Aging: The Tsunami for Healthcare
Humanity is growing older. According to the UN the number of people in the world aged 60 years or over is projected to double to 2.1 billion by 2050. In developed countries, more than one third of the population will be over 60 by this time. The number of people over 80 will increase even faster to 434 million from 125 million in 2017. Meanwhile the working age population, who are needed to pay or provide support for the elderly, will only increase by about 25 percent over the same time.
These numbers make clear: The question mark in the title of the DayOne Experts Event “Aging – the game changer for healthcare?” is actually redundant. The game simply has to be changed! The speakers and panelists at the event that took place in Basel on February 26 agreed that healthcare as we know it will not be able to cope with the tsunami of aging. Under this perspective, aging not only represents a threat, but also an opportunity, for it will compel the industry to make the systematic changes that are required for the overall improvement of healthcare. Therefore aging can and should also be perceived as an interesting market for healthcare innovation.
But where to begin? This is what we learned from the speakers and panelists at the DayOne Expert Event:
1) Healthcare as we know it has been built for acute care: from infrastructure to career plans, research incentives and reimbursement schemes, healthcare professionals are trained to fix and rescue lives. But when it comes to long-term care and treatment this acute system is highly inefficient and costly. A possible way forward was presented by Mieke Deschodt from the University of Basel, who presented the novel care concept INSPIRE, which will be implemented in the canton of Baselland.
2) A big research effort is needed to better diagnose, treat and most of all prevent the disease burdens of an aging population. As Antonella Santuccione from the Woman’s Brain Project stated: It takes weeks to diagnose a tumor, but years to diagnose Alzheimer’s. And the significant differences in disease progression in terms of gender shows that a precision medicine approach is very much needed to make progress in treating disorders that are typical to aging.
3) The best way to cope with the tsunami of aging is actually by staying healthy – not only as long as possible but preferably to the end of life. In this perspective, we have to shift our mindset from neglecting or avoiding aging to aging successfully. And as the findings of the 90+ Study show, presented by geriatric neurologist Szofia Bullain, this will need a more holistic view on health, as psychological and social implications seem to count much more than physical activities and healthy nutrition alone for successful aging.
4) The right use and bold implementation of technology, most of all digital technology, will be crucial. But a lifelong approach will also be needed. Knowing the genetic preposition would allow for better monitoring and nudging an individual to healthy behavior, thereby preventing the occurrence of disease in old age starting from the very beginning of our lifespan. But to actually make this happen a first important step will be to set up a trusted platform which allows citizens to share their health data with all stakeholders.
A big thank you to all the speakers and panelists for sharing their great stories and very valuable insights:
Mieke Deschodt, University of Basel
Antonella Santuccione, Woman’s Brain Project and Roche Diagnostic
Szofia Bullain, MD Geriatric Neurologist
Manfred Eggersdorfer, DSM Nutritional Products
Andy Bushell, Novartis
Hansruedi Voelkle, EUPATI