The American population is aging, and the Baby Boomer generation will become the largest group of senior citizens the nation has ever had. With this aging, with this large population comes an increase in chronic diseases amongst our elders. Aging and a high prevalence of chronic disease means considerable changes in demand for the healthcare industry.
Turnover Within the Profession
An aging population of workers means that every segment of the economy will have faster rates of turnover than what they have had in the past. Younger workers will be taking over the jobs that used to be held by senior citizens. This is true for all industries, including healthcare. Healthcare businesses will need to set aside more money for hiring and training younger workers. For example, the cost of turnover for nurses is $37,700 to $58,400 per nurse.
A Shift in Focus
A geriatric population will shift the need for specialists in certain areas. Multiple positions are expected to grow, reflecting the increased demand for medical personnel. An increase in the prevalence of diabetes means that more endocrinologists will be needed. Increased obesity rates mean that people will need more joint replacements, so there will be a high demand for orthopedic surgeons. Other chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer will also increase in their numbers. This means that there will be a higher need for cardiologists, neurologists, and oncologists. Healthcare businesses will need to account for recruiting and hiring these specialist physicians and nurses. Multiple positions in healthcare are expected to grow because of the need for comorbidities in the aging population.
Comorbidities in the Aging Population
Until now, a lot of the focus on healthcare has been related to the care of one disease. An increase in comorbid conditions means that healthcare businesses need to account for longer visits and more complex services in their healthcare models. For example, there will be increasing numbers of the elderly who have already had one heart attack or a “mini” stroke, which is also called a transient ischemic attack. These people may have comorbid conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or osteoarthritis that complicates their care.
Need for More Preventive Care
Preventive care takes time and does not produce obvious results as reactive care does. However, an aging population means that healthcare businesses need to include more preventive care in their plans. Preventive care costs less for businesses, insurers, Medicare and Medicaid and patients. One example is that senior citizens have a high risk of falls. When an elderly person falls, they are at a high risk of breaking a large bone, such as the hip. A broken hip often leads to a cascade of problems. Businesses could dedicate funds to fall prevention in order to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.
Every healthcare business should have plans in place for handling the increased demand for healthcare services from America’s aging population. A company should be prepared for growth and have a solid strategy in place for scaling up its services. Companies also need to have strategies for hiring top-notch healthcare providers and administrators into their organization.