The Institute of Medicine put out a report yesterday titled “Retooling for an Aging America: Building the Health Care Workforce.” The report discusses how the aging of the baby-boom generation will create greater needs for health care providers (of all types) who are trained in caring for the elderly with chronic conditions. The report’s recommendations fall into three categories: training, system transformation and financing. Like many reports about health system improvement, their recommendations all make sense – particularly within the context of the three categories. However, like many IOM reports, the writing by Committee process is a bit evident in that, (at least from the Executive Summary), it doesn’t seem to describe a complete plan, nor does it prioritize any of its recommendations – either in terms of funding or which actions should be done first.
In addition, while the report recognizes that the elderly in the coming decades will be healthier than those of 20 or 30 years ago, it doesn’t seem to fully address how this will change the healthcare services needed by the future elderly.
It seems to me, that one of the major challenges facing the healthcare system of the future is how to better manage chronic conditions – regardless of the patient’s age. Thus, rather than retrain clinicians (or train more caregivers) in geriatrics, there needs to be more across the board efforts in chronic care management and coordination among all levels of caregivers. This would benefit the growing elderly population – many, but not all of whom will have multiple chronic conditions – as well as the non-elderly with chronic diseases like diabetes, and the many neuromuscular degenerative diseases like MS or rheumatoid arthritis. This type of system-wide transformation seems like a better use of resources than segmental/specialized retraining and recruitment.
What are your thoughts?