The U.S. on-demand economy is booming, growing from an estimated $48 million in products and services in 2016 to roughly $75.7 billion in 2017. The home care industry has played a leading role in that boom, both through companies’ in-house efforts and their continued use of third-party services.
The on-demand economy is economic activity created by digital marketplaces and technology companies by meeting consumer demand for goods and services in an immediate fashion, often with a mere tap or swipe on a mobile device.
PE-backed Homewatch CareGivers — acquired as part of London-based Apax Partners’ acquisition of Authority Brands in 2018 — has been particularly invested in the on-demand economy. The Denver-based home care franchise company launched its own proprietary software system, Care Plus, at the beginning of last year, for example, as a way to promptly match caregivers with clients based on individuals’ unique needs.
“The system that can accommodate a client calling up that morning saying, ‘I need this caregiver for these needs at the time,’ those are the ones who are going to win in the end,” Julie Smith, president and CEO of Homewatch CareGivers, told Home Health Care News. “Having our matching system — Care Plus — means we can make sure a client that has dementia is safely placed with a caregiver who can handle dementia in a timely manner.”
Like other home care companies, Homewatch CareGivers has also partnered with ride-hailing service provider Lyft, which Homewatch CareGivers uses to help coordinate clients’ rides to medical appointments and social outings.
Calculating how much the home care industry has driven the on-demand economy is difficult, experts say, because there’s a dearth of data on the size and growth rate of the market.
But transportation, food delivery, health care, professional services and e-commerce have been four of the major influences on the on-demand economy, according to app development firm Peerbits. And home care is heavily tied to all of those points.
Overall, the on-demand economy grew by 58% in 2017, data from the most recent National Technology Readiness Survey by market research firm Rockbridge Associates shows. Participation in the on-demand economy has increased by 66% since 2016, with an estimated 41.5 million consumers who purchased on-demand goods or services in 2017.
At current growth rates, the total number of consumers in the U.S. participating in the on-demand economy will be about 56 million by the end of 2018 and could reach 93 million by 2022, Rockbridge Associates estimates.
“Shying away from the on-demand economy isn’t going to run people out of business at this point,” Smith said. “But I do think it’ll be difficult for them to compete with larger networks such as our own who have [an on-demand] solution in place today.”
Honor, HomeHero, Hometeam and similar home care-focused tech platforms have attempted to capitalize on the on-demand economy as well — with mixed degrees of success.
Specialized care and the on-demand economy
The home care industry has carved out an important role as an influencer in the on-demand economy despite the fact on-demand economy users tend to be younger, affluent and concentrated in urban areas.
More than half of those who participated in the on-demand economy in 2017 were between 25 and 44 years old, according to Rockbridge Associates, with 47% of them reporting an annual household income of at least $75,000.
“The on-demand economy appears to be in a nascent or early stage,” Charles Colby, founder and chief methodologist at Rockbridge Associates, told HHCN. “Penetration among users is highest among people who are what we call tech-ready.”
But that’s starting to change, especially as older adults become more comfortable using technology.
“Seniors have gotten accustomed to [the delivery of services] catering to their own specific needs,” Smith, who first joined Homewatch CareGivers in 2015, said. “When you think about the on-demand economy and home care, it’s adjusting the sector and features of service to accommodate for more than ‘just-in-time’ service requests from a senior. It’s basing services on their customized needs per their specific comorbidity, specific functional needs in terms of bathing or showering.”
Roughly 39.5 million adults have some degree of difficulty when it comes to physical functioning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of adults aged 75 and over, nearly 11% need assistance with personal care specifically.
In addition to providing matching caregivers and clients based on need, Homewatch CareGivers’ also provides a portal for family members to check up on loved ones as desired. That’s a major benefit as adult children more often live far away from parents and grandparents, Smith said.
Homewatch CareGivers’ on-demand tech investment may also give the company an edge in terms of demonstrating value and successful outcomes to Medicare Advantage (MA) partners, Smith previously explained to HHCN.
Uber Health’s home care interest
Uber, which raised more than $24.2 billion since launching in 2009, has been one of the biggest players in the on-demand economy. The company launched Uber Health, a B2B ride-hailing platform for health care services providers — including home care agencies — in March.
An ongoing goal for Uber Health in 2019 is to further promote independence and mobility among older adults in the U.S., Dan Trigub, head of business development for Uber Health, told HHCN.
“This is a really big year for us and a big area of focus for us, building deeper relations across the spectrum of health care delivery,” Trigub, who spoke to HHCN while attending a 24Hr HomeCare leadership event in San Francisco, said. “We believe that in elder care, working with senior living operators and home care providers, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Besides working with home care companies on transportation services for clients, Uber Health has also turned its attention to caregivers, helping agencies reduce liability risks with their workforce.
“There’s so much that can be done, not even just for the people that [agencies] care for but also for their caregivers,” Trigub said. “For an agency owner or home care provider, there’s always concerns of insurance, risk and liability with, ‘What if my caregiver gets into an accident while with a client?’ Many times, home care agencies don’t have the proper insurance or don’t even want to provide that service.”
Uber Health provides an additional $1 million of excess auto and general liability coverage on all of its rides.
Teaming up with home care agencies has been personally rewarding for Trigub, whose family owns one of the largest privately owned home care businesses in the Bay Area.
“It’s been a business in my family for over 15 years now,” he said. “I’m intimately familiar with the industry, the needs of our aging population and the home care business.”