Study: Total Hospital Inpatient Days to Increase 19% by 2025

A new study published in Health Affairs sheds light on the demands America's healthcare providers will face through 2025 in light of expanded coverage and more elderly patients.

Researchers used a computer model to estimate demands from 2013 to 2025, factoring in the aging U.S. population and expanded coverage under the healthcare reform law. The primary reason for the increased demand for healthcare providers through 2025 is an increase in the number of patients with chronic diseases associated with aging, according to study authors.

Number of people in the U.S. over 65 is expected to grow by roughly 45 percent from 2013 through 2025, and the study lists projections for several chronic conditions expected to proliferate in this timeframe. Between 2010 and 2030, there will likely be an additional 27 million Americans with hypertension, eight million with coronary heart disease and three million with heart failure. The elderly population with Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase 40 percent by 2025, and a 21 percent increase is expected for elderly people with diagnosed diabetes.

In light of these and other figures, total hospital inpatient days are projected to increase by roughly 19 percent from now through 2025, as the growing elderly population will have more complex health needs and higher rates of surgery and hospitalization, according to the study.

Specialists will also face substantial demand, more than that for primary care, according to the study. The number of both cardiology and rheumatology office visits is expected to increase by 18 percent, while urology and neurology office visits are project for a 17 percent increase, and dermatology visits by 16 percent. The demand for adult primary care office visits is expected to grow by about 14 percent.

It's important to note those figures fluctuate by state. For example, although demand for cardiologist services is projected to increase by 20 percent at the national level between 2013 and 2025, the projected increase in demand ranges from 5 percent in West Virginia to 51 percent in Nevada.

"There are some indications that the supply of providers in many specialties and locations is inadequate to meet the demand for services," the authors wrote, citing an average wait time of 34.8 business days to see a neurologist and 15.5 days for a heart checkup with a cardiologist in 2009 as examples.

The study authors concluded that the elderly population's disease burden will require multidisciplinary teams driven by specialists. "We believe that specialists will be a key component of such care delivery teams and that their roles will be clearly defined as part of evidence-based care plans," the authors wrote in the study. "Failure to train sufficient numbers of specialists could exacerbate already long wait times, reduce access to care for some of the nation's most vulnerable patients, and reduce patients' quality of life."

More Articles on Hospitals and Aging Populations:

CMS: Health Spending Growth to Stay Slow in 2013
How Hospitals Can Lessen the Cost of Heart Disease
6 Thoughts on the Impact of the Baby Boomer Generation on Hospitals

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