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Politico’s Dan Diamond recently reported out a series of podcasts shining a spotlight on various healthcare professions and how these front-line workers wrestle with pressing health policy questions.

To kick off the series, Mr. Diamond explored home healthcare workers. Home healthcare aides — who provide daily non-medical care to individuals with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment — is among the fastest growing occupations for the next 10 years, The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects.

As Mr. Diamond notes, home care is largely disconnected from the greater healthcare system. And yet, as the system shifts from fee-for-service to value and explores how to incorporate social determinants of health into the care delivery system, home care should be offered a seat at the table.

 

What’s behind the job growth?

Home healthcare services are expected to grow 54.2% through 2026. That’s a whopping additional 738,200 workers entering the field. It’s more than double the growth percentage in most other industries. In fact, the average growth rate of all workers across all industries is only 7%.

What’s fueling this growth? America’s aging population. About 10,000 Americans are aging into Medicare every day — and they want to be comfortable. Data from AARP show 87% of adults over the age of 65 don’t want to move as they age.

That’s created a lightning in a bottle-style opportunity for growth in home care services. Many are worried the supply of home care workers won’t be able to keep up with the demand.

However, even if there are enough home care workers to meet the needs of the elderly population, these workers are still by and large siloed from the overall healthcare system. That’s a mistake.

 

Home care is the first line of response for healthcare

There’s no question that home care can and should be better integrated into the larger healthcare system. It just makes sense.

Home care workers get a firsthand look into people’s environment and health status every day. These professionals build relationships with clients and have an intimate knowledge of who they are and their ongoing health conditions. If a cold begins to look like it could take a turn for the worse, for example, a home care professional is there to notice right away.

Home care workers can be the true early responders and reporters of adverse health events. A professional can help nurture a client back to health or know when to call in more skilled clinical resources.

 

Healthcare industry should partner with home care

With this perspective in mind, it’s surprising that home care isn’t better entwined with the healthcare delivery system. Home care offers a natural partnership that aligns with the healthcare industry’s triple aim.

By being proactive, home care workers can surface potential health complications before they worsen and get individuals the right care at the right place at the right time.

But we see the demand growing and predict an explosive growth and need for home care coming by 2021. It’s part of the reason we launched our new Medicare At Home service. About $40 billion is spent on patient readmissions within 30 days of a hospital discharge. Another $45 billion is wasted on poor care transition management annually.

The healthcare system is on an unsustainable trajectory. For the betterment of the system, home care needs to be incorporated as a regular touchpoint into care delivery. It’s encouraging to see Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hint at housing and other social services reimbursement models through the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation but more will be needed than just talk. In fact, Hawaii was recently given the green light to use Medicaid funds to help homeless people find housing. We look forward to more developments in this area.

Interested in learning more about our Medicare At Home program? Email partners@carelinx.com.

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