November 05, 2021
As we look ahead to 2022, we will be focused on several key trends highlighted below. Separately, each of these trends is critically important and massive. Together, they underscore a collective urgency and the need for prioritization of each of them.
Virtual Health Here to Stay, but Integration with In-Person Care is Key
Virtual health is here to stay and has a growing role in management of chronic conditions, primary care and the potential for solving some access issues for mental health. But harnessing its full value will take time and effort. The future focus will be on achieving optimal quality, appropriateness, experience and integration of virtual health with in-person delivery. There is a growing need for patient navigation across in-person and virtual care solutions, clinical and data integration and challenges with appropriate reimbursement, cost sharing and policy barriers. Employers are keeping an eye on the global capabilities of virtual health vendors to support employees consistently. Additionally, on-site clinics are expected to rebound in 2023/2024 to support workforce health, well-being and safety as part of the post-pandemic future.
Continued Expansion of Mental Health and Emotional Well-being Solutions
The long-standing challenges pertaining to mental health and emotional well-being – including access, stigma, quality and resources – have been exacerbated by the pandemic, underscoring prior issues and creating new ones. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated progress in reducing stigma – it also brought us insights on the effects of prolonged periods of anxiety and stress, the impact of social isolation on child and adolescent mental health, burnout, and has exacerbated the substance use disorder (SUD) crisis– as well as the inequalities of access to care around the globe.
Employers are providing access to mental health and emotional well-being through online resources and digital therapy, which can bridge access gaps for employees having difficulty finding local providers and by offering programs at reduced cost. While many of these resources help address access, employers are keenly focused on the quality of these resources as well as addressing challenges related to provider networks, integration of mental health with physical health and other items necessary for sustained and systemic improvement.
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- 2021 Mental Health Summit Key Insights
Gateway to Increased Health Equity
There are known systemic disparities that impact the ability of some individuals to access quality health care and create barriers to achieving optimal health and well-being. This impacts their ability to effectively manage chronic conditions, receive timely treatment for serious diagnoses like cancer, receive evidence-based infertility treatments, recommended prenatal care and safe environments to deliver a baby.
Employers are committed to achieving health equity by offering inclusive and affordable health benefits and well-being programs, seeking representative provider networks, analyzing health disparities globally and addressing implicit bias and systemic racism to mitigate differences in health status, emotional well-being, health outcomes and mortality across the entirety of the workforce including those in under-resourced or marginalized groups.
Focus on Quality and Value
The prevailing fee-for-service payment model is frequently cited as an obstacle for innovation and reason for misaligned incentives. Long-standing fundamental flaws with the health care delivery system not only impede true innovation in medical and pharmacy services, but also result in considerable deficits in quality, outcomes, patient experience as well as unnecessary cost.
Employers’ health care costs are expected to increase in coming years due to deferred and missed care, unknown long-term impacts of COVID-19, a rich pipeline of high-cost therapies, inefficient and duplicative services, as well as provider consolidation. Patient experience and outcomes aren’t at the level that anyone would have hoped for at this point. And the evolving landscape with a deluge of new solutions could serve to exacerbate these challenges if not effectively integrated into a holistic care delivery experience. All of these factors lend themselves to a heightened focus on quality and continued commitment to value based arrangements, which are critical factors in mitigating the growing cost pressures and improving standards of care.
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Accelerating the Future of Workforce Well-being
Leading employers are driving the continued evolution of the workforce including how and where employees work and relatedly, how well-being resources need to evolve to support those emerging needs and trends. As the workforce continues to evolve – with some employees remaining on site, some staying remote, and others hybrid – employers are focused on programs to support psychological and workplace safety, remote or hybrid work, and leave- related impacts. Health and well-being strategies have been impacted not just by the pandemic but also by larger social forces, and companies have stepped up to support employees through multiple crises. Moving forward, employers will continue to incorporate employee voice and choice, focus purposefully on health equity, go beyond behavior change by seeking to change the circumstances that shape our physical and mental health, and both honor and grow the trust employees have in their employer when it comes to safety, health and well-being.
Health Policy Becoming Increasingly Active
The health, well-being and workforce policy landscape is constantly evolving and increasingly more active with a spectrum of areas relevant to employers and employees. Shifts in the landscape present numerous opportunities and challenges like improving high value care, enhancing virtual health and primary care offerings, and safeguarding the underpinnings of health plan financial stability and predictability. Employers are increasingly vocal and engaged on policy priorities like health care cost containment, increasing quality, improving affordability and access to coverage/care, reducing administrative burden and uncertainty, payment models, prescription drug pricing, paid leave, mental health, virtual health, health equity, surprise billing, transparency, and pandemic related relief and programs.
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