A MEETING OF THE MINDS
Jul 18, 2022
I had the opportunity to represent Blooming Health at our very first USAging conference in Austin, TX last week (Jul 9 – 12). Despite the 109 deg F weather (or because of it 😉 ), I witnessed a real sense of community and camaraderie as the aging network from across the country gathered to share their learnings and recognize each other for their incredible achievements in the past 2 years.
The aging network includes community-based organizations (CBOs), Area Agencies for Aging (AAAs), and Native American Aging programs that have been supporting millions of older adults to age in a healthy and independent way in their own homes and communities, for 50+ years. They address older adults’ day to day social needs from food, housing, transportation, social isolation, in-home support, to caregiver support (many of which are now termed as social determinants of health aka SDOH). They also play a critical role in supporting older adults’ health needs such as vaccination, medication pick up, and transitioning from hospital to home.
As a person who recently transitioned from healthcare to social care, I wanted to share my key takeaways and observations from my very first USAging 2022 meeting.
The aging sector is in a key transformation phase across multiple dimensions:
1. Rising demand but limited supply
With the growing aging population and COVID19, the US aging network has seen an increase in the number of older adults they serve, including those who have more complex needs. Some geographies are also seeing an increasingly diverse aging populations in terms of ethnicity, language, and sexual orientation. Yet, there have been difficulties addressing this growing demand due to workforce challenges – including higher vacancies, larger caseloads, and difficulties recruiting more volunteers.
2. Adapting technology as a tool in the toolbox
The aging network is known for providing trusted, person-centered human services for their clients. As the demand for aging services increases, technology is becoming a key tool in their tool box to supplement capacity and improve process efficiencies. The aging network staff are transforming their workflows to leverage technology in a sensible and inclusive manner, so they can reach and support all older adult clients in need. Yet, they are also conscious about preserving the trust and person-centered services in these new workflows.
Further, the aging network is recognizing the growing importance of data for improving their workflows and demonstrating the impact of their services on clients’ health outcomes. Hence, they are looking to improve their infrastructure and resources for implementing data-driven approaches.
3. Collaboration between health care and social care
80% of our health outcomes are influenced by lifestyle social factors (SDOH) that occur outside the hospital walls. More often than not, patients with complex medical needs also have complex social needs. With value-based care and increasing focus on preventative services, there is a growing impetus for health care to work with the aging network to deliver holistic care for their members.
Traditionally, the aging network has been reliant on government funding (sustainable, but not sufficient) and grant money (non-sustainable). However, as the demand for their services increase, the aging network is looking to healthcare sources (Medicare / Medicaid) to supplement their funding and build capacity.
Despite a real opportunity for a WIN-WIN relationship, health care and social care have remained siloed for a long time in the US. We are currently going through an iterative test & learn model to find an optimal working model for integrated care. This model includes coding, contracting terms, service scope, payment, operational processes, technology infrastructure, and data exchange. For this model to succeed, it is highly important that the solutions are co-designed with input from BOTH social care and healthcare providers.
While there are always growing pains associated with such transformations, it only makes me more optimistic than ever. Because this is a sign that we are coming out of our comfort spaces to work together to address the biggest demographic challenge facing this 21st century i.e. enabling healthy aging of 80M adults turning 65+ by 2040!
If you are interested in discussing the topic or hearing more about how we are supporting the aging service providers during this transformation, please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org.