Baby Boomers: The long term challenges

There are roughly 76 million baby boomers in the U.S. (Source 1) Baby boomers are individuals born between 1946 and 1964. The first of this generation to reach the retirement age of 65 was in January 2011. As more of these individuals approach retirement, the U.S. faces significant challenges.

As a result of retiring, baby boomers will begin to contribute less to the economy than workers do, causing the labor force participation rate to decrease. In 2003, 82% of boomers were part of the labor force; a decade later, that number has declined to 66%, and it will only continue to fall. (Source 2)

  • Let’s look at this scenario, you go into a hospital, clinic or facility, and what do you notice about majority of the nurses and physicians? Most of them fall between the ages of 50-70, right? This means that they are a part of that large population of baby boomers, and they too will soon retire.

So who will fill those positions? Do we have enough younger professionals to cover those who are retiring? Studies show we don’t, there is expected to be a shortage of workers in the U.S. workforce. Projections show that the current demand for labor is not being filled, and the gap between labor needed and labor available will continue to widen in the future.

  • The healthcare workforce could face a shortage of nurses due to the retirement of baby boomers. The United States will need to produce 1.1 million new registered nurses by 2022 to fill jobs and replace retirees. (Source 3)
  • A new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 doctors by 2025. The report used 2013 as its baseline; there were 767,100 active physicians in the U.S. that year under age 75. 10% of those doctors were between 65 and 75 years old and 26% were between 55 and 64. A third or more of doctors practicing today could retire in 10 years. (Source 4)

The shortage of healthcare workers brings significant concerns because baby boomers are living longer, even with chronic conditions and diseases. Home health is one of the nation’s fastest growing health sectors, with over 12,000 home health agencies serving approximately 4.5 million Medicare and Medicaid patients annually. (Source 5) With the increased demand for Home Care, the job market for caretakers will also begin to increase. Home Care Aides and Personal Care Aides are the 2nd and 3rd fastest growing occupations. These occupations are each projected to grow by 50% between 2012 and 2020. (Source 6)

What can provider agencies do to keep up with growth of baby boomers? In my opinion providers should focus on the following:

  • Improving patient care and quality of service to avoid hospitalizations
  • Recruit qualified workers; both skilled and unskilled
  • Providing workers with ongoing training and education, both office and field staff
  • Offer competitive pay rates and benefits

It’s important for providers to educate their staff, both office and field, on their company procedures and teach best practices to ensure they are efficient, effective, and compliant. Proving benefits and fair pay may help maintain staff and reduce the possibility of turnover.

So you may ask yourself, with the projected increase in staff, how will providers monitor and verify hours, services and plan of care compliance?

  • Technology solutions can help! Go paperless! Don’t use paper and pen to fill out schedules, timesheets, care plans and reports. It’s time you invest in technology solutions that can help you succeed in this changing world of home healthcare. Moving to an electronic health care system can help your agency become more efficient and effective. You can save a significant amount of time and money on verifying schedules, hours worked, visits and services provided as well as the billing and payroll process. Minimizing time spent on data entry and errors will lead to quicker payments for both the agency and its employees.

To summarize, with the expected growth in the home healthcare sector, the demand for caretakers will increase. So leverage the available technology solutions to help your agency succeed and stay on the right track. Technology… it seems like the way to go, right? Yes!

Now take the next step and start the research process. Make a checklist of your “must haves” in a system, use that list when evaluating solutions to see which checks off most boxes. It’s not an easy process, you might not find a solution that fits your needs 100%, but realize that some of those “must haves” may include desired benefit, but aren’t absolutely necessary. The most important thing to remember is that you need to find a solution that can help improve your current processes and procedures with least amount of disruption to your agency.

About the Author:
Michelle Spinelli is the Sales Coordinator at Sandata Technologies, LLC. She has over 8 years’ experience in home healthcare sales and marketing.