04.04.2016

Observe change in the population age structure in healthcare reforms

Joel Jukka, Medaffcon Oy

Text: Joel Jukka

February 5 was both Runeberg’s day and the day of the 25th Health Economics day seminar. The impact of the ageing population structure on the sufficiency of resources in healthcare was selected as the topic in the seminar organised by the Finnish Society for Health Economics. The topic was introduced with a lecture held by Professor Friedrich Breyer (Konstanz Universität). In addition, representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health as well as from Sitra also shared their views on the future.

According to statistics, Finland is, alongside Japan, the state with the fastest ageing population. The development of the population ageing will probably be most clearly observed in the 2010s, when large age groups retire. In addition to population ageing, development in lifestyles, results of societal health work and development in medicine and treatment options have increased the population life expectancy. Social and health services are most frequently used by the oldest age groups. The average costs usually begin to rise quickly after 75 years.

It is difficult to estimate the actual impact of the rise in life expectancy on the increase in total costs. Will the costs rise significantly in real time or are they transferred further into the future? In other words, will we be treating 80‑year old people like we are treating 75‑year old people today? In any case, as the ageing population increases and the population structure changes, it is expected that the healthcare costs rise during the following decades.

Health Economics – Methods and Tools

Health economics provides good measures and tools in order to evaluate the operation and functionality of healthcare. In the future, it is even more crucial to examine how limited resources should be targeted in order to maximise health without setting aside equality. This is topical in light of the planning of rational decisions in the ongoing reform of the service structure in social and healthcare. It is essential that the decisions that are made are based on evidence-based medicine and that their effectiveness is duly determined.

In addition, the digitalisation of services will also change healthcare. The change will include challenges but also an opportunity to provide services in a new manner. The digitalisation of healthcare provides an opportunity to improve the availability of services, freedom of choice, quality and productivity. Increased health awareness has raised people’s willingness to make choices related to their health. Digitalisation enables providing treatment closer to patients and giving them responsibility for their treatment. At the same time, it should be ensured that the services provided for citizens are based on examined knowledge and recommendations of healthcare professionals. Therefore, targeting of healthcare resources and the importance of monitoring are more important as the freedom of choice enlarges.

Raising costs can be considered manageable with active reform of service structures. Large age groups achieve the critical age from the year 2020 forward, which is why responsible decisions and their progressive implementation should be started early.

Joel Jukka
Market Access Specialist
joel.jukka@medaffcon.fi
+358 50 468 9981