Research Insight

The Rise of the Digital Caregiver



It’s no surprise the consumers are increasingly looking for and reliant on online health information, with Google ranking as the go-to source for individuals starting their online journey. However, with this surge of consumers scouring the Internet for health information, why are many companies forgetting about the caregiver?

In looking at some of the largest health brands that are relevant for a caregiver audience, these brands lump caregivers together with patients, or if they segment the caregiver audience out, the level of information leaves much to be desired.

To better understand the digital health journey, Edelman and Edelman Berland set out to dig deeper into what people are looking for in online health information, how they use it and the type and tone of content they are looking for. We looked at four audience segments. Three of these were demographics – Millennials, Generation Xers or Sandwich Generation, and Seniors. We also looked at one cross-generational audience – caregivers (which we defined as adults who are caring for another adult family member, so not parents of children). It was this group, caregivers, that specifically emerged as the most unsung and influential group in terms of how they can impact health behavior.

In our findings, caregivers emerged as the audience most engaged with digital health information, even more so than Millennials. Better yet, not only are caregivers accessing more online health information, they’re also sharing it more frequently. Some key findings from our study included:

  • 56 percent of caregivers stated they are more reliant on digital health information compared to last year.
  • 77 percent of caregivers have shared online health information in the past year, but 76 percent of those caregivers shared that information privately (email, text, private message).
  • 59 percent of caregivers are comfortable with sponsored content “as long as it clearly shows who the sponsor is and it’s relevant.”
  • One in three consumers preferred direct, instructive and matter-of-fact information as opposed to subjective tones such as encouraging or lighthearted messages.

Most importantly, the results showed that caregivers are not just more likely to consume digital health information but are also more likely to use it to influence behavior change – a very important finding for brands.

These results led to five key takeways for brands:

  • Caregivers are relying on digital health information more than ever.
  • Caregivers want online health content that is detailed, factual and puts them in control.
  • Caregivers share – but not always publicly.
  • Caregivers trust owned content.
  • Caregivers will share sponsored content that is entertaining, but informational content will help them change behaviors.

Brands need to ask if, and then how, they are targeting and leveraging an audience that is particularly influential – the caregiver. I encourage you to read the full results of the study below, including detailed information about the five key findings, to examine how to engage this untapped and influential audience through digital health information.

David Barton is a senior account supervisor with the Digital Health team in New York.

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