New Delhi: The market for home healthcare services in India—a cheaper and more comfortable option for patients—is set to double in a year’s time, health economists say.

Though in a nascent stage in India, and largely serviced by unorganized players, start-ups and recent hospital initiatives, the market stood at around $3.20 billion in 2016, and is expected to grow to around $4.46 billion by 2018 and $6.21 billion in 2020, according to Cyber Media Research (CMR) Ltd analysis and industry estimates. CMR is an ISO 9001: 2008 company and an institutional member of the Market Research Society of India.

With advancements in information technology and integration with medical electronics, it is now possible to provide high-quality care at home at an affordable price. Additionally, home healthcare services mean more beds available for needy patients.

“Home healthcare services are an extension of hospital services into the patient’s house and providing personalized care by competent professionals. Home healthcare companies work with hospitals to widen their reach, by freeing the beds for new patients while covering almost 70% of all healthcare requirements of a consumer and extending to management of lifestyle and chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc. over a consumer’s lifetime," said Vivek Srivastava, CEO and co-founder of Noida-based HealthCare atHOME, a home healthcare provider.

“Its advantages include cost effectiveness with excellent clinical outcomes as customers end up saving 20-50% costs as compared to regular hospital treatment depending upon the services taken. For instance, ICU services are 50% cheaper than those provided in hospitals. Not to forget, it includes customized care plans prescribed by the patient’s doctor; quicker patient recovery; and professional protocol-led healthcare," he said.

There is tremendous pressure on hospitals in delivering services at their facility, especially in critical care. As per government and private hospital statistics, about 40% of patients admitted in hospitals suffer from chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The typical cost of stay in an ICU in a hospital could range between Rs35,000 to Rs50,000 a day. By contrast, setting up an ICU facility at home with equipment and medical expertise would range between Rs7,500 to Rs10,000 a day.

A monthly package of services for recovery from stroke could cost between Rs25,000 to Rs30,000 at home compared to Rs5,000 a day at a hospital, according to estimates from private hospitals.Another argument regarding home healthcare services is lower incidence of hospital-acquired infections.

“There is focused attention to the patient rather than distributed over 10 or more patients, convenience of receiving care in the comfort and familiar surroundings of a home rather than alien environment in a hospital and significantly lower cost when compared to an extended stay in a hospital," said Rajiv Mathur, Founder CCU (Critical Care Unified ) Health Care another home healthcare service provider.

“Interconnectivity through devices and portability of treatments and equipments makes it feasible to provide critical care at the comfortable environs of home. Patients receive individualized care designed to meet their specific needs. Home health care enables people to recuperate in the comfort and privacy of their own home, at a cost savings of 36-50% over hospitalization or nursing home confinement," he said.

Even hospitals are entering the home healthcare market. Max Healthcare, a healthcare provider, recently introduced ‘Max@Home’, its home-based healthcare service offering programme. Max@Home has been launched as a specialized continued care programme, backed by Max Healthcare’s 12-hospital network.

The programme facilitates real-time patient monitoring by connecting doctors, dedicated case managers, trained nursing staff and emergency services through an efficient technology-infrastructure created by Western India Products (WIPRO ), a multinational IT consulting and system integration Service Company.

There will be services to meet a growing demand for long-stay and palliative care even in tertiary specializations like cardiology, oncology, neurology and orthopaedics.

“The demand for at-home healthcare delivery is growing. At the same time, quality post-operative care in familiar surroundings has been observed to enable faster patient recovery. We have plans to deliver the personalized and customizable service offering across Delhi NCR, extending to Mohali Tri-city by the next quarter and Dehradun by 2018," Rajit Mehta, CEO and managing director, Max Healthcare said.

Home healthcare though gaining pace in India is currently not covered comprehensively by health insurance companies. However, the treatment administered at home is only as prescribed by the treating doctor of the patient.

There have been questions on the quality of healthcare at home and whether beds at home can really be a substitute for hospital beds.

“Home healthcare is becoming a brisk business nowadays. As elderly population in the country is increasing very fast and more and more people want to have better social positioning, facilities such as home healthcare seem very flashy at face value and is manifestation of people’s social status," said Arup Mitra, professor, Health Policy Research Unit (HPRU) at Institute of Economic Growth.

“It is in a preliminary stage and may prove to be an illusion in future as there is no guarantee of risks and insurance involved," he said.

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