Non-professional caregivers are an important source of physical, emotional and other support to
ill or injured Veterans. With an increasing number of Veterans who require care and assistance for
traumatic brain injuries (TBI), physical impairments, or other debilitating disorders such as posttraumatic
stress (PTSD) and dementia, there is a greater growing demand for spouses, parents or
other family members and friends to assume the role of caregiver. Electronic health applications
and tools are increasingly available and have the potential to facilitate caregiving outside of
traditional healthcare settings, especially in the context of the rising use of smartphones and
mobile technologies. Lessons learned from prior consumer health information technology
(CHIT) interventions could help inform the development of health-related mobile applications.
CHIT applications are defined as electronic tools or technologies intended for use by consumers,
by patients or family members, that interact directly with users for the management of their
health or healthcare, and in which data, information, or other recommendations are tailored
and/or individualized; the system may or may not link to a health professional or health system
services. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) is currently developing mobile applications
intended for use by seriously injured post-9/11 Veterans and their family caregivers enrolled in
the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program. This report was requested on
behalf of the VA offices that are developing these mobile tools. The objectives of this report
are the following: 1) to identify studies of CHIT applications that aim to support the needs of
caregivers; 2) examine the usage and effects of CHIT applications on caregiver burden outcomes,
and patient outcomes, clinical process measures, and healthcare utilization of interest; 3) discuss
parallels that can be drawn from pediatric literature, and 4) identify gaps in the literature.
The Key Questions were:
Key Question #1: How does the use of consumer health information technologies (CHIT) by nonprofessional
caregivers of adult patients with chronic illnesses or disability, or by such patients
who rely on a non-professional caregiver, affect outcomes for caregivers, patients, clinical
process measures, and healthcare utilization?
Key Question #2: What lessons can be learned from studies evaluating consumer health
information technologies that specifically target the parents/caregivers of children?
Key Question #3: What are the major gaps in the consumer health information technology
literature serving non-professional caregivers of adult patients with regards to technology
development, availability, and/or evaluation?