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10 Trends for 2019 That Are Redefining Care Across the Continuum – Part 1

Across the continuum of care, 2019 is going to be a year of uncertainty, as well as innovation. Many experts predict change in terms of healthcare financing, merger and acquisition activity, and new technology coming into play. The need keeps growing for everyone in the industry to put together infrastructure to support value-based healthcare and to deter hackers. Like usual, we’ll still be focusing on employee recruitment, development, treatment, and retention. Uncertainty also creates opportunity—expect both through the coming months.

This blog post is the first of three based on our Webinar, 10 Trends That Are Redefining Care Across the Continuum, presented by HealthStream’s Robin Rose, Vice President, Healthcare Resource Group, and Robyne Wilcox, Channel Director, Continuum. These major trends are affecting many care environments, ranging from demographics and workplace characteristics to the financial side of healthcare and the technology on which we are depending more and more.

Trend One: The Population is Aging

We are nearing the watershed demographic moment, 2030, when one of five residents of the U.S. will be retired. Even now, as many as 10,000 people a day register for Medicare. The earlier situation, where 5 or 6 younger workers supported a single person over age 65, is no longer true. By 2060 there will be only two and a half working age adults for every person at retirement age. The median age of the U.S. will increase from today’s 38 to 43 by 2060, which is quite a change in our population. One consequence will be big growth in the post-acute market. The number of Americans over the age of 65 will double, from 50 to 100 million, by 2060, and the number of patients requiring post-acute care is going to reach 27 million by 2060, up from 8 million today.

Even now, we are living longer, but with more chronic conditions. By 65 at least 80% of us will have at least one condition and a quarter of us will have four or more. A third of us are taking five or more medications. This leads many to expect a growing focus on population health management and chronic care management. Thus, resource needs are going to continue to increase across all healthcare settings, leading to a shortage of healthcare professionals, which we are already facing for nurses and physicians. The sustainability and structure of federal programs like Medicare may be a concern as this population shift continues. Changes in family structure and more people living single or childless will likely require more professional caregivers needed as we age.

Trend Two: These Seniors Are Different

Seniors now are quite different from past generations, upending conventional wisdom. The 30 years that people are adding to their lifespan now is really a longer middle-age. People in this cohort are very active and not the traditional image that we have of senior citizens. Many are still working, and it is estimated that by 2024 36% of people 65 to 69 will be still be in the labor force. They are also embracing this as a time to do a lot of things that they couldn’t do when they were working full time, from significant travel to hobbies.

More importantly, these seniors have mastered technology much earlier in their lives, from the use of cell phones and the Internet to social networking. They are also savvy consumers, assessing potential purchases and bringing that level of engagement and expectation to their healthcare. They are getting more involved in the health system, and expect consumer level care. A lot of these seniors want to age at home now, so they’re expecting on-demand services to be brought to their home. These are people who can also look up their doctor, their caregiver, and anyone with whom they are going to interact. The transparency involved in ratings on the Internet and social media satisfies the demands and expectations these seniors are bringing to healthcare.

Trend Three: Creating New Mergers and Partnerships to Improve Continuum Care

When CMS reversed course about mandatory bundled programs, everyone expected them to slow the move toward value-based care. But that’s not been the case—the move to value-based care is continuing. The initiative requires hospitals to want suppliers to partner with them and join them in being responsible for outcomes.  We’re seeing suppliers from healthcare IT to medical device manufacturers being asked to help reduce barriers across settings, provide advanced consulting services, share risk, and help find ways to do things more effectively and more efficiently.

Some large acute care systems are blurring those lines between care environments, underscoring the need for providers across the continuum to start embracing the same values and standards as acute care. Also, hospitals are acquiring or organically growing care facilities outside acute care to deliver better outcomes by managing patients across more of the healthcare continuum. A recent study of 45 healthcare C-suite leaders found that 24% of the organizations were engaging in a healthcare merger or acquisition for increased integration aimed at more efficient, effective care, as well as to improve performance in value-based reimbursement models. Healthcare stakeholders have announced 255 healthcare merger and acquisition deals in the second quarter of 2018, up 9.4% from last year. The most active subsector is long-term care, with 104 announced healthcare merger and acquisition deals, representing 41% of deal volume.

Access the full webinar about trends redefining care across the continuum here.