The Future of Health Care
Diagnosis: Expansion and Contraction. Boomers will fuel new treatment trends, business opportunities and physician shortages.
Health care is big business in these parts, with our older-than-average population, which will keep growing as more baby boomers hit retirement age and head to the Sunshine State. And that will just be one factor bringing changes to how and where local patients receive medical care.
“A year from now, we’ll still be busy in the traditional sense of caring for people, but hopefully people will become much more aware that a major percentage of their health is related to things that they do to themselves,” says Dr. Allen Weiss, CEO and president of the NCH Healthcare System. “It will take a few years to change and inculcate making the healthier choice the easier choice, but that should ultimately move us to where we want to be five to ten years from now, which is really into prevention rather than repair.”
Expect local health-care providers to keep exploring new technology like telemedicine, which is already being used by hospitals here for neurological patients. But there will still be lots of questions to be answered before adoption can become widespread. “The technology already exists to do so much,” says Jim Nathan, president and CEO of Lee Memorial Health System. “Where the problem is how to utilize it effectively.”
We’ll continue to see a “retailization” of health care, offering patients convenience and choice. “People want to make their own decisions in health care the way they make their own decisions when shopping,” says Nathan. Lee Memorial’s new Healthy Lifestyle Center at Coconut Point will even be located in the midst of a shopping center. The walk-in location won’t provide medical care but will offer information on dealing with chronic conditions or navigating the insurance system.
IN FIVE YEARS:
Local health-care providers will be working to keep patients out of the doctor’s office or hospital by focusing on prevention and prediction. “We really want to get into predictive analytics, so that we can tell ahead of time when you’re going to be sick and prevent that from happening,” says Weiss. “It’s already happening, and in five years it will be more prevalent.”
This will be a major period of growth for Lee Memorial Health System, with the new Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida opening in 2017, Lee Health Village at Coconut Point in 2018, and an expansion of Gulf Coast Medical Center coming in 2020. “And nothing seems to be calling for the growth to slow down,” says Nathan.
IN 10 YEARS:
Local residents will be getting more of their medical care right in their own homes. “We’ll be getting into people’s homes electronically and be able to supplement that with a visiting home nurse or physician’s assistant, so that the hospital is used just for people who need surgery, the intensive care unit, or an ER visit,” says Weiss.
Expect enterprising entrepreneurs to capitalize on this trend. “This area is ideal for health-care startups not only because of the age of our population, but also because the population here is generally a little more educated and more savvy,” says Dr. Amanda Avila, a physician in the Florida Neurology Group and founder of telemedicine company TeleSpecialists.
IN 20 YEARS:
In 2029, the last of the baby boomers will start turning 65. “There will be some really neat opportunities and challenges ahead of us when the baby boom generation fully matures,” says Nathan. “But we cannot provide services and care for this senior population based upon the way we provide services and care today.”
“We already have physician shortages now, and we’re not into the meat of the baby boomers yet,” says Avila. “So there’s going to be quite the competition for regular brick-and-mortar doctors."
IN THE MARCH 2014 REPORT, Critical Connections to Care, Florida TaxWatch estimated a potential savings of $1 billion to Florida if telehealth could reduce recently reported healthcare charges by even 1 percent.
IN 2030 IT’S PREDICTED there will be 5.2 million baby boomers in Florida, making up 21.8 percent of the state’s total population of 23.8 million. (Source: University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research)
FLORIDA WILL FACE a critical shortage of physicians over the next 10 years unless more medical residency training positions are created. A first-ever study of physician supply and demand commissioned by the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida found the shortage will grow to 7,000 physician specialists by 2025. Florida would need to create and fill 13,568 residency positions to fully resolve the physician shortage by 2025. That equates to about 1,360 new residency slots a year for the next decade.