Shifting Healthcare Demographics
Our nation is aging at a rapid rate. In the next three decades, one in every five Americans will be over the age of 65with the 85-plus group expanding to more than 15 million. Many analysts have noted the threat of the "Silver Tsunami" on our nation’s economic resources as the first baby boomers turned 65 in 2011. These shifting healthcare demographics present 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. In fact, for the first time in history, these three programs will consume more than half of the federal budget with a projected federal proportion of spend 50.25% of all federal expenditures. Complicating the financing is the changing workforce. 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. Medicare insolvency is now projected to occur in 2026. 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.