This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was published on Forbes on June 28, 2019.
They grew up on rock ‘n’ roll, drove Mustangs and Corvettes, and made social protests the norm. They were nicknamed the Me Generation because they invested more of their time and money in themselves on things like self-realization, self-actualization, and self-help. There are currently more than 70 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) 10,000 of which are turning 65 each day. By 2030, almost 1 in 5 residents in the U.S. will be of retirement age, and thanks to advances in medicine over their lifetime, more boomers are living longer.
According to the U.S. census bureau, by 2050, there will be 83.7 million people aged 65 and older, almost double the 43.1 million seniors in 2012. Such a dramatic increase is expected to have a huge impact on the healthcare industry, not only due to the sheer numbers but also because of the rapidly declining health of those over the age of 65.
Chronic Illness Growing In Baby Boomers
The American Hospital Association (AHA) figures that by 2030, a quarter of all boomers, about 14 million, will live with diabetes, and 33% (21 million) will be obese. About 50% of these boomers will find themselves suffering from arthritis, while 60% of them will seek out treatment options for their multiple chronic disorders.
Seniors suffering from such chronic conditions will require more supplies, staff, and resources than ever before.
The Demand For Caregivers Will Exceed Supply
Health and personal care aides have been ranked as one of the fastest growing occupations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 1.2 million new jobs projected to be added between 2016 and 2026. The workforce of registered nurses is projected to grow from 2.9 million in 2016 to 3.4 million in 2026, an increase of 15%. Even still, the force is projected to need an additional 1 million nurses through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.
National Health Expenditure Set To Rise Exponentially
In 2018, more than $3.6 trillion — or almost 18% — of GDP was spent on healthcare in the U.S. Going by data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending will grow to $6 trillion, or 19% percent of the economy, by 2027.
One of the influencers of CMS’s projections is a wave of baby boomers who will be transitioning from private healthcare to Medicare plans by 2027. As baby boomers age into Medicare, nearly half of U.S. health spending will be financed by federal, state, and local governments. Democrats are pushing to expand Medicare and extend coverage to people as young as 50 years of age, although it’s unclear at this stage if this would add any additional burden to the national health expenditure.
2030: The Year Of The Silver Tsunami
Projections from U.S. Census Bureau indicate that in 2030, for the first time in U.S. history, older people will actually outnumber children. These patients will require the care of physicians who specialize in orthopedics, cardiology, ophthalmology, urology and other areas. Data published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of up to 49,300 primary care physicians and 72,700 specialists by 2030. In 2018, there were an estimated 142 million visits to emergency rooms in the United States, up from 100 million in 2008. Hospital admissions are also set to double by 2030.
Boomers Are Embracing Technology
Statistics show that baby boomers make up the largest segment of consumers, and they own almost 70% of all disposable income in the U.S. Research by AARP suggests that older adults are using a variety of devices to stay informed, shop and connect with others online. More than half of those surveyed also use smartphones to play games and make purchases online.
Boomers are in favor of digital health and are interested in using technology to facilitate reminders, after-hours visits, daily support, classes, and appointment follow-ups. While the use of technology may not be as ingrained in the experiences of those older than 50 as it is for younger generations, that doesn’t mean these people are completely unplugged.
More Demand And Fewer Necessitates New Approaches To Care
As boomers age and put a strain on U.S. healthcare systems, telehealth and remote care technologies will be the key to helping deliver appropriate care to aging patients while keeping costs under control. Remote care promises better optimization of scarce resources (physicians, caregivers, emergency rooms, etc.) and more personalized care, comfort, service, and convenience that boomers have come to expect.
The emergence of health informatics or health information exchanges (HIE)also promises to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction by enabling doctors and other healthcare providers to gain secure access to electronic medical information. Healthcare technology providers are using cloud computing more and more — for example, to upload and transfer diagnostic imagery like X-rays, CT scans and MRIs between geographically dispersed caregivers, enabling ready access to health information for patients who may be limited or confined to their homes.
As the elder care model evolves from the hospital to the home, advances in radiology, imaging, pathology, and other disciplines are ushering in a new phase of healthcare delivery that is expedient and convenient for various age demographics. It is probably safe to assume that the future of healthcare lies in the very hands of our tech-savvy first adopters, the boomers.