Shifting Healthcare Demographics
Our nation is aging at a rapid rate. In forty years one in every five Americans will be more than 65 years of age, and the 85-plus group will expand to 15 million. Many analysts note the threat of the "Silver Tsunami" on our nation’s economic resources as the first baby boomers turn 65 in 2011. However, shifting healthcare demographics presents a very real phenomenon that is precipitating a debate on how we should allocate our nation’s resources. The debate will place added pressure on the healthcare industry’s capacity, ability and effectiveness to deliver needed services in the future.
Nationally, healthcare demographics are driving the debate on how best to manage Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. When Social Security was first enacted, 16 workers contributed to the Social Security Retirement Fund for every retiree. Today, the ratio is only two workers for each retiree. To meet these challenges, healthcare providers must consider how to best deliver services with the lens of a value-based focus on care delivery.
The issue of demographics is complicated by the fact that the healthcare workforce – the physicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and others – who provide the care is also aging. Fully one-third of the primary care physicians in the USA will retire, become disabled or die by 2025. Even if we dramatically compressed the curriculum for these professional clinicians, there is insufficient time to educate and train them before the “Retirement Tsunami” hits the healthcare community. The challenge is clear – new approaches in care delivery are required.