Demographic trends help hospitals plan for the future

Hospitals must pay closer attention to demographics and trends among their patients to provide the most appropriate care, Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) University Hospital Hamilton CEO Richard Freeman said Tuesday, according to NJ.com.

RWJ has adopted this practice to "prepar[e] for the future," Freeman told New Jersey business leaders. For example, the hospital recently announced plans to end inpatient obstetric services and close its maternity ward, which could mean up to 87 layoffs. Officials based this decision on statistics that show the number of women between the "child-bearing age" of 15 to 44 will fall to lower than it was in 2000 by 2019, while the number of women older than 45 will steadily climb, according to the article.

"We have a population that's going to have healthcare needs and a way of living that's different from what they're doing today," Freeman said, according to the article. "They're going to need transportation, access and specialized services both from healthcare and businesses, like yourselves, to make sure we continue to grow as a township."

There is precedent for this kind of strategy within healthcare, Freeman said, citing the hospital founders' decision in the 1960s to open a hospital in rural Hamilton as more people left Trenton. "Part of what made us successful was the forward-thinking people who moved here," he said. "If we don't want our hospital to languish, we have to be prepared for the future."

To stay afloat in a healthcare landscape that increasingly emphasizes value over care volume, hospitals must expand their horizons, with many former competitors merging and healthcare leaders describing clinical affiliation as key to the future of the industry. And although primary care providers will remain the "gatekeepers" of healthcare providers' success, Freeman said, hospitals can stay on top by investing in practices that help them remain multifaceted, such as wellness and worker's compensation programs.

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