Valuing Home Healthcare
DEXTER W. BRAFF
Home healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the healthcare industry. This growth is likely to be sustained well into the future for many reasons. In an environment where healthcare expenditures have come under tremendous scrutiny, providing services at home is a less expensive alternative to providing them in hospitals or other acute care settings. As baby boomers age, the population of older Americans will continue to grow, increasing demand for home health services. Technological advances are also driving growth in homecare. Sophisticated, portable, and affordable medical devices have been developed that are capable of providing high-tech services, such as intravenous therapy and ventilator care, in the home, allowing hospitals to discharge patients “sicker and quicker.” Advances in “telemedicine” will surely complement this trend. As homecare has gained acceptance as a viable, cost-effective, and clinically sound alternative to hospital care, physicians are more often willing to prescribe homecare for their patients. And, notably, physicians and patients alike increasingly recognize the psychological and, hence, physiological benefits that can be gained from being cared for in familiar surroundings with support from family and friends.
Homecare is generally divided into three segments. First, the home nursing sector, which accounts for the largest component of home