A study of the economic impact of Pennsylvania's home health care industry shows the sector has a big financial footprint and is expected to grow larger yet.
The report was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, representing about 500 homecare and hospice providers. It finds the home-based health care industry contributed to nearly $22 billion in economic activity in the commonwealth last year, putting the sector just behind the state's medical schools and nursing homes in spending and jobs supported.
The report finds the homecare and hospice industry directly supported more than 254,000 jobs and indirectly supported another 82,000 jobs in 2012. Researchers said the economic activity tends to stay within the commonwealth's borders.
"The nature of the industry is driven mostly by people providing the care within the homes of people in Pennsylvania, so the workforce is almost entirely Pennsylvanian," said Paul Umbach, president of Tripp Umbach, the research firm behind the study.
The sector is projected to grow by as much as 70 percent in the next seven years as the emphasis in health care shifts to serving patients in their own home. The Corbett administration has also noted the expected growth in demand for at-home services for the elderly as a reason for trying to expand programs that benefit seniors in the commonwealth.
The report also finds that just over half of the home health agencies are accredited as adhering to standards higher than state regulations. But Umbach said accreditation is a relatively new and non-required standard for these companies.
"What is interesting is how, in a short period of time, so many hospice agencies and home health agencies have reached the highest level of accreditation," Umbach said.