What should the future of mental healthcare look like? Last week, Catalyst for Payment Reform hosted a virtual summit around the current status of the mental health landscape, where it is falling short and why employers are demanding more. Our own Mary Kay O’Neil presented on the webcast along with benefit directors, clinical experts, and innovators in the industry. We learned how leading employers are addressing the barriers they face in delivering high value mental healthcare and what needs to be done to close these gaps.
Over half of us will experience symptoms of a mental health condition, like anxiety and depression, in our lifetime – which makes these conditions among the costliest in the United States. “We know that employees are much less likely to be forthcoming about these types of conditions, especially when they are trying to deal with the requirements and responsibilities they have at work,” said Dr. O’Neill. People avoid seeking help for many reasons, including high costs, inadequate access to treatment and the stigma associated with these conditions. Unfortunately, many employees don’t understand how effective treatment can be, or the extent to which mental health issues, left untreated, can negatively affect workplace productivity.
How can we encourage employees to manage their conditions? It’s time for employers to start making incremental improvements towards a better behavior healthcare system. Dr. O’Neill explained that one of the biggest challenges we have in the current system is adequate access to high quality mental health services. Employers need to take a multi-pronged approach when it comes to access because one of the biggest frustrations for individuals is that once they’ve reached the point of accepting they need help, it can be difficult to find and quickly get access to the appropriate level of high quality care.
Employers should focus on working with health plans and providers to create an integrated, holistic approach to behavioral and physical care. Collaborative care models – in which primary care physicians can consult with mental healthcare providers while the patient is in the PCP office – are becoming more common. Also, programs like mindfulness training – digital programs and in-person classes – have seen positive results in terms of treating depression and anxiety symptoms. Any new resource that can help employees understand how to access high quality behavioral healthcare will move the needle towards an improved, integrated healthcare ecosystem.