Outpatient behavioral health treatment following diagnosis associated with lower medical and pharmacy costs

According to Evernorth research, outpatient services can reduce medical and pharmacy costs for newly diagnosed individuals with behavioral health conditions.

Promoting and optimizing behavioral outpatient treatment for people who are newly diagnosed with a behavioral health condition could reduce overall medical and pharmacy spending for patients, according to research findings from Evernorth that were published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.

High-quality behavioral outpatient care can lead to financial advantage

The research, which was initially issued in November 2021, was recently updated to compare costs immediately post-diagnosis. The updated study analyzed spending with more than 200,000 people recently diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, and found that behavioral utilization is associated with medical and pharmacy savings of up to $2,565 in the 15 months post diagnosis. Furthermore, there is continued savings 27 months post diagnosis of up to $3,321.

In fact, behavioral outpatient care was associated with savings no matter how many treatment sessions the patient had completed. However, the research finds that the greatest savings were observed for patients who utilized between three and 40 visits. When people completed fewer sessions, the savings were not sustainable over time.

“These findings demonstrate the financial advantage and positive whole-person health impact of providing high-quality behavioral health treatment,” said Eva Borden, president of behavioral health for Evernorth. 

Click here to view the full analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Originally published on 12/14/22 and updated on 5/31/23.

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