Report: Family caregivers should be integrated into healthcare teams

November 10, 2020
Keith A. Reynolds
Keith A. Reynolds

Steps must be taken to bring these millions of family caregivers into the healthcare team.

While millions of Americans are acting as caregivers to family members, barriers still remain to their coordinating with a formal healthcare team.

In a new RAND Corporation study, researchers reviewed the research literature and interviewed 13 experts from diverse stakeholders to better understand these barriers and how to mitigate them. It is one of the first to take an in-depth look at integrating family caregivers.

According to a news release, there is an estimated 53 million family or friend caregivers in the U.S. which is a 9.5 million increase from 2015 to 2020. New policies and approaches need to be implemented to overcome the hurdles to integration.

The report authors found that these barriers to integration fell under four themes: identifying caregivers, communication and information-sharing, time limitations and competing demands, and trust and cultural barriers.

The interviewed experts also advised to invest in programs providing supportive services for family caregivers and expanding access to and funding for care coordinators, the release says.

“Family caregivers too often are treated as secondary members of the care team, with little direct access to the formal health care providers,” Esther M. Friedman, lead author of the report and a sociologist at RAND, says in the release. “We hope our research helps start a conversation about ways to better integrate family caregivers into the health care team.”

The experts also say that there should be training programs for physicians and caregivers on proper communication and encouraging leaders to develop technology that fosters integration and information sharing, the release says.

“The goal of this study is to identify promising policy directions and provide a blueprint for assessing, developing and implementing policies to improve integration of family caregivers into the health care team,” study co-author Patricia K. Tong, a RAND economist, says in the release.

The full study, “A Framework for Integrating Family Caregivers into the Health Care Team,” can be found at rand.org.