The world’s population is ageing, with people over the age of 65 being the fastest-growing age group says the United Nations. The implications of this for our health system can’t be underestimated - we need to think and act differently now if we are to better meet the health needs of our ageing population.
In Australia, the number of people aged 65 or older is expected to more than double by mid-century, at which time two million of us will be 85 years or older compared to around half a million today. Worldwide, one in six people will be older than 65 by 2050, according to the latest projections from the United Nations. In comparison, the number of working-aged people is falling steadily.
Older people are higher users of health services as many health conditions become more common with age, and they are more likely to have multiple long-term health conditions.
Already in Australia, one in every two people have a chronic disease – this currently accounts for approximately $50 billion or 36% of the total health budget. Unless we do more to address this, we risk our public and private health systems being swamped.
We need new solutions to providing affordable care outside of hospitals - such as home-based care, ambulatory centres, day hospitals, specialist centres and telehealth. Our Medibank at Home program has already benefitted thousands of patients who have been able to receive dialysis, chemotherapy, reconditioning rehab, infusions and palliative care in the comfort of their own home.
We should invest more in preventative health. Taking a more holistic approach to caring for at-risk patients could reduce hospitalisations and improve health outcomes, and there is also a huge opportunity for the development of better preventative programs for people managing chronic diseases. Working with more than 3,600 doctors, our Care Complete program has grown to become one of the largest chronic disease management programs in Australia.
Our purpose at Medibank is to help people achieve better health for better lives. Enabling healthy ageing is a major part of our purpose, but one we cannot do alone. We need to work together with doctors and health professionals, hospitals and the government to ensure our health system is strong enough to support us now and in the future.