Future outpatient health-care utilisation in an ageing population: projections up to the year 2020 based on the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP)
Journal of Public Health, 21:3, 289–296 (2013)
Aim: The population in the German federal state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is growing older. The resulting increase in the incidence of age-related diseases will lead to a higher demand for medical care although the population is declining. The aim of the study was to project the future outpatient health-care utilisation.
Subjects and methods: Representative data on health-care utilisation were derived from the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP). Participants (n = 3,292, age 25–84 years) were asked whether they had consulted a physician in the past year and if so, the type of physician and the total number of visits. These data were combined with demographic forecasts for Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and its rural and urban districts up to the year 2020 to project the number of patients and their number of consultations with general practitioners and specialists in outpatient care.
Results: The projected number of annual consultations will increase in 2020 as compared to 2008 for urologists (+14.5 %), internists (+11.2 %), ophthalmologists (+7.7 %), neurologists (+6.0 %) and general practitioners (+5.8 %). In contrast, visits to gynaecologists will decrease until 2020 (−10.8 %). The predicted changes in the number of consultations show considerable heterogeneity between the districts.
Conclusion: Physicians who are consulted mainly by senior patients will face a higher number of consultations in 2020. Similar developments will probably occur in other German federal states and other industrialised countries in which demographic transition is already evident. These changes have to be considered in a rational planning of future medical-care provision.
Keywords: Germany, demographic ageing, epidemiology, health surveys