This topic was the focus of a breakout session at Outcomes+ 2022.
Today, only 17% of U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health. This means the large majority of people (83%) are living with mental discomfort or distress, but not ready to seek help. This extended period of barely coping can be dangerous and lead to strained relationships, risky behaviors, and unhealthy lifestyle choices, ultimately impacting medical and behavioral outcomes and cost of care, thus making it imperative for plan sponsors to address.
Taking a whole-person approach to care
To help individuals achieve their optimal health, it is critical to address both physical and mental symptoms together. For example, patients diagnosed with depression are at increased risk of developing chronic physical conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, 92% of adults living with behavioral health disorders also suffer from physical conditions1.
It’s also common for the reverse to be true: a patient diagnosed with diabetes is at an increased risk of being diagnosed with depression. In order to address the lifestyle changes necessary to improve their diabetes, plan sponsors must also ensure they are receiving behavioral health care. Through this approach, plan sponsors can increase a patient’s adherence to treatment for other health conditions, amplifying care effectiveness to improve outcomes and reducing the total cost of care.
That said, it’s also important for plan sponsors to remember that numerous social, familial and cultural factors need be considered when determining the most effective treatment and it’s only through a whole-person approach that the right combination of therapy and pharmacy solutions can be found.
The impact of poor behavioral health to plan sponsors
Tackling connected issues in a whole-person approach can help prevent new problems from arising or keep existing ones from worsening. The indirect costs of mental health conditions, such as reduced productivity, are estimated to be more than double the direct costs of treatment.
We also know that this approach results in savings for plan sponsors. A previous analysis showed that there is a positive downstream impact of up to $1,377 in savings in the first year for each person who receives behavioral outpatient care. Not only that, the savings impact is sustainable over time with a two-year cost reduction of up to $3,109 per person.
Steps plan sponsors can take to provide better behavioral health care
Treat the whole person and offer personalized engagements for patients. This means quickly understanding an individual’s specific needs and providing them with the right combination of therapy, medication, and clinical support services at the right stage in the individual’s journey.
Make care accessible and easier to find. This could mean offering multiple care touch points for people to engage with such as virtual consultations, text, and mobile services.
- Identify and address behavioral health issues early on. This approach can be more affordable and prevent issues from developing into more severe and costly conditions.
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1 Evernorth. Behavioral health insights. Book of business claims data, January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020