Why does tech-enabled home care show potential? Growing life expectancy and shrinking assets limit options of older adults in late life, leaving those who may need care more likely to receive it at home. The biggest constraint for this industry is scarcity of willing workers. Although a greater role for technology is envisioned by many, the highly fragmented home care industry has made incremental progress in achieving it. As the industry matures, standard practices and tech-enablement have begun to take shape. With the coming age wave, venture capitalists have been intrigued and funding has exploded, exceeding $200 million by 2016 year end.
Home care can fill some of the care gap, but there are no single provider offerings. The home care industry is both booming and fragmented -- it still lacks a dominant industry player. In a study released in December 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the compound annual growth rate for home care services, particularly personal care aides, between 2014 and 2024 would be nearly five percent, the highest among all industries.[i] Compare the number of workers that provide direct care (home health aides and personal care aides) to retail – these jobs are low-paying at approximately $11/hour and most would say the work is physically more difficult than other low-paying categories.
What tech innovations are likely to matter? Tech-enabled innovations can be categorized as helping firms source effectively, manage for retention and provide measurable value. The future of tech-enabled home care will present opportunities and challenges, both for new entrants and long-time players. Checklists, wearables and sensors will help raise the standard of care delivery; worker certification, information and tools will become service differentiators; contracted partnerships will smooth discharge-to-homecare processes.
Professionals and families will gain better tools and experiences. With greater longevity comes care complexity. Agencies have tended to bring on resources and equipment to meet every type of need, whether it is staffing a nurse for care assessments or home medical equipment for training staff on its use. Franchises will join together in geographic clusters to leverage what they have – and what they need, supported by tech platforms. And family expectations will continue to rise to match levels of service experiences in other areas of their lives.