This app makes it easier for caregivers to ask for help

Published September 4, 2020

Caregivers in America need help caring for themselves, too. Sorting through the options shouldn't be so overwhelming.

About one in six Americans are caregivers. They’re helping loved ones dress, bathe, get to the doctor, manage medical conditions and medications and more. That’s often on top of working a paid job and raising a family. New research from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association finds that caregivers have higher rates of serious health conditions, and the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating their challenges. Resources to help caregivers manage their responsibilities and the impact on their own health are available, but sorting through them can be difficult.

Employers could play a key role in helping their employee-caregivers access those resources by tapping their health plans.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is piloting a solution called ianacare. The tool was selected after a rigorous judging process from a pool of 126 competitors as part of an innovation program that aims to fast-track promising solutions to market. 

“ianacare is an app for caregivers,” says Alyson Hoots, an Anthem portfolio director who specializes in addressing the social determinants of health through digital solutions. “Unsupported family caregiving is a vast and growing social issue, and there is a true opportunity to design solutions that make it easy for caregivers not only to navigate the vast array of resources, but feel more supported throughout their journey," says Hoots. Anthem has worked closely with ianacare on the app’s design, tailoring its offerings based on feedback from caregivers.

Ianacare connects caregivers with support

The app enables caregivers to mobilize personal social circles of friends, family, coworkers and neighbors who can respond to a range of requests, from help cooking a meal, to providing a ride to a doctor’s appointment, to giving a caregiver a much needed rest. Caregivers invite people to be on their team and can then put out specific requests for help. “Feeling like a burden is the number one reason help isn’t exchanged,” says Hoots. “Often times our friends, family and colleagues want to help, but aren’t sure how.” ianacare is designed to eliminate the burden of asking for help. 

Understanding caregivers’ needs

To test the impact of ianacare, Anthem asked some of its own associates who are also caregivers to try it out and share their feedback. Before using the tool, participants shared they were feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities, less productive at work and stressed. After using ianacare for six to eight weeks, participants reported a significant reduction in feeling overwhelmed, as well as a significant increase in feeling supported. They also reported missing fewer days at work. Anthem is working to include the next version of ianacare into a comprehensive caregiver solution that will be offered to all 78,000 Anthem employees.

Hoots says Anthem plans to continue collaborating with ianacare to add more options, including the ability to connect with a caregiver advocate, information about employer benefits, government programs and community services, such as meal delivery. Eventually, Anthem is looking to offer caregiver support programs to employer accounts.

Helping caregivers tap into their personal social circles is just the beginning, says Hoots. “The real magic comes in when we can make it easy for family caregivers to understand all of the resources they are qualified and eligible for with the click of a button, curating resources for their specific needs and optimizing their experience to support their overall health and well-being."

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Ianacare is a third party mobile application development company and in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Use of the ianacare name does not imply endorsement.