The No. 1 organic growth opportunity on hospitals' horizon

A significant organic growth opportunity is on the horizon for health systems, and it's one that all healthcare stakeholders must embrace: an aging and retiring baby boomer generation. 

"All health systems are going to need to address the demand that is going to come from the aging of our communities," Mercy CFO Cheryl Matejka told Becker's. "Our biggest growth opportunities are going to come from ensuring that we have wide-open access for patients both when and how they want to seek care."

Hospitals are particularly concerned about 2030, when the final baby boomer generation will reach age 65, "which will potentially pose the scenario of a smaller workforce serving a larger population in need of heightened care," according to Kevin Holloran, senior director and sector head at Fitch.

Mercy, a 40-hospital system headquartered in St. Louis, is bolstering its digital and home care services to be able to capitalize on this growth and expand access to care amid ongoing workforce challenges. 

"We're expanding digitally and making sure our consumers and patients know about those models," Ms. Matejka said. "There's a lot of care that we can address digitally; being able to get care from a trusted provider no matter where you are is important, as well as making sure patients can access our brick-and-mortar facilities when they want to."

Mercy is also growing its hospital-at-home program as the healthcare industry prepares to lean into the home as the default site of care to improve quality and reduce overall costs to the system.

"When delivered appropriately … we know the home supports the lowest cost, highest quality and safest care," John Mohart, MD, president of Mercy communities, who leads operations for all Mercy hospitals, said. "We also know capacity constraints and staffing challenges across the U.S. demand a new way of thinking about hospital care."

Hospitals and health systems big and small are seeing an increased demand for services as the last generation of the baby boomers approach retirement. By 2030, all baby boomers will be at least age 65 and the growth in the older population is projected to start slowing, according to U.S. census data. 

"We're seeing in the market more services for the baby boomer generation and those preparing to retire," Anthony Saul, CFO at Atlanta-based Grady Health System, said during a keynote session at the Becker's 14th Annual Meeting in April. "A big part of our strategy is expanding our presence in the community. We're moving to where the puck is going in terms of being able to service patients close to the home and in home when needed."

"Access, access, access" is the mantra at Grady, which includes seven neighborhood health centers, a behavioral health facility and is planning a $38 million standalone emergency department in South Fulton County, Ga.

"We're looking at the ecosystem and really moving the dial to meet our customers, our patients, where they are. We're doubling our clinical environment, our access points in the community and the amount of resources we have to welcome a patient in." Mr. Saul said. "As we look at the future landscape, the competition for customers will take this industry to another level. We're investing now to be ready to compete."

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