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Healthy Returns

Patients preferring the comforts of home have made home health care a $36 billion industry.

The word "hospital" may resemble the word "hospitality," but no one confuses a hospital stay with a good time. For this reason-and a host of others-the market for home health-care services is looking increasingly robust.

Home-care companies may not have the cure for everything that ails America's health-care system, but revenues suggest they're onto something. According to New York City research firm Find/SVP, the U.S. market for home-care services should top $42 billion in 1996, up from more than $36 billion in 1995.

What's fueling the growth?

  • Greater availability. "Home care" once referred almost exclusively to visiting nurses and aides. Today, home health-service companies provide everything from infusion (intravenous) therapy to postnatal care, physical therapy and hospice care.
  • Improved technology. According to Find/SVP, the number of medical conditions that can be treated in the home has increased from about 30 to more than 1,200 in the last 15 years. Not only are more equipment and drugs being adapted to the home-care environment, but more physicians and patients now accept home care as an alternative.
  • Cost-effectiveness. Home care usually offers substantial cost savings over hospitalization-a boon for third-party payers such as insurance companies. With patients being discharged earlier and earlier following surgery or childbirth, home care can provide the necessary professional attention to speed recovery and prevent expensive complications.
  • Better care. Why do patients prefer the comforts of home? For a multitude of reasons: one-on-one attention, family support, home cooking, familiar surroundings. Of course, hospitals will always be needed for major surgery or intensive care. But for a variety of less acute services, home is where the health is.

Gayle Sato Stodder covers entrepreneurship for various publications. She lives and works in Manhattan Beach, California.

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This article was originally published in the February 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Healthy Returns.

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