The home healthcare industry is growing at a faster rate than ever, in terms of both jobs and services. What’s behind this surging demand for home-based care, and what opportunities and challenges does it represent for healthcare employers? Here are the five key drivers behind home health growth and demand, along with a look at what the future might hold for care providers of all types.
A Closer Look at Home Health Growth Rates & Trends
Just how big is the home health growth rate? According to jobs data from July 2023, home health now represents a third of all new jobs in healthcare. That’s a “6% employment increase over the past year,” according to Marketplace. In addition, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a future growth rate of a whopping 22% in this sector for the period between 2022 and 2032.
What do these numbers mean? Once more or less restricted to its own silo, a wide variety of healthcare organizations now offer home health services. For hospitals, health centers, nursing facilities and others, moving certain types of care to the home can help control costs. It also offers a way to meet growing demand from patients and nursing home residents.
But if this trend offers opportunities for providers, it also creates challenges, like a new scarcity of qualified workers. Here’s a closer look at what’s driving the current rate of home health growth, as well as a look at what the future is likely to hold for employers.
What’s Driving Home Healthcare Growth and Demand?
#1: The Pandemic
Although home health growth has risen steadily for years, that trend was boosted significantly by the recent pandemic. The need to prevent the spread of Covid-19 spurred a surge in demand for care at home. It also led to greater investment in telehealth technology like virtual and remote care by many healthcare organizations.
“In February 2021, the use of telehealth was 38 times higher than prepandemic levels,” reports McKinsey & Company. That same report points out that Medicare visits through telehealth rose from about 840,000 in 2019 to 52.7 million in 2020. As a result, more payers and providers have seized the “opportunity to respond to evolving consumer needs” by expanding the availability of at-home care.
#2: The Aging of Americans
Even before the pandemic, payers and providers were shifting some aspects of care to the home to better control the costs of treating an American population that’s steadily getting older. In 2018, people aged 65 and older represented 15.6% of the population, as pointed out by Health Affairs. By 2023, that population will grow to 20%, and will outnumber Americans “younger than age five” for the first time.
This aging of the population is often cited as a primary factor in the need for more health workers in general. But it’s also driving home health care industry growth. For instance, older patients tend to have one or more chronic conditions, which can be costly to manage. Therefore, the ability to treat them at home can help keep expenses low. It also frees up available beds, helping providers serve more people at once.
#3: Growing Demand from Patients
Beyond the rising number of older Americans, though, more people in general prefer to receive care at home. “When patients enter a healthcare facility, their primary aims are to become well again and to go home,” as the McKinsey authors note. So, the option to receive almost the entirety of their treatment from the comfort of home naturally appeals to many.
Some of this demand can be traced to Covid-19. About 40% of patients who used remote care during the pandemic want to keep doing so, the McKinsey report notes. But other causes exist, too. For instance, the option of home care appeals to those with disabilities, for whom travel is difficult. It also makes it easier for all patients to schedule facetime with doctors, nurses and other caregivers.
#4: Advances in Technology & Better Clinical Results
Of course, the evolving possibilities of technology have made this rapid home health care growth possible in the first place. The growth in remote and virtual care noted above has been fueled by new, lower-cost telehealth delivery options. And, perhaps even more importantly, more providers choose to invest in this technology because it delivers positive outcomes.
The McKinsey report points to one striking example. When the Mayo Clinic used remote monitoring to manage ambulatory patients during Covid-19, it observed some encouraging trends. For instance, it improved the engagement of patients (to the tune of 78.9%) while driving down 30-day mortality rates (to 0.4%). It also resulted in low rates of ER visits (11.4%) and 30-day hospitalization rates (9.4%).
#5: Changing Reimbursement Models
However, home health growth involves more than telehealth technology. Indeed, much of the expanded hiring for home health centers on caregivers who actually travel to patient homes. This, too, can also be traced in part to the pandemic. For instance, the “Acute Hospital Care at Home” program offered more reimbursement opportunities for home-based care for providers other than home health agencies.
This paved the way for more acute care facilities to provide clinical care in the home setting. And those benefits remain in effect through 2024, well after the official end of the pandemic. This not only shows that the Centers for The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) understands the value of these programs, but also likely signals new incentives for home-based care in the years to come.
Future Challenges of the Surge in Home Health Growth
What do these trends mean in a larger sense, and what can providers expect in the years to come? Along with the opportunity to more effectively serve a larger patient population and keep them happy, the surge in home health growth also comes with some challenges.
As noted above, CMS is likely to continue rewarding home-based care because of its effectiveness in promoting positive outcomes and, in the process, delivering on the promise of value-based care. To that end, the McKinsey authors predict that as much as “$265 billion worth of care services for Medicare fee-for-service and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries could shift to the home by 2025.”
And because it allows them to treat more patients more cost effectively, the number of organizations offering home-based care will likely grow, too. So, while home health companies will see new opportunities for reimbursement, they’ll also see new competition from other providers. And every organization seeking to expand home care will also be competing for the workers who can deliver it.
As the Marketplace report notes, home health is now “a difficult field to hire in.” So, some providers may find themselves unable to seize the opportunities of home-based care for lack of qualified staff. And those who do embrace home health technology face another challenge. They’ll need to ensure the security of a lot more patient data as hackers increasingly target the healthcare industry.
Support Your Home Health Growth with CareerStaff
If you’re looking for support in your efforts to expand your home health offerings, we’re here to help. At CareerStaff, we offer everything from a nationwide network of qualified clinical workers to comprehensive, turnkey healthcare workforce solutions. Contact us today to learn more about what our Joint Commission-Certified solutions can do for your organization. Or, submit a home healthcare staffing request today!