How health plans can prepare for the aging patient population — 4 takeaways

During a featured panel discussion at Becker's Payer Issues Roundtable, panelists discussed care access trends among older patient populations. Panelists highlighted the fragmented health system, shortage of providers across skill levels and significant variations in access to care as systemic challenges that need to be addressed as the U.S. population ages. The panelists also discussed how Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans can respond and what innovation exists to more holistically address this present and future need.

The panelists included representatives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Carallel and Sharecare.

Note: Quotes have been edited for length and clarity

4 takeaways + quotes:

1: The interconnectedness of health issues in aging requires a holistic approach.

Shara Cohen, CEO of Carallel: Older adults experience interconnected health issues and, for patients and families, that can be overwhelming to address. That's why there needs to be a connected approach to deliver 'whole person care.' From our perspective, that should mean involving friends or family. They're the most natural remote patient monitor, they're the most natural strategy to overcome social determinants of health. And, they are the most invested in ensuring good, quality care. Yet, they're largely ignored in the current healthcare environment.

2: Maintaining health and independence for patients as they age and the need for care increases requires a flexible and comprehensive approach.

Anuradha Rao-Patel, MD, associate vice president and senior medical director, government markets, Blue Cross NC: One of the things I saw very often when I was a clinician was this repeated cycle of hospitalization, functional decline, cognitive decline, then another hospitalization followed by a long and very, very painful trajectory towards end of life, not just for the patient but also for their family. A comprehensive approach to care can break that cycle.

3: Community-based models of care delivery can be impactful in addressing the needs of seniors.

ARP: We need to be doing more at the hyperlocal level. I think a community-based model of delivery of services to older patient populations is incredibly impactful and needs to be examined and scaled much more widely.

4: Proactive and early conversations about end-of-life care are crucial for ensuring quality of life and aligning care with patients' goals and values.

SC: I think the disconnect between health goals and personal values and the care that's actually delivered in our system today is one of our biggest challenges. Starting conversations about end-of-life early, well before actual end-of-life, can be powerful. Providing resources, using moments of interaction with the healthcare system to start those conversations is critical to removing stigma and creating openness.

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