal, or by using the CarePortrait feature, which creates customized reports.
The platform will also eventually include an alert feature. Once the parameters of an alert have been defined, then entering a trigger prompts a notification sent by text or email to designated recipients.
Of most interest to me is that if information is regularly and properly
documented, this creates a database of information that is potentially
very useful to me clinically. The platform does support a form of
querying the data, to focus on a trend related to eating or pain, for
So will eCaring actually work for my purposes? And will it lead to better health outcomes for elders?
I can’t say for sure, as I haven’t tried it yet. And since it’s fairly new, Julie herself is just starting to pilot it with clients.
However, the concept has a lot of potential. Finding an effective way to document and manage this information could be extremely helpful for care coordination purposes. And access to this type of information could help doctors such as myself evaluate common complaints that come up for geriatric patients.
In the end, the proof will be in the pudding. Entering a lot of data is often harder for on-the-ground users than we expect. For a doctor like me, the data also needs to be easily viewed, sorted, and queried; if it’s a pain to do this, we’ll find doctors yet again avoiding the information rather than engaging with it.
Another issue that will affect adoption is cost. eCaring is currently offering a free three month trial, but unclear to me how much it costs afterwards. And who will pay? Families out-of-pocket? Or perhaps hospitals post admission? Will accountable care organizations be interested?
Last but not least, as I’ve said before, if this becomes a stream of data aimed at providers, we will have to find ways to give providers time and infrastructure for reviewing and responding to the data. (We already have over 50% of docs in front-line specialties such as general internal medicine with signs of burnout; more data to take care of won’t help unless working conditions become more supportive.)
Despite all these caveats, I’m excited to learn about eCaring, and hope to get an opportunity to try it out soon.
By the way, my brief Google search didn’t turn up any similar products, but if you know of one, definitely let me know in the comments or by email.