The health care industry might most accurately show the ebbs and flows of the circle of life. Babies are born, sent home, brought back to the doctor for the kindergarten shots and broken bones of youth, and years later come back to have babies of their own. The circle of life begins anew. But for that older generation, it also continues into the golden years, as doctor’s visits and medications begin to pile up.
For some, the requirements of extra care can make later years in life anything but golden. Costs are high, the needs can be all-encompassing, and it can be a major source of stress for both the caregiver and the patient. In some cases, families are turning to home health care options to provide that care instead of hospitals or nursing homes. It’s not just because of a preference, although that can also be a factor. Home health care options are often more affordable, too. Estimates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that costs for a semi-private room in a nursing home were $6,235 per month in 2010, or more than $74,800 per year. Care in assisted living facilities was about $39,516 per year.
The demand for skilled, dependable care hasn’t decreased. In fact, it’s expected to balloon for several more decades. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau in May 2014 shows that the population of Americans 65 and older will almost double between 2012 and 2050. Baby boomers, who began turning 65 in 2011, are the main group of seniors who make up that group, expected to reach a peak of 83.7 million. The population of those seniors who are 85 and older is projected to double by 2036, and then triple by 2049.
Not all of those seniors will need specialized health care. But of those who do, it’s predicted that they will look more and more to home health care services. Zacks, an investment research firm, reported that the value of the home health care market will increase to $303.6 billion by 2020. That’s a huge increase, considering the industry was valued at around $176.1 billion in 2013. Zacks broke down the industry to devices and services, discussing the medical equipment to be used in homes and the types of services available.
When it comes to services, there are a number of options. Some offer skilled nursing care, in which medical professionals visit your home to administer medications, check body functions, and care for the medical needs. Other home health services provide caregiver support by preparing meals, assisting with bathing or dressing, escorting seniors to doctor’s appointments, and a myriad of other daily activities. It’s this type of need that Bill Redfern seeks to provide with a company he founded this past fall called iCare Intelligent Home Care Solutions.
Redfern saw a need in the home health care industry to offer resources for families who need assistance for their loved ones. In searching for services to help a relative of his own, Redfern said he realized how difficult it was to find professional assistance, especially at a reasonable price. “It was really a needle in a haystack,” he said. Much of the industry was through word-of-mouth, with little cohesive structure or transparent companies. So Redfern sought to create a solution based on a familiar business model. He had founded A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections about eight years ago, which brought structure to the home assessment industry by creating a model for home services that could be duplicated no matter the location. That business, bolstered by the recovering housing market, now has 200 franchises in 14 countries.
The start of iCare
Through extensive research and planning, he began the iCare company and seeks to create the same sort of model. That way, if a person interacts with an iCare franchise in one part of the United States or world, they can expect to get the same types of services with any other iCare partner. Through is research, Redfern found what Zacks and others predict: For a multitude of reasons, there’s reason to be excited about getting into the home health care industry. “It’s not only a quality of life issue, but it’s much more cost-effective to stay in your own home,” Redfern said.
The cost of health care will always be dependent upon the level of care required, the frequency of visits, and a combination of many other factors. But for a typical customer seeking occasional assistance from a service like iCare or other home health services, it can cost about $2,200 per month, Redfern said. For all of the “gaping holes” in the expensive health care industry, Redfern believes that cost is worth it to attempt to make the lives easier for both the caregiver and the person who’s able to stay in their home and receive care.
The senior population is expected to be iCare’s largest portion of clients, Redfern said. But as the company begins to expand, the founder also sees numerous applications for the model. About a year ago, Redfern himself was in need of home care after breaking his clavicle in a bicycling accident. Finding short-term help, even for laundry and preparing basic meals, was a challenge. “It really kind of drove the point home that we have a much broader market than I realized,” Redfern said.
The concept could also be extended to caregivers of children with special needs, in order to provide relief or offer more comprehensive services such as speech therapy or other types of care. Those sorts of details are still in development, and likely a second phase of the company’s growth. But Redfern would like to see the possibilities open up and encompass all of the families’ needs, whatever they might be.
What the future of home health care looks like
Right now, the focus is predominantly on senior care. By partnering with a software company, franchise owners can provide customers with updates on the care. So if you’re responsible for a family member but live 400 miles away, iCare personnel can provide updates on their well being, their daily activities, as well as photos or other data for the family. When a potential customer contacts iCare, the family will have a chance to meet with the franchise owner or caregiver to assess the overall needs of the client, discuss a budget, and determine the best course of action.
For now, a large part of even offering services is expanding the franchise across the United States and Canada. Much like the setup of A Buyer’s Choice, the company offers unit franchises, for one location or territory, and master franchises, which would take over a larger territory and oversee smaller franchises within that geographic area. By expanding the locations and getting more people on board, Redfern expects to naturally increase the types of services available, and said the future looks promising for the industry. “I think it’s just a fantastic opportunity…to fill those voids,” he added.
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