As we look forward to 2019, the field of pediatric home care shows promising growth. Recent research names the healthcare industry – specifically home health, nursing, and personal care aids – among the top five fastest-growing careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that nearly 3 million jobs were added in the healthcare sector from 2006 through 2016, a rate seven times faster than the rest of the economy.

BLS projections also indicate that healthcare jobs should grow by 18 percent by 2026 – much faster than the average for all occupations. In fact, healthcare is anticipated to add more jobs than any other industry during that time period.

Within the healthcare industry is an increasing demand for pediatric home care providers for medically-sensitive children. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has designated pediatrics as the fastest-growing segment within home health care.

Provider Shortage

With greater demand, comes the inevitable strain on the supply. This has resulted in a shortage of both “skilled” workers (registered nurses and physical, occupational, and speech therapists) and “unskilled” workers (certified nursing assistants and home health aides) to meet the needs of home care patients of all ages.

This increase in demand can be attributed to many factors, including lower infant mortality rates. Thanks to advances in neonatal care, there is a substantially higher survival rate of “micro preemies,” or premature infants born before 26 weeks gestation. And, now more than ever, babies with life-limiting birth defects or chronic illness also have a greater chance of life. These infants often face complex health challenges that require long-term, intensive medical care beyond their parents’ ability levels.

Another major contributing factor to the home care provider shortage is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, the elderly population is expected to outnumber children worldwide by the year 2030. As modern medicine allows these seniors to enjoy greater longevity, their needs will continue to put pressure on home care providers across the board, further straining a limited pool of qualified caregivers.

Home Care Movement

The past few decades have seen an increasing shift away from the institutionalization of children with severe medical health needs, with parents opting to keep the family together at home instead. Needless to say, patients overwhelmingly prefer the quality of life that comes with in-home care over hospitalization. It’s a more practical solution for families in that parents don’t have to divide their time between the hospital and responsibilities at home.

The term medical homeis used to describe a collaborative approach to comprehensive primary care, extending beyond one physical location. A trusted primary care physician serves as a team leader by partnering with the family to coordinate services for the patient.

The beauty of the medical home concept is that a pediatrician can order both clinic-based and home care services for a patient, with skilled in-home nurses, home health aides, and habilitation therapists working together to provide necessary care, medication, and equipment at home.

Laws and Policy

Public and private insurance providers are noticing the cost efficiencies of home care versus extended stays in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Accordingly, policy changes are increasing the demand for home care services for Medicaid patients. As home care is being recognized as the most cost-effective option, CMS is making efforts to transfer patients out of hospitals and rehab facilities, and into home care. As a result, pediatric home health costs have risen steadily since the early 2000s.

Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) is the child health component of Medicaid, which makes treatment mandatory for pediatric patients following diagnosis. Therefore, a vast majority of pediatric home care is funded by Medicaid, although eligibility and scope of benefits vary greatly state by state.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a powerful advocate for home care for pediatric patients, lobbying at the state and federal level for greater accessibility to home-based services for all segments of the U.S. population.

The AAP recommends a family-centered, comprehensive care program that integrates in-home nursing care, as well as home-based rehabilitative and habilitative therapies, to support medical specialists and hospitals. Its position is that home care creates substantial cost savings to insurers and families through prevention of excessive emergency department visits and inpatient hospital stays.

Advancements in Technology

The miniaturization, simplification, and portability of life-sustaining medical equipment now makes it possible for nurses to easily transport medical devices to homes, where young patients can be comfortable and enjoy some degree of normalcy.

Respiratory technology has made huge strides in recent years. Children with pulmonary disease, such as Cystic Fibrosis, can now benefit at home from medical equipment including oxygen, ventilators, and CPAP supplies. The Vest is an innovative product to improve airflow and clear obstructions in the lungs. There are also devices available to help parents or in-home nurses clear the airways of CF patients.

Many respiratory products can also be helpful to patients following surgery, as fluid in the lungs is one of the most common complications during the post-op recovery period. Making use of these products at home can allow children to heal from surgery more quickly, all while spending less time in inpatient hospital care.

Infusion therapies such as hydration, antibiotics, pain management, and even chemotherapy, can now be administered by skilled in-home nurses by way of specialized equipment. Daily nutrition therapy, or G-tube feedings, can also be performed safely and effectively by home care providers, as well as parents with proper training.

These at-risk children can now sleep more safely at home in specialized cribs or beds that can be positioned to elevate the heart and lungs. And, a variety of monitors exist for children to wear to bed, alerting parents or nurses to erratic movement associated with seizures.

Opportunity is Knocking

For those pursuing an education and career in healthcare, the imminent pediatric home care provider shortage can be viewed as more of an “opportunity” than a “crisis.” There are more career prospects now than ever before for home care professionals, and that trend is projected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Pediatric home care is a field where providers can apply their medical training to make a positive, even life-saving impact on the lives of the patients and families they serve.

For more information about how to join MGA Homecare’s team of highly-qualified, compassionate home care providers, contact us today.