National healthcare spending is rising.
By 2026, national health spending is projected to reach $5.7 trillion as compared to $3.3 trillion in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
While several factors can be attributed to such a prediction, the country’s aging population is expected to play a large role in impacting Medicare, Medicaid, private and personal spending, CMS reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control, by 2060, the number of adults age 65 or older will reach 98 million, more than double from 2015.
Not only is the country’s healthcare system bracing for an influx of older Americans reaching retirement age, but providers also need to accommodate longer life spans. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, a 65-year-old man today is expected to survive to age 84, with women reaching 86.
The aging population will impact spending and healthcare delivery in hospitals, clinics and other medical settings.
The Aging Population and Its Effects on the Healthcare System
The healthcare system will face a multitude of issues, including:
- An increase in chronic diseases and health conditions prevalent in older populations, such as cancer, dementia and diabetes.
- Unknown trends regarding the prevalence of disabilities, as some researchers suggest it will increase as healthcare progress may slow disease progression, according to a 2011 World Health Organization Report.
- A real demand for integrated public health responses, according to the WHO’s 2015 World Report on Ageing and Health.
Providing effective healthcare solutions will play a central role in managing this dramatic demographic shift.
Ways to Reduce Healthcare Spending: New Approaches to Prevention
New approaches and innovations within prevention, treatment and management will be vital to stem healthcare costs and improve quality of life. Below are a few examples of changes taking place that may help the overall system prepare for the future demand of healthcare delivery.
New Long-Term Care Models
Assisted-living communities and nursing homes are being redesigned with people over treatment in mind. One such model was created to combat loneliness, depression and overall stress.
The Green House Project is a prime example of change in the nursing home industry. The model features two to six Green Houses, each with the capacity for 10 to 12 residents who each have their own rooms but all share the common spaces including living rooms and open kitchens, according to a 2016 article in Kiplinger. As part of the model, there are permanent staff and healthcare professionals assigned to each Green House.
According to the WHO, community-based care programs can help elders age in place and “has the potential to delay admission to a nursing home, reduce the number of days spent in a hospital and improve quality of life.”
Integrated Care: Treating the Overall Patient
Currently, the nation’s healthcare system is mostly designed to treat disease, conditions and other individual health problems, as compared to treating the person as a whole. Developing an integrated care model would allow patients to be treated for multiple conditions at once.
While there are no integrated health programs nationwide, several health systems have created specific programs in recent years.
For example, one integrated healthcare plan showed positive results including lower healthcare costs, according to a 10-year study featured in the 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2003, Intermountain Healthcare launched a project that integrated mental healthcare services into primary care practices. As a result, emergency room visits, hospital admissions and primary care visits all significantly decreased.
Demand for Skilled Professionals
Healthcare professionals, including hospital and medical administrators, will be called upon to help address these potential challenges, including exploring various solutions designed to combat the concerns that lie ahead.
Industry-wide, healthcare professionals are in high-demand with projected growth at 18% between now and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – more open positions than any other occupational group.
By filling the demand and joining a growing industry, professionals can help address the evolving needs of an aging population.