Healthy Returns

Home And Health

The market for all types of home care should mushroom through the end of the century. By 1999, Find/SVP predicts the U.S. home-care market will reach $63 billion.

Such growth inevitably creates opportunity. For established services like M.J. Nursing Registry, a $3.2 mil-lion home-care agency in Cincinnati, burgeoning interest means continued community support. "The more we learn about home care, the better we realize it is for patients and their families," says Mary Jane Stumpf, owner and founder of the 12-year-old firm. "People heal better at home, elderly people are less likely to be confused in their own homes, and patients at home aren't restricted by hospital visiting hours and regulations. Once people see what home care means, they almost always choose it over a hospital."

Opportunity also comes from new technology and shifts in insurance-industry practices. In 1982, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, entrepreneur Jack Rosen noticed third-party payers had started reimbursing for home infusion services, including intravenous nutrition, hydration, chemo- therapy, and chronic pain management. He launched Infu-Tech to provide state-of-the-art infusion therapy to nonhospitalized patients.

"In the early 1980s, manufacturers started developing equipment and drugs for home infusion," says Rosen. Getting involved early enabled Infu-Tech to gain a foothold in the infusion market-and to grow with it. The company, which has operations in 23 states, had sales of nearly $17 million during the first nine months of 1995.

Of course, pioneering new concepts doesn't always bring immediate results. Chris Morley launched Tender Care Doula Service in Valen- cia, California, seven years ago to provide nonmedical postpartum care workers (or doulas, after the Greek word for "someone who mothers the mother") to frazzled new moms. From the beginning, Tender Care has held its own as a business. But only recently has interest begun to skyrocket.

Why? Legislators, new mothers, insurance companies and physicians are up in arms over postpartum hospital care. To cut costs, some insurance companies are advocating hospital stays of only eight hours post-delivery. Whatever the medical pros and cons, this policy clearly increases a new mother's need for home support. And media debate on the topic has been hot and heavy, furnishing the perfect forum for Morley to promote her services.

"The issue for us isn't early discharge; it's unsupported discharge," says Morley. "When I had my daughter nine years ago, I learned firsthand how hard it is to make the transition to having a baby in the home without experienced help."

Now the national consciousness is catching up. Twenty hours of doula care a week (four hours a day for five days) costs a fraction of a single day in the hospital and puts a human touch to the very human process of becoming a family. Policy makers may debate this issue for months to come, but Morley says her business is enjoying a surge of interest right now.

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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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