Nearly half the U.S. population is projected to have one or more chronic conditions by 2030 and the need to better manage both care delivery and costs has never been greater.
At the same time, Baby Boomers are entering their “Golden Years” and seeking out preventative and lifestyle medicine to ensure that they live longer and with more personal freedom. And they want to do all of this while “aging in place” and not being relegated to the decrepit and outdated nursing homes of their own parents’ generation. After all, we live in a new era of instant song selection, streaming movies, and Amazon home delivery.
Why be relegated to the nursing home of the past?
In the world of convenience and–healthcare is no exception–patients have a desire to be serviced more at home and have providers meet them where they are. This is evidenced by the growth in virtual medical care, a $38 billion industry in 2019, expected to surge to $130 billion in 2025. That’s good news for small and medium-sized cities across America looking to grow their economies, like Midland, Texas where population growth is expected to command an additional 1,300 healthcare workers by 2030.
These trends are also a great signal for Baby Boomers who are already using their mobile and personal devices to educate themselves, interact with communities, and shop online. Healthcare, then, is a natural extension of this behavior.
A late 2017 survey by the American Association of Retired People (AARP) found over 90% of adults over 50 own a computer or laptop, 70% have a smartphone, and over 40% own a tablet. These findings are backed by a 2018 consumer survey on digital health from Accenture that found seniors are interested in using digital technology to help facilitate healthcare reminders, follow-ups, and support.
With increasing Boomer inclination towards developing healthy lifestyles, using things like preventative and alternative medicine have become the major trend. According to a 2017 study out of Michigan, Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine among Older Adults: Differences between Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers, “among identified [complementary and alternative medicines] CAM users, a higher proportion of baby boomers reported using most individual CAM modalities.”
The use of integrative fitness and dietary regimens, vitamin injections and supplements, alternative medicine like acupuncture, and with Boomers talking about the latter on social media at a rate of 47% in comparison to 17% for Gen Xers. Virtual care services provide a digital solution to access information and recommendations on these products.
The First Step: Bringing Care to the Home
The first step on this journey is to use virtual tools to deliver better care where it matters: at home. Myia Health, an intelligent health monitoring platform, augments the ability of clinicians to better care for patients living at home with chronic conditions like heart failure, COPD, diabetes and hypertension.
Unlike scattered and unreliable data that can come from a single wearable health monitoring device, Myia uses a specially selected set of sensors and data sources (including patient approved smartphone activity and location information) to bring context insight into a patient’s overall condition. With the company’s sensor kit, clinicians are able to capture critical information about a patient’s health and behaviors that can be used to do things like adjust medications remotely and prioritize and help schedule clinic visits.
Myia Health is now partnering with Mercy Virtual, known as the country’s first “hospital without beds,” to scale a service offering to patients who have a “rising risk” of developing chronic conditions like heart failure and COPD and stage interventions to reverse course before a condition may take hold. . For Boomers who want to live longer, stay out of the hospital, and remain independent, virtual care solutions seem like the natural next step.
“Patient-generated health data (PGHD) from the real-world, in its modern form, will be an unlock that drives the prevention evolution,” Simon MacGibbon, CEO & Co-Founder, Myia Labs, said. Myia and Mercy both plan to start scaling their service offering to over 5,000 patients as Mercy works with over 40 leading healthcare providers around the United States.
For Mercy, this is a culmination of efforts begun in October of 2015, when the St. Louis, Missouri based non-profit opened a $54 million, four-story hospital in 2015 that instead of holding patients, became the home to 330 staffers. To date, the system has seen significant success to date with its focus on a home-based care reducing hospital admissions and ER visits by more than 50%. Mercy has led a $10 Million investment in Myia because it believes it can make these results even better.
Large health systems like Kaiser and Geisinger are making strong in-roads to moving care of their aging populations online, as well. Kaiser is a primary example where 52% of all visits have moved to a virtual setting as new mobile applications and wellness tools are regularly used by Boomers seeking a proactive approach to “preventative self-management.”
Similarly, Geisinger Health System, which is based in Danville, Pennsylvania, launched a farm fresh food bank to provide low sugar and low sodium foods to patients with chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes. What Geisinger did that was different here is launch the food bank in conjunction with mobile applications, home monitoring, and other virtual care tools that ensured dieting and nutrition programs were adhered to. Again, using virtual tools as the enabler of treatments that work.
Integrative and Alternative Medicine Goes Mainstream
Similarly, virtual care can enhance the potential effectiveness of integrative alternative treatments aimed at longevity, wellness, and overall health. Given boomers’ preference for wellness-based therapies, we should only expect to see this space grow over the next few years.
NextHealth, a retail longevity clinic offering optimization treatments ranging from IV and vitamin therapy to food sensitivity testing, is a great example of this in action. NextHealth provides retails a variety of longitudinal sensors directly to their patients to enable a full-feedback loop and adjust treatments. According to Dr. Darshan Shah, the NextHealth’s founder, such tools are key in moving the system from the current orientation of “disease care” towards “health care.”
In an interview earlier this year, Ateev Mehrotra, MD, MPH, associate professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School predicted, “We’re seeing very rapid growth of these technologies and with the growth rates I’m observing, in three, five, or ten years, telehealth will be ubiquitous.” With large institutions producing exceptional results in virtual health management, and pioneering technology companies developing more sophisticated and comprehensive products, it’s hard to argue against his prediction and newly emerging products.
With that said, would you put your parents in a nursing home? Comment below.