Home Healthcare - A Solution To Tackle Rising Healthcare Costs

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Home Healthcare Services

Home healthcare services are attracting increased interest and attention owing to their ability to provide cost-effective treatment to patients in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

They offer substantial cost savings ranging between 25 to 60 percent over institutionalized care. Thus, rising acceptance levels of patients and cost effectiveness are two of the key factors driving the North American market for home healthcare.

"Patients increasingly seem to prefer being treated in familiar surroundings where they have the added benefits of family support and personalized care," says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Sheetal Rajani. "Patients are known to respond better to therapy received in such an environment, and this has a significant impact on the recovery process as it allows for faster recuperation."

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, North American Homecare Market - Investment Analysis and Growth Opportunities, expects this market to exhibit a healthy growth of approximately 7 to 8 percent for the period 2005-2010.

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In some cases, such as that of low birth weight, the cost savings can be as high as 99 percent. The extent of savings depends upon the nature of the disease and the level of care provided. Moreover, by customizing the care to meet the needs of the particular patient, homecare providers can eliminate many of the extra services provided in the hospital that may not be required for that patient and thereby control costs.

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However, reimbursement issues are a major obstacle for homecare providers and have significantly impacted their bottom lines. In fact, the homecare market currently has one of the lowest net profit margins in the healthcare sector. This is largely due to the continuous, large reimbursement cuts and high costs of operation.

Following the introduction of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) in 1997, the reimbursement scenario underwent a major change. This Act proposed a move from the cost-based system to a prospective payment system, on the grounds that the latter would be more efficient. Under the cost-based system, Medicare home health agencies received reimbursement on a per-visit cost basis, with a restriction on the costs but not on the number of visits. This system greatly encouraged expenditure on home healthcare services, which rose continuously until 1997.

However, the interim payment system followed from 1998 to 2000 -- the year fixed for the implementation of the prospective payment system -- was far more rigorous and significantly curbed expenditure. In 2000, the BBA-mandated system finally came into existence and while it presented a strong case for greater efficiency, it still had a negative impact on home healthcare providers' bottom lines.

"Against such a backdrop, cost efficiency has become the name of the game," notes Rajani. "Consolidation holds the key to success by allowing home healthcare providers to benefit from economies of scale and payor mix diversification."

Indeed, the highly fragmented nature of the market, which has more than 8,000 providers, places it in an ideal position for consolidation. With the pressures on margins increasing and competitive bidding on the rise, the market is likely to hold strong consolidation potential for private equity participants.

Overall, the home healthcare market expects to demonstrate a healthy growth between 2005 and 2010 -- largely due to its cost efficiency advantages. While hospitals will doubtless continue to play a critical role in the healthcare system for the treatment of critical conditions and performance of major surgeries, the outlook is positive for home healthcare to emerge as the preferred choice for less acute conditions.

North American Homecare Market - Investment Analysis and Growth Opportunities, part of the Financial Services Medical Devices Subscription, provides an analysis of the key investment themes, industry economics, merger and acquisition history, initial public offerings and various valuation indicators of homecare providers. In this research service, Frost & Sullivan's expert analysts thoroughly examine the following markets: respiratory therapy, infusion therapy, home medical equipment, and home nursing services. Interviews with the press are available.

Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. The company's industry expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services, and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities. Frost & Sullivan serves an extensive clientele that includes Global 1000 companies, emerging companies, and the investment community by providing comprehensive industry coverage that reflects a unique global perspective, and combines ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics.

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