Members of a multidisciplinary care team may include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, radiologists, dieticians…the list goes on. But one key member is often omitted: the patient’s caregiver. With an estimated 65 million people serving as caregivers,1 the role is now a factor in an ever-increasing list of healthcare priorities. Although the caregiver is seen as an extension of the patient and their role is not strictly defined, they are informal members of the front-line care team. Before being called upon as a resource for family or friends, the caregivers themselves may be unaware of the enormity of the impending commitment or the value of a support system during their service.
There is a diminishing number of people available for caregiving and 1 in 6 adults expects to become a caregiver within 2 years.2 In 2019, there were 7 potential family caregivers per older adult. By 2030, it is estimated there will be only 4 potential family caregivers per older adult and some are also caring for children of their own. The increasing burden of caregiving affects not just individuals, but families, communities, and the nation.3
If caregiving is positioned as an essential service and caregivers are counted among healthcare’s front-line service providers,4 does it follow caregivers are a viable healthcare vertical?
The Caregiver Composite
A caregiver can be a family member or a friend, generally unpaid, who assists a person with a disability or health problem. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 adults provides an array of care.2
- 98% provide emotional support1
- 96% go with their loved one to medical appointments1
- 82% help with decision-making1
- 79% coordinate medical care1
- 80% provide transportation1
- 74% help manage finances1
While caregiving can be rewarding, a long-term care commitment may impede the caregiver’s ability to work and socialize. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding the level of commitment needed. While the duration of care varies, nearly half of caregivers are actively engaged for at least 2 years. Almost a third devote about 20 hours a week to caregiving. Additional concerns for the caregiver include a strain on physical and mental health.5 While the CDC gathers information on these topics for public health planning, there are immediate needs that pharma can address.
What Can Pharma Do?
The FDA has studied the importance of caregivers to drug development and regulatory decision-making. Findings note that caregivers are a vital source of information. Caregiver observations of the patient experience over the progression of the disease may inform the safety and efficacy of a particular therapeutic. Including caregiver insights and creating specific caregiver materials in the product development cycle is a good place for pharma to engage caregivers. The need is greater for caregivers who are tasked with administering medicine or treatment, which may include injections. This deserves advance consideration; otherwise, the caregiver may be working without instruction or proper training to deliver essential care. Pharma can help with caregiver-relevant labeling, training to perform nursing duties, and a multitude of other support services.6
The caregiver’s influence on the patient’s adherence, reactions to adverse effects, and treatment persistency can be a game-changer for the brand. As the patient faces advanced disease progression, caregivers make more and more care decisions, including the evaluation of treatment options. Brand marketers who carve out a caregiver platform can determine specific education and support based on disease state and prognosis.1 Providing resources like articles, videos, or a helpline is vital to educate caregivers. Keeping the caregiver healthy and focused during their unselfish service to the patient is also critical to achieving better health outcomes.
When pharma addresses the caregiver as a vertical, it sets up the rest of the care team to recognize the caregiver as a formal contributor to the HCP/patient relationship. Becoming “the caregiver champion” positions pharma to better understand and contribute to this important member of the frontline care team.
Sunny White is an Editorial Advisory Board member for the Pharma Marketing Network with unique insights into how important caregivers are to the HCP/patient relationship and overall health outcomes. Sunny’s healthcare marketing agency, Xavier Creative House, specializes in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device.
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- Gilda’s Club. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015-2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Data from adults in 44 States, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. February 2019. Accessed March 12, 2022.
- National Alliance for Caregiving. Public Health. Accessed March 15, 2022. https://www.caregiving.org/publichealth/
- American Psychological Association. Caregiving Facts. 2011. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caregiving for family and friends — a public health issue. July 2019. Accessed March 12, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/caregiver-brief.html
- Whiting CG, Wong SL. Extension of the patient: expanding the role of caregivers in biopharma development. Clinical Leader. February 18, 2020. Accessed March 17, 2022. https://www.clinicalleader.com/doc/extension-of-the-patient-expanding-the-role-of-caregivers-in-biopharma-development-0001