GRAND RAPIDS — A new home health care provider in Grand Rapids targets a growing demand for service that’s driven by an aging population and changing consumer preferences.
Holland Home and Clark Retirement Community in Grand Rapids and Holland-based Resthaven have partnered to create Atrio Home Care, which launches April 1. The new company initially expects to serve 3,000 clients and their families in a six-county service area of West Michigan.
The business partnership brings together three long-time, well-established providers of senior living and long-term care in a new company that will offer home health care for clients who are recovering from an illness, a medical procedure or an injury, or who require assistance as they age.
Quite often, those individuals prefer to receive care at home, rather than at a rehabilitation center or a long-term care facility.
“There are a lot of people who want to receive services at home instead of moving into a facility. Although we all have wonderful facilities, we know there’s a certain segment of the population that want that choice, so we’re making that available,” said Carolyn Flietstra, executive vice president of home and community services at Atrio Home Care.
What Flietstra calls “a huge growth market” opportunity stems from the aging population nationwide.
A 2016 report by Harvard University that looks at the future need for senior housing noted that the U.S. population of people aged 65 and older will grow from 49 million to 79 million over the next 20 years.
The projected growth in the senior population will increase the need for affordable and accessible senior housing and for connected services “well beyond what current supply can meet,” according to the report.
“In addition, the home is an increasingly important setting for the delivery of long-term care, a trend likely to grow over the next two decades as millions more seek to remain in their current dwellings while coping with disabilities and health challenges,” Harvard researchers wrote in the study.
A GROWING DEMAND
In West Michigan, the 65-and-older population has been growing steadily since the early 2000s and was at about 15 percent as of 2015, according to data in Grand Valley State University’s annual Health Check report.
People age 45-64 comprised more than 25 percent of the population in a four-county area of West Michigan as of 2015, versus about 20 percent in 2000. The 45-64 age group was the fastest-growing age demographic, according to GVSU.
The aging population base drives a growing need for senior care, including home health services such as Atrio Home Care, said Barry Cargill, president and CEO of the Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association.
“We have a large number of people reaching their golden years and need help to stay in their home,” Cargill said. “If given the choice, most people tend to stay in their home as long as they can. It just points to a huge opportunity for health care in the future.”
One indication of that opportunity is an employment outlook for home health aides. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment nationwide for home health aides to grow 38 percent over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2024.
GVSU’s 2017 Health Check report projects employment for home health aides in West Michigan to grow by 26.2 percent over the same 10-year time frame.
A QUESTION OF PAYMENTS
The big question for the home care industry remains whether insurers will agree to reimbursement payments, Cargill said. Home care is generally covered by medical insurance when someone is recovering from an illness, injury or surgery, or following a hospital stay. It’s also typically covered when a patient has long-term care insurance, he said.
Since 2012, the industry has faced a nearly 15-percent reduction in payments from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, generating financial pressure on providers as demand for service grows, Cargill said.
One solution is to form partnerships and larger organizations such as Atrio that can optimize costs and leverage the capabilities of its partners, he said.
“There are efficiencies that occur when you grow larger,” Cargill said.
The nonprofit Atrio Home Care will employ 225 nurses, therapists, home health aides and other clinicians to serve clients. The agency consists of three business units.
Atrio Home Health and Atrio Home Health Lakeshore will provide skilled care services from Holland Home and Resthaven and offer nursing care for medical, surgical and mental health patients, plus physical, speech and occupational therapy. It also will offer telehealth monitoring.
Atrio Help at Home will provide private duty services from Clark Retirement Community and Resthaven, including personal and respite care, help around the household, medication setup and reminders, and meal preparation.
By combining their resources to form Atrio, the founding partners can better serve the growing demand for service and have clinicians work in markets where they live, alleviating travel time, Flietstra said.
In seeking to meet market demands, Atrio’s founding partners look to leverage the expertise of one another, share best practices and “make this a really great combined company,” Flietstra said.
Atrio — which stands for “a trio of partners” — builds off prior partnerships among Holland Home, Resthaven and Clark Retirement, she said.
“We find collaboration really yields something that is better than any one of us could do individually,” she said. “There were some things we just really couldn’t do easily unless we were part of the same company.”
That includes sharing software for electronic medical records that was previously undoable, she said.
The partners behind Atrio plan to evaluate future expansion beyond the present six-county market and could bring in additional partners, Flietstra said.
“We will, as allowable,” she said. “There is a lot of expansion potential, particularly in help at home. The only limitation there is being able to hire enough staff to be able to fill all of the requests that we have.”