As America’s population ages, the demand for healthcare workers is rising. The pandemic highlighted the importance of healthcare workers to the country, especially when it comes to home-based care. The huge market opportunity has attracted many entrepreneurs and innovators who sense the fortunes to be made in the coming decade. As more and more older adults show a preference for spending their twilight years at home, home-based care has taken on an enormous importance. The pandemic showed that there are clear benefits of home-based care. Technology has made it possible to provide telehealth services and diagnose and treat diseases more proactively.
Innovation is a key element in improving healthcare outcomes for older adults and the population at large. There are several stages to innovation. There are adopters, and after that, early adopters, then the early majority and finally, the late majority along with the laggards. Depending on how aggressively health care firms are innovating, they fall somewhere along that spectrum. For instance, MaineHealth Care at Home has provided telehealth services for about 20 years. That’s an enormous amount of time considering that telehealth only really went mainstream last year, and it makes MaineHealth Care at Home an innovator, an early adopter of telehealth. They aren’t alone in having invested funds into embracing telehealth. But they are certainly in a minority. For many healthcare providers, the pandemic was the great push they needed to adopt telehealth. This can be seen from the numbers. 23.6% of visits paid by healthcare providers in 2020 were through telehealth services, against 0.3% for the year prior. The technology underpinning telehealth may have existed for a long time, but it took a catalyst like the pandemic to make it mainstream.
Innovation is important because it offers people solutions to their problems that are more customized to their needs. A failure to innovate denies those people the solutions to make their lives better. Yet, the appetite to innovate is not universal among healthcare providers. Some healthcare providers are keen to embrace new technology and solutions and have flexible business models. On the other hand, there are those who may not, for instance, be willing to provide acute-level home-based care.
One area which needs reform has to do with reimbursement. Telehealth is not reimbursable using Medicare. Many healthcare providers do not have a business model that can work around that scenario. Nevertheless, one of the largest home-based healthcare providers in the country, the LHC Group, Inc paid 260,000 Telehealth visits in 2020. This shows that there is a way to build a business around telehealth despite the compensation issues.
One reason that healthcare providers should pay attention to innovation is because heightened healthcare outcomes earn the attention of providers of health plans. Although at present there isn’t a path to compensation from them, the health outcomes of telehealth and senior home care will lead to reviews of health plans and open the market even further.
Consequently, there is an incentive to get in on the action now, when a business can build traction in the market.