Importance of Anticipated U.S. Demographic Shifts in Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

The entire healthcare industry is going to feel the growing impact of a demographic change unlike any the United States has ever seen. The aging of our population, which some have called a “silver tsunami,” will only keep accelerating. We are not that far away from 2034, the date when older adults are first expected to outnumber children in the population. Even before then, all baby boomers will be older than 65 by 2030, such that the older adult population will comprise 21% of the population, up from 15% today.

Rising Expenditures and Caregiver Shortages

One result of these changes is the anticipated rise in national health expenditures—the $4 trillion estimated for 2020 will increase to $5 trillion by 2025. In 2019, CMS projected that the national health expenditure growth is expected to average 5.5 percent annually from 2018-2027, reaching nearly $6.0 trillion by 2027 (CMS, 2019). In addition to the staggering growth in aggregated cost, the workforce needed to treat the growth in healthcare demand will be astounding. Beyond the shortage of clinicians, Mercer Consulting predicts that by 2025 U.S. providers also will face a collective shortage of about 500,000 home health aides, 100,000 nursing assistants, and 29,000 nurse practitioners (Mercer, 2019).

Acute Shortages of Much-Needed Geriatricians

Specific areas of the physician shortage also will be related to this shift in need. The current need for geriatricians far outstrips our supply of them, especially when you realize that about 30% of the population 65 and older requires some type of geriatric care. That equates to more than 15 million people in need. Since each certified geriatrician can effectively treat up to 700 patients, we would need about 21,500 certified geriatricians to care for the Silver Tsunami—four times the current supply! Dishearteningly, there was a 21% decrease in the number of first-year geriatric residents from 2010 to 2015. This means that the pool of certified doctors is now shrinking at the same rate the need for them is growing. Future issues surrounding geriatric care are alarming, from the increasing population with chronic conditions and decline in family caregiving options to the very sustainability and structure of federal healthcare programs.

This blog post is an excerpt from the longer HealthStream article, Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade in Healthcare. Focused on the people providing healthcare, HealthStream is committed to helping customers address and solve big problems in our industry. From hospitals to long-term care and across the care continuum, there are challenges stemming from demographic changes, governmental mandates, and the need for higher care quality. Download the webinar, Ten Healthcare Trends for 2020, where Robin Rose, Vice President, Healthcare Resources Group, HealthStream discusses this information in detail. HealthStream is dedicated to improving patient outcomes through the development of healthcare organizations' greatest asset: their people. Learn more about our