yThe healthcare system is about to be overwhelmed from the coming needs of the growing elderly population in the United States. This aging population trend is often referred to as the Silver Tsunami. Senior citizens aged 65 or more in America has passed the 50 million mark for the first time and the number is projected to reach over 70 million within the next 10 years. The number of baby boomers reaching retirement aged combined with the increase in life expectancy and advancements in healthcare will result in a 18 percent annual increases in healthcare occupations until at least 2026.
It is not just the primary care physicians that are preparing for the demands that the baby boomers will start to bring. Just about everyone involved in the healthcare industry will see their workload start to increase.
In-demand specialists will include geriatricians, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, rheumatologists, vascular surgeons, and others who care for the declining health and organ systems of elderly patients, and that number will only grow as the elderly population increases.
It comes as no surprise that these aging baby boomers were gonna have such a big impact on health care. Although their generation has access to better and readily available information about their health, it does not mean that their health is necessarily better than that of their parents’ generation. Baby boomers are seeing higher rates of obesity and cancer than previous generations.
Shortage of Physicians for Baby Boomers
As the demand for healthcare is increasing at a rapid rate the actual number of physicians in the United States is decreasing. A recent report by AAMC states that by 2030 the shortage of physicians is expected to reach over 100,000 with 43,000 of them being primary care physicians.
“The nation continues to face a significant physician shortage. As our patient population continues to grow and age, we must begin to train more doctors if we wish to meet the health care needs of all Americans,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD.
The study uses the number of baby boomers coming to retirement age to determine the number of needed physicians to deliver the healthcare requirements of the ever growing elderly population.
“By 2030, the U.S. population of Americans aged 65 and older will grow by 55 percent, which makes the projected shortage especially troubling,” Kirch said. “As patients get older, they need two to three times as many services, mostly in specialty care, which is where the shortages are particularly severe.”
Medicare Funding Concerns for Baby Boomers
These retiring baby boomers are expected to raise average individual Medicare spending from $131,000 to $223,000 by 2020, according to industry data. The Medicare program overall is expected to reach $1.2 trillion spending by 2030. As the cost for healthcare increases faster than the economic growth, Medicare taxes and the Trust Fund will cover less and less. By 2033 the Trust Fund is expected to be bankrupt and Federal taxes will only be able to cover about 48 percent of the actual costs.
According to the summary of the 2017 annual report, “Both Social Security and Medicare face long-term financing shortfalls under currently scheduled benefits and financing. Lawmakers have a broad continuum of policy options that would close or reduce the long-term financing shortfall of both programs.”
Healthcare Technology for Baby Boomers
Baby boomers are the main motivation behind the recent advances in healthcare technology. As they move toward retirement they want to receive their needed medical attention in the comfort of their own home. This has resulted in healthcare companies relying more on technology to handle their communication and monitoring needs for providing care to their patients.
Connecting smart devices with virtual nurses using cloud technology can support a wide range of healthcare processes. A patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs can be monitored continuously while they live their daily lives and alert online physicians when necessary. In addition to 24 hour monitoring they can also assist with medication information and dosage reminders.
Hal Wolf, CEO of HIMSS, believes the difficulty the aging population will present across the healthcare industry is a challenge that will require new approaches. “I am a huge believer in patient at home,” Wolf said. “People will need information not just in the home but globally as well.”
For healthcare providers and medical technology companies around the world it means those millions of baby boomers are potential customers. Expect an enormous boost to the healthcare industry moving forward.