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High Tech as High Touch: Using InfoSAGE to Connect Caregivers and Older Adults

High Tech as High Touch: Using InfoSAGE to Connect Caregivers and Older Adults

Using an online platform to facilitate information exchange and care coordination between those over 75 years of age and their support network is feasible and has the potential to increase quality of life for older adults.

Principal Investigator: Safran, Charles
Organization: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Research Profile: InfoSage Information Sharing Across Generations and Environments
Funded Amount: $2,407,309

Recognizing the challenges of caring for older adults

As the number of adults over 75 years old increases, there is a growing need for families to assume a caretaking role and assist with their health and social needs. Caregiving can be challenging, as coordinating care is often the responsibility of one family member, and elderly adults may live alone or far from immediate family. To address these challenges, Dr. Charles Safran and his Boston, MA-based research team, including Dr. Yuri Quintana, created a secure, web-based platform for patients and families to communicate, collaborate, and search for curated information and local resources relating to aging.

Sharing knowledge while maintaining privacy Information

Sharing Across Generations and Environments (InfoSAGE) is a free, open-access website and mobile app (https://www.infosagehealth.org/app/#/) designed to share the personal health information and caregiving needs of older adults, called the “keystone,” with their caregivers. The platform includes a search function, information resources, calendar, shared task list, medication list, networking function, and a microblog. Described by Dr. Safran as “a new way to think about how systems are built to support patients and families,” the platform is designed to evolve with the needs of the older adult user as they transition from full independence to family-supported care. In the tool, the keystone decides which caregiver(s) may access the personal information in the platform and can make changes at any time to the amount of access the caregiver has. The research team studied how older adults and their caregivers used the tool and evaluated the extent to which to the platform improved communication, collaboration, and coordination between these two groups.

It’s easier to introduce technology when you don’t have to use it. The time an elder is having a crisis is the worst time to intervene with the family. It’s better to find opportunities to introduce technology before they are needed, because when they are needed, it’s almost too late.”
– Dr. Safran

When InfoSAGE is needed the most

Dr. Safran found that InfoSAGE is most useful during transitions of care, for example when an elder is acutely ill and is transferred to the hospital. These transitions represent times where the risk of adverse events due to potential miscommunication is greater and is a time of significant vulnerability for patients. The research found the usefulness of InfoSAGE is highest if introduced when the elder is well and being used before it is needed in a medical crisis. By connecting individuals to their families and support networks, applications such as InfoSAGE have the potential to increase quality of life in elders by improving access to information, improving the ability to communicate, and reducing isolation. In future research, Drs. Safran and Quintana will be exploring the right time to introduce these technologies to older adults and families and use of the technology to optimize the patient’s medication regimen.