In Austria, about every fourth family takes care of relatives or friends. Does this topic also affect you personally, in your environment?
In my research project, I deal with informal care, which includes services from the social environment of the caregiver and includes relatives, neighbours and others. This topic is of particular concern to me. From my private environment, I know the situation of caring relatives, the challenges of everyday life, but also the pressure that weighs on them. This makes it all the more important for me to research in this area.
What are you specifically researching in your project?
I analyse the quality and costs of informal long-term care from a societal perspective. The main aim is to make the indirect consequences of informal care measurable and to compare different care arrangements. Professional care is not always cheap, but informal (family) care can also result in high costs – although not necessarily in a monetary sense. Family caregivers, for example, often put back in their private lives, or feel like a burden to their social network. In addition to physical health aspects, such things are also part of a “care outcome”. It is difficult to include these things in political decisions because they are hard to measure or quantify. This is exactly where the project starts.
What is your specific motivation or goal in this project?
It is important to me to work out the preferences and needs of patients, informal carers and relatives and to relate them to care outcomes. Behind this lies the major goal of being able to design care arrangements more effectively on the one hand, and more satisfactorily for all those involved on the other – in other words, a motivation for care policies. After all, this topic will gain even more relevance and space in the coming years.
What is your research work like?
It starts with a systematic overview that collects and evaluates previous cost and quality indicators. Based on this, we go into the field before the results are tested in an experimental setting. In addition to health and economic outcomes, the focus is primarily on social aspects: What is important to informal caregivers and patients, or where do we accept losses? How are social resources reflected in the care relationship? And how can we make these relationships economically visible?
What makes this project unique?
The far-reaching socio-economic and social perspective: “costs” are not only understood in monetary terms, but also, for example, as a loss of quality of life or changes in the social network. Quality indicators can also be assessed differently: for example, relatives may consider it more important that patients receive the best possible medical care. The latter may place more value on being cared for at home.
Your research project is supported as part of the dissertation call of the Gesellschaft für Forschungsförderung NÖ (GFF). How did the project idea come about?
My colleague Alexander Braun originally had the project idea. As a health economist and professor at the Institute of Health Management, he deals with these issues. Together we submitted the project to the GFF’s dissertation call and were awarded the contract. For me, it is a perfect combination of the research work at IMC Krems and my doctoral studies at Vienna University of Economics and Business. I now have the opportunity to tackle a big project myself in a great team.
What particularly motivates you about your research work?
The great relevance for the future on the one hand. I am researching something that will most likely affect us all in some way at some point but is difficult to grasp. At the same time, the scientific field is still very new and small, so there is a lot to discover.
What do you personally think women in science need?
I think it is particularly important to have the opportunity to network with others and “think together”, as well as a positive working atmosphere – not only for women. At IMC Krems, I feel very comfortable in this respect. In general, I have the impression that there is quite an open and pleasant atmosphere in my academic field.
What do you find exciting about research work?
Learning about different and new perspectives and then putting them into a larger context to draw conclusions for further steps. I think it’s great to do something that serves our society.
I also find this project methodologically very exciting -– among other things, I will conduct a systematic review, a qualitative survey using interviews and a discrete choice experiment. This way, I can explore informal care situations from very different starting points.
About Barbara Gösenbauer
After a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Barbara Gösenbauer (27) completed a master’s degree in socioeconomics at Vienna University of Economics and Business, where she is now doing her doctorate. After positions at the University of Vienna, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Karl Landsteiner Private University and Institute for Advanced Studies, she is also teaching at IMC Krems as a research assistant at the Institute for Health Management.