Even our most forward-thinking colleagues lie awake at night wondering how to juggle the strategies of today with the innovations they’ll need for tomorrow. Take, for instance, the divergence among the various generations of health consumers.

On one hand, we have the Baby Boomers, whom we know fairly well. They have (multiple) chronic conditions and are living longer than the senior generations of the past. They’re accessing the healthcare system on a regular basis at the traditional sites of care.

On the other hand, we have the Millennials, whom we barely know because they go out of their way to avoid interacting with what they believe is a super-convoluted healthcare system. They have wellness and preventive needs but would just as soon skip the old-school delivery channels.

Service needs vary

A recent KPMG report notes that as more Baby Boomers age into retirement, they’ll create even greater demand for chronic care services. Alzheimer’s disease alone is expected to increase 100% by 2030, according to stats cited in the report. And heart disease, which is already the most prevalent health condition, is on track to increase 10%, reaching 116 million people. (KPMG)

However, we can expect a forthcoming rebalance toward acute care as the Boomers become older and their underlying chronic conditions become more severe. Today’s trend that favors outpatient care could potentially see a backslide, and markets that have witnessed recent hospital closures will scramble to meet the added acute-care needs of aging Baby Boomers.

Meanwhile, the Millennials are driving demand for one-off, convenient care services, tech tools, and telehealth. They’re the group furthest afield from the traditional acute-care hospital.

Today, the opportunity is to provide Millennials physical and mental wellness support. Tomorrow, they’ll start aging into the cohort of chronic disease patients. Markets will need to respond with streamlined experiences, based on this younger generation’s preferences, which ensure improved engagement.

Individualized approach

The healthcare system must serve both Baby Boomers and Millennials more nimbly, preparing simultaneously for what they will each need in the future. And we believe common ground can be found in — you guessed it! — an individualized approach.

It applies today and will no doubt be a strategy well into the future.

Two features underpin the individualized approach: extended care teams working in a healthcare ecosystem and a backbone of accessible data. Extended care teams, whether local or remote, can customize the engagement experience for each patient. And the data that supports the individualized approach can come from a range of sources — from the hospital EHR, to the wearable device, to the neighborhood programs that address social determinants of health.

Got yesterday’s emergency room visit in the record so the nurse practitioner can call to schedule Ann’s follow-up appointment? Perfect! Did Hannah’s smartwatch track her exercise routine for the week? Nice. Has the local CBO dropped off those low-sodium meals for George? Excellent.

What will continue to be the biggest challenge is making all these moving parts appear seamless for the health consumer. People and systems must be able to communicate, integrate, and exchange data. Partnerships must allow for continuous feedback. Referrals among the various settings of care must build a more connected, more accountable ecosystem of care delivery.

Our Take: Meeting consumers’ individualized needs will go a long way in engaging the younger and older generations in their health. And that, in turn, will advance the transformation from a sick-care system into a healthcare system.