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What Does the Future of Long-term Healthcare Look Like?

6 Min Read

The future of healthcare is adaptive and innovative as it embraces new technologies as well as preventative care solutions to address acute and long-term patient needs. Additionally, the role of healthcare professionals such as nurse leaders will be put in positions of leadership and authority at many long-term care facilities as the patient population grows.

Factors Impacting the Future of Healthcare

Roughly 75 million members of the Baby Boomer generation are reaching ages when chronic and acute health conditions mean short- and long-term care facilities will see a higher volume of patients. An article in Hospitals & Health Networks explains that existing force of healthcare providers is not strong enough to address the needs to the anticipated 3 million new Boomers entering retirement every year for the next 20 years. While this predicament seems to pose challenges, there are several innovations in terms of healthcare collaborations, service structures, and technology that will help the healthcare industry prepare for future generations of those needing care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2013 there was a 7.2 million shortage of healthcare workers worldwide and by 2035 that shortage will reach 12.9 million. The shortage means high demand for nursing, as well as mental health, medical and dental professionals. Educational institutions, such as Sacred Heart University, are responding to this anticipated demand by offering accredited online degree programs in nursing.

What is Long-Term Healthcare?

Long-term or custodial care is medical or non-medical care provided to individuals over a prolonged period of time for chronic medical issues and disabilities. The level of care is dictated by the patient’s needs and can range from minor intervention to required assistance with day-to-day activities such as personal hygiene, eating, and getting dressed. While long-term care can be provided wherever the patient’s needs exist, it is typically provided in the following environments:

  • Nursing or assisted living homes
  • Home care
  • Adult day care services
  • Hospice

Not all long-term healthcare needs are covered by Medicare and private insurance plans, which means the patient will have out-of-pocket medical expenses. Genworth, a Fortune 500 financial company, has a web-based tool that helps families estimate the cost of long-term care by location. A person living in Connecticut, for example can expect to pay:

  • $4,195 per month for home health aide
  • $1,695 per month for adult day care
  • $5,575 per month for assisted living
  • $12,167 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home

Acute vs. Long-Term Healthcare Demands

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) anticipates that as many as 70% of those turning 65 will need long-term services at some point, while 41% of those younger than 65 will need long-term care services due to physical or mental illness, chronic ailments, and injuries.

Long-term healthcare covers chronic, genetic, degenerative, and other ailments that demand consistent care on a day-to-day basis over a prolonged time. Acute care as defined by the WHO addresses these health emergencies that tend to rise as patients age:

  • Trauma care
  • Emergency care
  • Urgent care
  • Short-term stabilization care
  • Pre-hospital care
  • Critical care

As with long-term healthcare patients, healthcare professionals anticipate a boom in terms of acute care patients. Thus, a major component of addressing acute and long-term patient needs in the future is going to be patient education and healthcare prevention. According to the latest Institute of Medicine’s report on The Future of Nursing, to help with this need nurses are expected to take a larger role in healthcare practice and should achieve higher levels of education and training. For example, APRN’s have evolved and are trained to provide more services than before, being involved heavily in health promotion, disease prevention, and patient assessments. These measures along with others will help alleviate the demands on healthcare while contributing to what the future of healthcare delivery looks like.

The American Academy of Family Physicians predicted in 2010 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will increase demand for preventive healthcare services because the legislation includes requirements for insurance companies to cover preventive services such as screening tests, vaccinations and wellness visits. This means increased opportunities for healthcare professionals in the early detection of diseases and patient education.

The Horizon of Healthcare

There are many changes on healthcare’s forefront. Not only are preventative measures going to play a role in reducing demands on long-term healthcare, but reformed health insurance initiatives – such as the Affordable Care Act – will play roles as well. Both prevention and insurance will necessitate increased participation and collaboration on the part of a patient’s care team.

For example, high-risk patients who might need long-term care will be targeted by case managers to ensure those patients receive early intervention, thus preventing or minimizing future costly and resource-consuming health issues. To facilitate this and to facilitate providing care, technology will also play a much more substantial role in the future of healthcare.

How Technology Will Transform Healthcare

Technology plays a commanding role in the future of healthcare and will be integrated into every aspect of healthcare from the perspective of both the patient and the provider. According to Carol Huston, MSA, DPA, FAAN in “The Impact of Emerging Technology on Nursing Care: Warp Speed Ahead” from The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, innovations such as 3-D printing, genetics and genomics, biometrics, and electronic health records will be used in preventative and clinical settings. Among the anticipated changes are:

  • Self-care will be more relied-upon. Patients will be able to access professionals via telemonitoring and telemedicine and will be able to use sensors to recognize symptoms.
  • Data and analytics-reliant technologies will be able to provide essential information to providers about a patient based on that patient’s lifestyle.
  • Hospitals and other care providers will rely on robotics.
  • Innovations in data gathering and information processing will revolutionize the speed and expedience in which doctors can diagnose and treat patients.

To use these sophisticated technologies, the workforce will have to be adequately prepared. Nursing programs such as the Master of Science in Nursing includes coursework to prepare them for leadership roles in a variety of long-term healthcare settings.

Nurse Roles in the Future of Healthcare

Among the workforce who will be essential in addressing the long-term healthcare needs of patient populations, nurse leaders with MSNs will play an important role because their advanced training equips them for running facilities, interacting with patients via telemedicine, reading data and information to make decisions about patient treatment plans, educating the future nursing workforce, and so on.

Educational and Professional Impacts

MSN education has changed over the past several years to comply with changes in healthcare delivery, patient needs, and technologies used in healthcare. Nurse education is impacted because:

  • There will be an increased focus on technology in the curriculum
  • Nurse administrators will need to develop strong leadership and management skills
  • Nurses will need to develop competence in areas such as quality improvement, risk assessment, outcomes measurement, evidence based practice and advocacy.

Online degree programs give nurses who wish to advance their careers and be part of the solution to the predicted healthcare shortage an opportunity to earn accredited degrees.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing careers are expected to grow at a rate of 16% between 2014 and 2024. Nurses will be expected to collaborate more closely with other care providers and stay abreast of legislation that impacts delivery of healthcare.

Prepare yourself for the future of nursing and expand your skill set. Learn more about Sacred Heart’s accredited online nursing degrees today by requesting more information or calling 877-791-7181 to speak to an admissions adviser.

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