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Does your family have a Chief Health Officer?

While it might seem odd to use a business term to describe a role within a family, chances are you know exactly who I’m talking about within yours. Did you know that approximately 80% of the healthcare choices in the family are made by a single person? That person is also the one who predominantly takes the children to the doctor when needed. And, 70% of the time that person ensures family members get recommended care. These very special people are who I’m referring to as the Chief Health Officers (CHO) of the family’s healthcare.

I am a proud (albeit sometimes begrudging) CHO for my family. That’s not to say that my husband doesn’t pull his fair share of the responsibility or doesn’t help make decisions. He does, and we’re a great team. But the fact is that it’s usually a specific parent or caretaker who takes on the majority of what goes with this important position. Scheduling the appointment, juggling work schedules to take off for the appointment, calling school to ensure the kiddo is cleared for the absence, driving to said appointment, filling out the pre-visit forms, and so on typically falls under my purview.

The truth is that no matter who the CHO is for your family, it’s guaranteed to be only a tiny sliver of his or her daily responsibilities. In particular, for mothers today, this has continued to become more challenging. About 71% of mothers with children younger than 18 were in the labor force in 2012, compared to only 47% in 1975.

This is important because as women focus on their careers, they oftentimes get married later in life, and ultimately get a later start as mothers. This means that one might go straight from managing her own children’s care to managing an elderly family member’s care. When healthcare needs of both children and elders take place at the same time, it can put a lot of strain on an already taxed and stretched CHO. And while the needs may be similar, they’re not the same. Frankly, it can be tough to balance.

A friend of mine is going through this right now, sharing the responsibility of caring for an aging parent with her siblings. Managing this extra responsibility while ensuring that everyone has all relevant information is just one of the challenges to solve as CHO. That’s where healthcare information technology (IT) comes into play. For example, FollowMyHealth® enables authorized individuals to access relevant information about a patient’s health. In my friend’s case, it means every sibling can have access to their parent’s health information through their own individual accounts.

That’s just one small example, and those of us in the healthcare IT industry can do more to help the CHO. After all, the average American parent is balancing work, children, relationships, hobbies and more. Healthcare shouldn’t feel like another burden on the to-do list.

While we can’t solve every challenge, some of the improvements I’ve seen in the industry have been life changing for helping me manage this phase of life. Until then, to my fellow CHOs, be proud of your accomplishments and keep up the good work!

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