The pandemic has helped shape the home care landscape in numerous ways — from the rise of telehealth to the growth of hospital-at-home services.

It also has brought into sharp clarity and focus the value of nonmedical home care. Also known as personal care, this type of care previously was not taken very seriously or considered a lucrative part of the home care continuum, which also consists of home health and hospice.  

How things change. In its 2021 fourth quarter mergers and acquisitions report released Thursday, M&A advisory firm Mertz Taggart said mergers and acquisitions involving this type of care have accelerated faster in the last year than its sister segments.  

“Of the three sub-sectors, home care has gained the most steam over the past 12 months, with a record 70 transactions announced, which doesn’t include individual franchisee transactions,” Mertz Taggart Managing Partner Cory Mertz wrote in the report. “That’s an 84% increase compared to 38 transactions in 2020.”

To put this in perspective, in 2021, nonmedical home care transactions nearly kept pace with the red-hot hospice market and surpassed home health. That compares to 2020 and 2019, when it fell behind them.

Why the newfound interest? Health systems and payers increasingly are seeing home care as a way to prevent costly admissions and support patients’ activities of daily living, the report noted.

Brian Bruenderman and Tom Lillis of Stoneridge Partners, a healthcare mergers and acquisitions advisory firm that specializes in home care, agree.

The pandemic “accelerated a lot of perceptions that may have been coming around glacially,” Lillis said during a webinar Thursday hosted by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.

Whether it is noticing a diabetic’s empty ice cream carton in the garbage can or a dignified lady missing her hair appointment, personal caregivers have insight that makes them a crucial link in the delivery system, Bruenderman said. And this makes this industry extremely valuable in the eyes of acquirers and payers, he said.

On behalf of all those low-wage and unpaid personal caregivers who work tirelessly in this area of care, I say, well it’s about time.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Email her at [email protected]. Follow [email protected]