The December 10, 2016 issue of Medical Economics magazine published an article entitled, “Why Behavioral Health Is the New Frontier in Primary Care,” which was the lead article for the issue entitled: “Rethinking Quality Care. Hidden key to better outcomes, lower costs.”
Well, isn’t that interesting? The cover of the magazine definitely got my attention and I thought employee benefits professionals would be interested as well. After all, we would all want to know the ‘hidden key to better outcomes and lower costs.’
The article states what that hidden key is: Behavioral Health.
Behavioral Health is what is traditionally thought of as the realm of psychiatrist, psychologist and counselors—mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, for example.
The article describes the interplay between physical illness and mental illness and how the key to improving both is to treat both in an integrated fashion. We saw this to be a real benefit to a Compass member who suffered from chronic pain.33% of adults with a physical illness (e.g. diabetes, asthma, etc.) also have a mental illness. Click To Tweet
Key Stats from the article:
- 33 percent of adults with a physical illness (e.g. diabetes, asthma, etc.) also have a mental illness
- 68 percent of adults with a mental illness (e.g. depression, substance abuse, etc.) also have a physical illness
- Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) prescribe 80 percent of all medications for mental illness (MUCH more than psychiatrists)
- Intermountain Healthcare in Utah has counselors and other mental health providers WITHIN ALL of their 62 primary care clinics and found that the cost for this integrated mental healthcare was $22 per member per year and saved $115 per member each year—and achieved more than a 5:1 ROI.
Interestingly, Intermountain Healthcare runs its own health insurance plan, so it’s incentivized to provide high quality, low cost (i.e., high value) care. As a health insurance plan, it collects premiums from employers and individuals and uses that “fixed budget” to provide care for plan members. The healthier Intermountain can keep its plan members, the more the plan can come under budget. This is the exact opposite of the traditional fee-for-service health system reimbursement model, where the sicker the patients are, the more care they need and the more money the health system makes.
The article also cites the example of a diabetic patient, who is prescribed a medication to better control his blood sugar. If the patient is depressed, he is going to have a hard time adhering to the new medication or to any lifestyle modifications. Likewise, the more out-of-control his diabetes becomes, it adds stress to the patient and worsens his depression.
One primary care clinic in the article added mental health professionals in their office and found they reduced depression and anxiety in their diabetic patients by 50 percent and even slightly improved the patients’ blood sugar control.
In our experience at Compass, we have found that many employers have great resources for mental health—either through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), benefits that cover mental health visits (counselors, psychologists, etc.) or in-network primary care practices that have embedded mental health services. Addressing behavioral health is an effective way to provide the holistic approach the medical community recognizes is important to positive patient outcomes.
The key is to connect the right employees at the right time to the right health professional with the right expertise. That is what Compass’ methodology is designed to do.
- Behavior = 50% of Health Outcomes, Medical Care = 88% of Health Spending
- A Taboo Subject – Mental Health: Only 55% of Psychiatrists Are In-Network
- Price Isn’t an Effective Tool to Determine Healthcare Quality
To learn more about Compass and our integration of care for our 2,000+ employer clients, visit www.compassphs.com