Aging patient populations are a constant topic of discussion in the healthcare sector. People are living longer and have higher expectations for quality of life. Elderly patients are trying to prevent or delay institutional care so that they can remain in their homes and preserve their day-to-day lifestyles for as long as possible. As healthcare professionals, how can we help them to achieve these goals in a way that makes sense for our patients and our practices?
A new demographic, new needs, and new approaches to care
A Health Services Research study published by the National Institutes of Health has said that more than 37 million people in the Baby Boomer population will attempt to cope with one or more chronic conditions by the year 2030. The demands of these patients on the healthcare system are obvious. Illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, congestive heart failure and dementia are the most common chronic conditions suffered by this population. All of these diseases take a severe toll on the physical and emotional well-being of aging patients, and seriously affect both the length and quality of life. However, most of these conditions can be avoided, delayed or managed with a high level of preventative care.
Recent research by TeleVox and Kelton has found that 68% of Baby Boomers are dissatisfied with their overall level of personal health. 95% of respondents said that they know that preventative care is important, but 26% also said that they were not always sure about what their health insurance policy would cover. These findings show that education and advocacy are absolutely vital in order to help this generation take control of their present and future health.
Remote care for higher patient engagement and better outcomes.
Perhaps unfairly, aging adults are often perceived as resistant to technology or unlikely to adopt new ways of communicating with their doctors. This stereotype may stand in the way of some of the most effective interventions we can offer our aging patients. TeleVox and Kelton found that an astounding 82% of surveyed Baby Boomers were not only open to using text, emails, and voicemails to talk to their doctors, they even thought it would help them to improve their health. This receptiveness shows that doctors could be utilizing high-tech, personalized solutions to assist and guide Baby Boomers in the kinds of lifestyle changes, preventative care, and testing that will improve their lives. It also paves the path for new technologies which will transform the way we treat aging adults.
Wearable medical devices are becoming a powerful tool for doctors and their patients, allowing seniors to track their own health on a daily basis and share the information they gather with their doctors. ABI Research has predicted that sales of these devices will top more than 100 million in the next two years, which could mean that a majority of care for this aging population could be administered outside of a hospital or doctor’s office. The advantages for both patients and the system are clear.
Cooperation and communication will always be the twin pillars of effective generational care. With the help of technology, we can now prepare to help our aging adult population live healthy, active, and fulfilling lives for many years to come.