Home health care an increasingly popular alternative

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With an aging American population and the growing crunch of hospital space and costs, home health care is now an $82 billion a year business. One trick is matching the home clinician with the patient who needs them, and one fast-growing Austin software company is doing just that, here and across the country.

Kinnser Software launched more than a decade ago and now coordinates some 2,300 home care providers with more than 500,000 patients nationwide. They added 70 employees here this past year and expect to add 50 more in the coming year. They claim to maximize the time of nurses while keeping patients comfortable in their homes, avoiding extended and expensive hospital stays.

“We absolutely have to do a good job enabling clinicians to help patients age in place,” said founder Chris Hester. “Home health care is a critical part of that.”

A hospital visit can run thousands of dollars a day. A home clinician like Health Sense Home Care charges $150 a day.

Nurses like Terri Balmos make a coordinated series of house calls, with instant electronic access to patients records and doctors. She says a rapport with a patient at home puts them at ease and makes them more candid about their condition.

“A lot of times you ask a black and white question and you get an answer, but you get a lot more from just a conversation at home,” she said. “We’re able to talk with them on a one on one basis. Stuff they don’t think is pertinent, it is.”

On this particular day, Tricia Barbee is one of Balmos’ stops. Since being stricken in August with pneumonia, congestive heart failure and mobility issues, she has endured two hospital stays, each two weeks or longer. Now she receives treatment at home.

“With nursing care, and the physical training and occupational therapy, they’re helping me learn how to get my left foot across the tub, it can be very difficult,” Barbee said. “Right now I really need home care.”

According to Kinnser, 90 percent of senior patients prefer care at home, and by the end of this decade home care will be the primary source of patient treatment in this country. Many also maintain home care reduces the risk of secondary infections. And of course, there is the added benefit of that home cooking.

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