The post-acute care industry is on the horizon of an unprecedented boom in growth. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population over age 65 is projected to double by 2040 — and with an aging population, infusion centers are uniquely positioned to meet diverse patient needs in a responsive environment both professionally supervised and close to home.
Private equity firms are taking notice: Global Market Insights anticipates the post-acute care market value will cross the $1.7 trillion mark by 2032, seeing a 7% compound annual growth rate between now and then. In North America alone, this CAGR is anticipated to run 6.7%.
Post-acute care takes many shapes in today’s healthcare landscape, from physician office visits to routine outpatient therapy to care services rendered in a patient’s home. Striking a balance between offering top-quality and competitively priced care can be a balancing act, especially when managing chronic conditions. Enter infusion centers.
Under the supervision of a medical provider — often a nurse practitioner or MD — patients receive infusion therapy to treat various conditions: multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, osteoporosis, to name a few. Infusion centers, especially those that are freestanding, offer a professionally staffed medical environment with the conveniences patients want. Comfortable private rooms, minimal wait times, predictable pricing, and convenient neighborhood locations are just a few of the perks: infusion therapy is simply less of a chore when you can slot it in between a run to Kroger and a stop at the post office.
Home treatment offers its conveniences; transportation is chief among them for those with mobility limitations. A major concern patients and providers should share, though, when it comes to in-home healthcare services, is continuity of care. Especially when third-party companies jump in to assist with an established treatment plan, communication between home health professionals and hospital-based providers could be smoother. What’s more, portions of the billing process can fall on patients and their families — an avoidable burden.
For those who decide an infusion center will fit their clinical needs, budget and lifestyle well, the process of selecting a facility may be daunting. Infusion centers are available in hospital and private practice settings; others are in pharmacies, and others are freestanding.
To narrow it down, you want a center that can accommodate your schedule and likely something that isn’t far from home. But here are a few other factors to consider as you narrow your choice.
Some infusion centers are wellness focused and might not be the best fit for a patient managing a serious chronic condition. Finding a center with the right fit is a top priority for you and the physicians overseeing the care for your condition. Ask about the supervisory structure at the centers you’re considering. Are they experts in providing care specific to your condition? Is there adequate clinical oversight?
In tandem with care goes communication. How looped in will your referring physician be throughout your treatment? Will infusion center staff be responsible for communicating about your care and progress, or will you, as the patient, need to play an active role? As mentioned earlier, a major benefit of visiting an infusion center in the first place is continuity of care. Find a center whose staff will be your advocates — and preferably a place where they will build a relationship with your other providers to coordinate the best care possible.
Let’s face it; medical billing is its own animal. An infusion center should be in your corner: their staff speaks the language, and they can work with your insurance company. Clear and predictable billing should be something you can count on. And when necessary, help to find programs to help pay for life-saving medication.
Your treatment time may be on the shorter side (15 minutes), or you may need to get comfortable (a few hours). Regardless, another benefit of freestanding infusion centers is that they’re designed with a purpose in mind– and your comfort should be one of them. Do you feel safe accessing the facility? Are you comfortable getting in and out of the building? And, though this may seem obvious, is it a place you don’t mind spending some time? Yes, you can be picky about everything from light fixtures to television options.
Post-acute care may represent a booming subsector of the healthcare industry, but it also looks like a near-term reality for many of us. Moving into the next ten years, you may see investors moving their resources in this direction — and you may head there yourself, whether for your care or that of a family member. The market — and rightfully choosy consumers — will decide the future.
Shane Reeves, PharmD, is CEO TwelveStone Health Partners.