A whole-person approach to supporting optimal mental well-being.
A supplement to Employee Benefit News
While mental health is becoming a bigger part of the benefits conversation for employers, many still consider mental health in isolation from physical health. Fortunately, that view has started to change.
In this Q&A featured in Employee Benefits News, MOBE’s Vice President, Medication Strategies Leslie Helou discusses how a whole-person approach to health care not only improves both the physical and mental wellness of their employees but reduces health care costs.
Q. What are the downsides of treating mental health in isolation from physical health?
Mental health and physical health are interconnected. For instance, depression and anxiety—or even the medications used to treat these conditions—can cause physical symptoms such as indigestion, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite.
Treating mental health separately from physical health not only results in poorer outcomes and higher medical costs, it also prolongs the stigma associated with mental health. The cost for treating people with both mental health disorders and physical conditions is two to three times higher than those without coexisting illnesses. But by combining medical and behavioral health care services, the U.S. could save up to $67.8 billion a year.1
Q. How important is effective medication management?
More than 20% of people take prescription medications for mental health issues and that percentage has increased since the pandemic. More than 30% of adults use multiple prescriptions, over-the-counter, and herbal medications for other types of conditions.
We take medications for granted, but they are really complex. They can positively impact one area of our health but negatively impact others. Having a qualified clinical pharmacist to look at the complete medication picture for an individual across all of their conditions and prescribers improves outcomes and reduces misaligned treatments.
Q. Is access to mental health programs an issue?
Since the pandemic, depression and anxiety in adults are estimated to have increased by 25%.2 These mental health issues are associated with higher rates of disability, lower productivity and engagement at work, and unemployment.
We’re playing catch-up. Access is a prime driver of a positive outcome yet the average time to get a therapy appointment is six weeks or more. It’s great to have a program, but it’s a challenge if employees can’t access it.
Q. What strategies do you recommend for normalizing mental well-being in the workplace?
We talk about work/life balance, but that’s not the right terminology. Instead, we need to talk about mental health and how important it is to take care of your mental well-being.
Think about how you can create a culture of health in the workplace. Offer the typical health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, but also offer confidential mental health screenings. Actively promote programs and initiatives that support mental well-being you have available, and continually remind employees beyond the enrollment period that these services are available.
Advocate that mental health is just as important as physical health by ensuring that mental health coverage is at the same level as other health coverage and decreasing language that separates mental from physical health.
Q. What should employers look for when evaluating third-party mental health solutions?
To get the best outcomes, look for a provider that takes a personalized, whole-person approach that includes medication management. They should also be able to identify segments of the population who are most at risk. And since no program can address all needs, the provider should have access to, or be able to refer to, a network of your available external solutions.
Q. How does MOBE help employers measure financial ROI?
The most direct way to measure financial ROI is by reductions in health care utilization, since the healthier and more in control over their behaviors employees feel, the less they will need to use the health care system. At MOBE, we work with employers to analyze employer claims data to demonstrate savings. MOBE has also conducted randomized controlled trials, validated by an independent third party, comparing this outcome between individuals who worked with MOBE versus those that did not (access to all other programs being the same), to demonstrate confidence that our program results in cost savings.