America’s aging population is growing, and so is the number of people who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart and respiratory diseases, and other disorders — and will need long-term care (LTC). To better treat them, healthcare organizations need to adopt data-driven processes, advanced analytics and agile information that flows freely among clinicians, other health professionals, health administrators and patients.

The number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million in 2016 to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 15 percent to nearly 24 percent, according to the Population Reference Bureau.  A report from Research and Markets suggests that by 2024, the U.S. LTC market is expected to reach $549.7 billion, and much of that growth is coming from the aging population.

To best serve patients, healthcare providers need good data that’s current, aggregated, standardized and representative not just of the patients they serve, but also of national and regional patients. Unfortunately, few LTC facilities have consistent access to all that information. Some use Medicare population data, such as hospital readmission rates, that is regularly tracked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Claims data can also be reviewed.

But Medicare data and claims data are generally not up to date, and they represent only slices of patient information, whether just regional data or maximum length of stay, etc. Neither presents a holistic, end-to-end view of patient information. For the most part, many facilities end up relying on plain old, manually driven spreadsheets of referral data, readmission rates and other information to compile data. That’s not very helpful.

Technology in healthcare

A digital health platform is the basis for a connected ecosystem of health provision, and it needs to be built on the pillars of interoperability, analytic insights and security (which in healthcare is focused on patient privacy and consent). These digital health trends require healthcare systems to rethink the way they operate, adopting new models that shift from acute to preventive care. Digital technology powers this transformation by supporting connection and collaboration, and by providing both the patient and population information needed to make better decisions.

Matching these industry trends are several broad technology trends:

  • Bridging the gap between the old health economy and the new. The old health economy measured success by patient volume; the new economy measures success by outcomes. APIs and modern application development allow federated workflow and data across legacy systems, off-the-shelf solutions, and new applications. In turn, this “health cloud” provides a base of current data for innovative artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
  • A revolution in platforms. It’s now possible to define ecosystems of healthcare technologies and design healthcare IT platforms to capture data from disparate sources (e.g., wearables, smartphones, glucometers). These new data sources and systems provide patients and caregivers with a richer, more holistic and real-time view of patients’ health.
  • Bringing it all together in the era of the intelligent enterprise. The data explosion — accompanied by advances in processing power, industrial-scale machine learning, health analytics and cognitive technology — is fueling the intelligent healthcare enterprise and driving more efficient business operations, more personal care and, most importantly, better health and wellness outcomes.

There’s so much to learn about today’s digital care transformation, which taps into advances in mobility, automation, intelligence, information-sharing and more to improve healthcare outcomes for the elderly and other populations. Get started with DXC’s position paper, “Healthcare 3.0 is digital.”