Home Health Care Industry Booming as America Ages

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Home Health Care Industry

Shortened hospital stays often means patients with acute conditions or chronic diseases are inadequately prepared for discharge to their home environment

As America ages and baby boomers enter their golden years, the demand for home health care services has drastically increased. Shorter hospital stays along with advances in home care technology have paved the way for the aging population to receive comprehensive skilled nursing services in their own home – while under a physician’s plan of care.

The home health care market is expected to grow 7.7 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2011 to 2016, according to Market Research.com, a leading provider of market research information. This forecasted growth is largely due to the shift in treatment from hospitals to home as well as a move from treatment to proactive monitoring, as in telehealth services.

A trend in shortened hospital stays often means patients with acute conditions or chronic diseases are inadequately prepared for discharge to their home environment, leading to mismanagement of the disease process and unnecessary visits to emergency departments.

The number of patients who needed home health care after being discharged from hospitals surged by about 70 percent (2.3 million to 4 million) from 1997 to 2008, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Patients referred to home health receive comprehensive follow-up care by way of at-home monitoring that alleviates missed office visits, encourages adherence to discharge instructions and physician orders, and addresses social service needs.

In addition to being a cost-effective option for receiving health care services, home health promotes quicker recovery and improves the quality of life for both patient and family.

Medicare home health covers a wide range of medical services (skilled nursing, restorative therapy, and medical social services). Patients who typically go on home health service require skilled nursing to manage a chronic condition like congestive heart failure, or they may be recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery such as a hip replacement. Medicare covers all services for patients who are eligible.

To be eligible for Medicare’s home health benefit, patients must need part-time (fewer than eight hours per day) or intermittent skilled care to treat their illnesses or injuries and leaving home requires considerable effort. They must also be under a physician’s plan of care.

In 2011, about 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries received home health services from almost 11,900 home health agencies, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Seniors age 65 or older accounted for 39.6 million people in 2009, representing 12.9 percent of the U.S. population (about one in every eight Americans), according to the Administration on Aging. By 2030, that number will grow to 72.1 million, with seniors representing 19 percent of the population.

A majority of these seniors – nearly 90 percent – want to stay in their own homes as they age, often referred to as “aging in place,” according to the AARP. Even if they begin to need day-to-day assistance or ongoing health care during retirement, most (82 percent) would prefer to stay in their homes. Only a few express a preference for moving to a facility where care is provided (9 percent) or for moving to a relative’s home (4 percent).

In light of the rising popularity of home health care services, registered nurses, home health aides, and personal care aides are among the top five occupations projected to see the largest increase in jobs by 2020 as more people need their services than ever before, according to the Department of Labor.