Futurist’s View of Long-Term Care Profession

Ian Morrisson is a futurist who deals a lot in healthcare and has spoken at a number of long-term care conferences. He’ll be one of the headliners at Mayo Clinic’s 2008 National Symposium on Health Care Reform. It’s kind of interesting to take a look back at what a futurist says and then what actually happens. Check out this excerpt from a 1999 Nursing Home magazine interview with Ian: Changing demographics related to an increase in the aging population continue to fuel the post-acute care industry. What are your thoughts on public policy in this area as we look ahead?

Morrison: The numbers of those over 65 really begin to increase starting in 2020. The fastest-growing segment of the population today is the group over 85 years old, and this is expected to continue. I think this creates tremendous opportunities and challenges. The post-acute care industry has really suffered under the recent Medicare reimbursement changes. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a clear concept of what our national policy is toward older persons and how we will care for them. Our default policy is Medicaid, to take care of those in nursing homes, which is unsatisfactory. It is not a sustainable plan. The question then becomes, can we build policy instruments, such as long-term care funding systems in the private sector, to alleviate some of the inevitable public burden? And, can we restructure the Medicare system?

Obviously there will continue to be a need for home healthcare, nursing homes and residential living centers. Do you see new entrants to the market?

Morrison: I think it’s about life care. There will be an explosion of opportunities over the next 20 to 30 years, which will involve some existing components, such as home healthcare, and others that will be newly created, because I don’t think that the average baby-boomer’s aspiration is to spend his last years in a traditional nursing home. I think we are going to want to "do everything" until our last breath.

And information technology’s role?

Morrison: Hugely important. You are going to have a bunch of 80-year-olds who have been Net-literate since they were 40, and they are going to look for services to be delivered electronically and, potentially, by very intelligent and sophisticated instruments. Many will also seek social support from communications technology.

Any concluding thoughts to offer our readers?

Morrison: Step up to the leadership challenge. In the final analysis, leadership is about values. It’s important to have a dialogue with people about what they believe in, what they see as the goal and purpose of the organization. If leaders can "connect the dots" in terms of the values and motivations of the organization’s stakeholders, then we can have a better healthcare system.

Ian is Pretty Right On

His analysis in 1999 is pretty spot on: A national public policy system (and so many states' policies) that aren’t anywhere ready for the age wave, new technology and new products, and the need for all of us to step up to the leadership challenge to deliver what a new generation of customers will want (they tell us in the Ecumen age wave study). It’s a cliche, but what a blue ocean opportunity for long-term care. It’s our turn to build the future.