The market for home health care services is growing rapidly and is not likely to slow any time soon. The expanding need is due in large part to the aging of the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and ‘64. The boomers were once the nation’s largest living generation, defined by a notable increase in births in the United States following World War II. As this generation ages, it is creating a boom of sorts in the home health services industry.
Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and increasingly these seniors wish to continue living in their own homes rather than being moved to nursing homes or assisted living facilities. According to AARP, nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, referred to as “aging in place.” Most seniors (up to 82 percent) would prefer to stay in their homes even as they need daily assistance or ongoing health care. Few seniors say they would prefer to move to a care facility, and even fewer identify living with extended family as a desirable option.
The rate of home ownership among boomers is higher than with the rest of the population today, which is one of the primary reasons for increased demands for home care services. Reports reflect that 81% of seniors today own their own homes, compared to 68% for the rest of the population. The majority of these seniors live alone or with a spouse – we’ve already established that living with extended family isn’t a frequent choice, possibly due at least in part to reduced home ownership rates. There are also suggestions that the reduced economic status of later generations has similarly reduced the capacity for extended families providing the long-term care for their seniors.
Projected to double by the year 2050, the number of Americans requiring daily help with living at home is expected to grow from the current 12 million to 27 million. Older adults will make up almost 20 percent of the population, if not more.
These and other factors are driving rapid growth and expansion in the home health care field. Projected job growth for home health providers and personal care aids is expected to reach a whopping 70 percent by 2020. Larger than any other occupation grouping in the country, direct care workforce is projected to exceed teachers from kindergarten through high school (3.9 million), all law enforce and public safety workers (3.7 million), and registered nurses (3.4 million). Between 2010 and 2020, the fastest growing occupations in the country are projected to be Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides.
Home health care businesses providing in-home senior care, hospital after-care, veteran care and numerous other specialized and general services are supported by a number of specialized software solutions designed to meet the specific needs of this segment of the healthcare industry. The software used to support the business generally includes specific functionality for managing client and patient records, caregiver and provider information, scheduling and dispatch, payroll and HR, billing, and other back office and accounting processes.
Many of the industry-specific solutions available on the market address different or unique aspects of operating the home health care business, integrating data from their system with separate accounting and finance applications (such as QuickBooks desktop editions) for the rest of the functionality needed. This allows the developer of the line of business application to focus on the valuable features and capabilities that will make the practice more efficient, compliant and profitable, leaving general accounting processes (payroll, accounts payable, general ledger and reporting) to the accounting software.
With greater frequency, the applications servicing the home health care industry are SaaS solutions, crafted with online access and mobility in mind. This industry in particular has a specific need for remote and mobile access to information, as it is a “field service” operation at its core with healthcare rolled in. The requirements to manage not just scheduling and services, but to deal with compliance, privacy and other factors involved with healthcare information complicates matters, placing an additional focus on the security and mode of access to the software and information.
Businesses using solutions such as Kinnser ADL, Shoshana Rosemark, Kaleida eRSP and Generations Homecare System rely on the software to streamline their operations. Not only designed to support a remote and mobile workforce, these application services also provide business owners and managers with the ability to access essential business data at any time. At issue is the rest of the software and systems which support the business operation and its processes. Word and Excel or other productivity tools are almost certainly used at some level, and QuickBooks is in use, too. These applications and their data typically reside on the desktop computer or local network. As desktop applications, these solutions deliver the best power and performance for the business in terms of features and usability. While some users may consider moving to web-based versions of these products, those who favor performance and functionality over framework often return to the feature-rich desktop applications that do the full job required.
In order to give business owners and remote workers the access they need to desktop applications and data, secure remote access solutions are required. When the software and systems reside in the locked office of the business, the people operating outside aren’t usually able to access them in a way that is useful – or useful for more than one person at a time. Remote control solutions that broker access to a PC cannot provide the multi-user support, application security or overall performance that most businesses require. Attempts to implement simple RDS solutions or use similar products to create access often expose the business to unnecessary risk and limited capability while introducing heavy technical and licensing expenses.
With an offsite option, where the applications and data reside with the commercial hosting provider, business owners and line managers benefit from being allowed to focus on operations and not on managing the underlying software and systems. The business outsources the provisioning, management and protection of primary IT resources to support users, software and data, but the business should retain the capability to administer their own cloud as personnel changes impacting information access can occur at any time.
Whether their software and data are hosted on-site with existing equipment or offsite with managed hosting, home health care businesses need to have an easy-to-use solution for administration of user accounts, application access and secure filespaces. For the home health care business, this is critical functionality that can mean the difference between spending too much time in the office handling general business and software matters versus meeting with clients and managing caregivers and revenue-generating activities. In a fast moving, fast growing and highly mobile business, getting to information at anytime from anywhere using any device means being able to meet booming business demand.