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How technology can help Florida’s aging population

By Linnie Greene, Staff Writer at Arcadia
Care Management Risk Management Patient Outcomes Patient Engagement

In Florida, healthcare technology can unlock the keys to better outcomes and more efficient care, particularly when it comes to seniors and other high-cost, high-risk populations.

The number of Florida residents 65 and up is the second-highest of any state in the US (just behind California), with elderly citizens making up 21.3% of the population. In healthcare, that means facing problems specific to aging, envisioning new solutions that keep costs under control and facilitate long, healthy lives for as many people as possible.

The most powerful tool in the quest for population health and efficient use of resources is technology. From automated outreach to targeted campaigns around social determinants of health (SDoH), there are numerous ways data analytics and related technologies can make processes better and interventions more impactful. Here, we’ll discuss the specific ways these tools could be leveraged for Florida residents.

The major challenges of an aging population in healthcare

As people age, their healthcare needs begin to change. Whether someone’s over 65 in Florida or Massachusetts, there are common conditions that emerge, and when a large portion of your state is in that bracket, it’s worth envisioning a prevention and treatment plan. Let’s look at some of the diagnoses that frequently drive high medical costs or lack adequate attention:

  1. Alzheimer’s and dementia. Florida already performs well when compared with other states, but because Alzheimer’s and dementia afflict elderly patients at the highest rates, it’s crucial that healthcare providers in the Sunshine State take a proactive, preventive approach. With appropriate screening and early intervention, the prognosis looks much better than if this disease is caught later on.
  2. Cardiovascular disease. Undetected heart disease sends hundreds of thousands of Americans to the emergency department each year, and whether that ends in admission or a subsequent referral, the best-case scenario is to catch it before things get dire, so the patient can receive convenient, consistent care outside of an ED.
  3. Diabetes and hypertension. With an estimated 33% of adults 65 and over diagnosed with diabetes, it’s critical to tackle this in order to keep an aging population healthy and prevent costly, life-altering complications from occurring.
  4. Depression and mental health struggles. From stigma to a lack of information, there are many reasons older patients might struggle with depression in silence, but ultimately, a proactive approach can enable communities to better understand this illness. Often under-treated, this condition is common in geriatric populations (but shouldn’t be accepted as the norm).

How can technology help remedy geriatric disease in Florida?

In all of the cases above, prevention is the ticket to better outcomes and more efficiency. A finger on the pulse of population health data is the first step. Before any initiative takes place, Florida healthcare organizations should assess the major needs that exist in their patient populations — and the best way to do that is through robust analytics.

If, for example, a disproportionate number of patients in the county that an organization serves struggle with diabetes, the best use of resources might be a public health campaign around healthy eating habits, or free A1C testing at outpatient clinics.

Crucially, great data establishes a baseline, after which technology (like an analytics platform) becomes a key player in two arenas:

  1. Outreach. Simply establishing a reliable system of communication can go a long way in patient retention and loyalty. Beyond that, critical information about public health campaigns (like flu vaccinations, for example) go straight to the source. An automated text message can reach thousands of patients at once, and with sophisticated analytics, organizations can stratify patients so that they reach a highly specific cohort (like those with a high depression score over a certain age, or people in a particular zip code).
  2. Education. Overuse of emergency departments is a huge issue nationwide, and Florida’s no exception. Sometimes, the best (and easiest) way to reduce unnecessary ED use is providing relevant information. Do patients know where offsite clinics exist? Are they familiar with the booking link for primary care appointments? Do they know about a free shuttle service, or that telehealth visits are available? There are many reasons people visit an ED when they should be in primary care, from language barriers to transportation struggles, but technology is one of the fastest ways to disseminate critical information to large amounts of people, quickly and effectively.

High-quality data for innovative Florida solutions

Chronic disease is far more costly than preventive care, yet many healthcare organizations and the populations they serve struggle with adequate resourcing and access. A clear-eyed view of the community’s needs can help providers come up with novel solutions, and great analytics provide a window beyond just ICD codes, like SDoH issues or unstructured notes that provide more context.

As the cost of administering healthcare rises, so too does the need for fast, trustworthy data that drives priorities and decisions. Florida can lean into the future of technology and create healthier, happier days for aging patients, and save on costs in the process. Join us and drive better outcomes for aging Floridians.