Mental health and substance use disorders often go untreated as lack of coverage, difficulty accessing treatment, undiagnosed or misunderstood conditions, and poor outcomes prevent people from seeking and finding the right care. This trend also has a significant, negative impact on corporate financial performance. For example, according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, depression alone cost US-based employers $100 billion in 2014, including $44 billion in lost productivity. Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression impacts an employee’s cognitive abilities on the job 35% of the time.

 

The COVID-19 effect

A recent Mercer report showed that prior to COVID-19, 62 million people in the United States were living with anxiety, while 10% reported having depression and 7-8% were living with substance use disorders. Employers have begun to recognize what this means to their businesses. For example, a Willis Towers Watson survey last year showed 54% of employers were concerned about adequate access to mental health services for employees and 47% were concerned about access to substance use services. When you consider these factors, it’s not surprising that 75% of employers surveyed by PwC said they offered programs to help employees manage mental health needs in 2018; this is up from 34% in 2014.

 

Fast forward to the Spring of 2020, and more than one-third of adults reported experiencing anxiety or depression, and more than 13% reported increasing substance use as a way to deal with stress from the pandemic.

 

Healthcare navigation is a sound strategy for employers

Healthcare navigation can improve workplace mental health by guiding employees and dependents to the right providers and the right services, in the right place and time, while also providing support that makes benefits easier to understand and access in real time – when they need it most.

 

Because personalized support and care coordination is essential when faced with mental health and substance use disorders, many employers now offer healthcare navigation as part of their health benefits program. Quantum Health®, a leading provider of healthcare navigation and care coordination services, offers specially trained, behavioral health care coordinators who help guide employees and dependents to the right mix of care services and solutions, at the right time, and within an employer’s covered benefits set and network. Quantum Health uses a proprietary Real-Time Intercept® (RTI) model to engage with employees earlier — in some cases, as early as 100 days before a medical claim is filed. This has proven to deliver more efficient care and benefits experience, along with enhanced outcomes for employees and dependents.

 

Employers and benefits professionals can provide a lifeline to employees and their dependents in their time of need by understanding and addressing the following barriers to mental health services.

 

  • Healthcare benefits. Although mental health parity legislation was enacted in 2008, there are still disparities in coverage and outcomes from state to state, and city to city. This results in millions of people having to pay for services out of pocket. Lack of coverage can cause employees to avoid seeking treatment, which has a negative effect on overall health and can influence other existing or comorbid conditions. However, with healthcare navigation and care coordination as part of your benefits programs, employees and dependents are educated on ancillary services, like employee assistance programs, and directed to in-network providers and covered services, along with solutions that support needs like stress management and mindfulness.

 

  • Access to care. Accessing professional services for mental health or substance use disorders is a significant barrier for many consumers. For example, one study showed that new patients wait an average of 25 days for a mental health appointment. This drives a growing number of people to the emergency room when in crisis. Adolescents and young adults are more affected by this trend, with people 10 to 25 years old accessing emergency room care for mental health needs twice as often as older adults. Healthcare navigation and care coordination helps employees access timely care from in-network providers and guides them to the right level of care through community resources and other types of support for out-of-network services.

 

  • Poor outcomes. Employers are committing to improving mental health coverage and outcomes for employees. In fact, the 2019 survey by PwC showed that 59% of employers planned to expand access to mental health professionals over the next five years, while 16% currently offer mental health services at onsite or nearby employee health clinics. But to improve outcomes, you must understand the utilization of services and how an employee’s condition and quality of life change over time. The early intervention and holistic view of an employee’s health that healthcare navigation and care coordination provide deliver on this need. 

    Quantum Health care coordinators are often among the first to screen for and identify depression symptoms. This allows care coordinators to identify potential mental health needs early, to guide individuals to appropriate services, and to monitor how mental health or substance use disorders are influencing the individual’s overall health and well-being. This is critical because mental health conditions often exist alongside chronic diseases and can impede an individual’s ability to adhere to care plans.

 

  • Stigma – While awareness and information campaigns have put mental health at the forefront of public discussion in recent years, 8-out-of-10 workers still say feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from seeking help for mental health conditions. These feelings, coupled with an inability to access care for mental health conditions or difficulty finding sponsors or online meetings for substance use disorders, continue to affect utilization of services and outcomes. Healthcare navigation and care coordination address this challenge by validating the feelings and needs of individuals and empowering them through education and personalized support.

The right healthcare navigation partner can help guide your employees and their dependents to the right programs and services when they need them most. Meanwhile, by intervening early — before a need becomes a crisis — healthcare navigation can help improve the health and quality of life of employees and their dependents, while reducing healthcare costs for your company.

 

Author: Quantum Health

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