SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to describe the world of health care as the industry — the hospitals, the nursing homes, the medical device makers, and so on. But to do that would be to overlook the family members and friends of patients who take care of loved ones.

Carol Levine, director of United Hospital Fund’s Families and Health Care Project, wants to change that.

“This is a huge part of the workforce that nobody really sees and nobody truly pays a lot of attention to, except when, ‘It’s time to take your mother home now, here’s the medication list, so good luck,'” Levine said today at VentureBeat’s 2014 HealthBeat conference. “I’m joking, but not really.”

She said 42 million people get involved in family caregiving at some point every year. “If you paid them,” she said, “which nobody is willing to do, it would be about $450 billion a year.”

And so she and Rajiv Mehta, the founder of Bhageera, have been thinking about tools that give consideration to all those caregivers.

“I’m speaking about caregivers but really thinking about the patient,” Mehta said. Exploring the needs of caregivers, he said, could yield better care for the patients. Everyone involved can keep up to date. That was an issue when he and his wife were taking care of one of their children after some of the child’s teeth were removed. That challenge would surely be magnified for those who are taking care of a complex procedure, like chemotherapy.

“The overhead of keeping each other informed about who’s doing what, what’s going on, what’s new turns out to be enormous,” Mehta said.

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