Baby boomers: Effective population health management and impacts on care

Staff, Willis Towers Watson - Print  | 

The approximately 78 million American baby boomers are causing disruption in health care. As three million of them hit retirement age every year, they will continue to require health care services for decades to come. Not all baby boomers are old enough for Medicare benefits. Providers and payors must effectively manage the health of this population that uses more resources per person than past generations. They will have to address care across all settings, including hospitals, ambulatory care, aging services, home health and telehealth.

Keep in mind “members” of any generation are all different, and not all persons in a “population” are motivated by the same events and subjectivities the public may use when referring to boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, etc.

demographics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that Americans are living longer than at any other time. A recent study (October 2016) by the Society of Actuaries provided a “best guess” that the average 65-year-old man should die a few months short of his 86th birthday and a woman at 88. But researchers have also found that despite this improvement in life expectancy the boomers are less healthy than previous generations. CDC data has seen a continuous increase in chronic health conditions since 2012 in this age group. These conditions include cancer, heart disease, hypertension, dementia, arthritis, depression, obesity and diabetes. This all combines to place further pressures on our fragile health systems.

older population

Many feel that, just like children have specialists (pediatricians), older people should have access to professionals trained in caring for them for the same reasons. This does not mean that every practitioner must be a gerontologist but at a minimum should have the competencies to address the unique health care needs of an aging, older population. At the same time boomers are transitioning in their lives, so are a significant number of health care providers, including physicians and nurses. Demand exceeds supply in an already stressed care continuum. Baby boomers will lead the advancement of alternative methods for monitoring health and providing care that will allow improvement in health management of generations to
follow.

What other factors are impacting baby boomers?
Studies continue to show that this generation is less well-off financially. This includes preparedness for retirement and how they will access and pay for health care during this transition. What are some of the contributing factors?

What can be done?
Health care is often costly, fraught with quality issues and does not always meet the expectations of payors and users. Innovative care delivery models that engage the patient, caregivers, clinicians and care coordinators in a collaborative structure using assessment, option discussions, an understanding of costs and benefits and goal achievement support must be in place to successfully manage the baby boomer population. What should be considered?

Aging population and professional liability claims
In their 2016 “Healthcare Malpractice Claims” update, AIG devoted a section to “The Graying of America and the Impact of Elder Care.” Also included were findings from elder care claims resolved by AIG between January 2012 and June of 2016. Claim types:

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The United States cannot afford to ignore how baby boomers are impacting health care. We need care delivery and payment models that provide safe and cost efficient health care and that will address access for the staggering numbers of aging boomers who have or will develop very complex care needs. Providers and payors also must realize that with this demand from a specific “at-risk” population, they also must assess their increased financial and liability exposures and impacts to their strategic plan. 

Resources
Health care malpractice claims: 2016 update
http://www.aig.com/patient-safety

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