Treating physical conditions but not behavioral health issues can lead to employees who are in poorer health. This is in addition to increased healthcare costs and absenteeism, and less on-the-job productivity. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what you should know about integrating behavioral and physical health.
Employers tend to focus on physical problems while ignoring behavioral health concerns. That alone leads to $250 billion in productivity they can’t get back. According to United Healthcare, some 14 percent of members of an average group health plan experience both medical and behavioral conditions. On the flip side, employees with a mental health diagnosis, for example, who get behavioral health services are 26 percent less likely to miss work and 36 percent less likely to not be engaged at work. What’s needed are quality providers, useful instruments, and crisis intervention.
Why Should Behavioral Be Integrated with Physical Health?
As we say, the consequences of neglecting behavioral health issues when treating a physical condition can prove expensive for employers, according to a Bree Collaborative workgroup. To wit, employees who are ill are more often absent, produce less, and ultimately drive higher costs.
The workgroup, which sought to help the Washington State Health Care Authority integrate behavioral and physical health, came up with some recommendations. Those included:
- Eliminating barriers. When crafting your benefits program, aim to get rid of unintended barriers to behavioral healthcare services and integration of employee care. This includes making sure that benefit structures for behavioral health and physical healthcare are equalized.
- Promote good behavioral health. If an employer’s benefits package includes an employee assistance program, employers’ behavioral health consultants should be certain that employees understand behavioral health benefits.
- Bolster employee wellness programs. If they haven’t already, employers should be sure to add behavioral health-associated elements to employee wellness programs. Such components can include, say, ways to reduce stress and anxiety, or even alcohol or opioid consumption.
What are Some of the Benefits of Integrating Physical and Behavioral Health?
Better care coordination for patients who need both physical and mental health treatments. For example, could reduce the burden on the U.S. healthcare system by $26 billion annually. For the patient, this means better quality services, improved outcomes, and adoption of a more beneficial lifestyle.
Moreover, integration of behavioral and physical health can lead to better preventive care compliance and fewer visits to hospital emergency departments. Increased productivity, less absenteeism, and reduced healthcare costs are the key benefits for employers.
What are the Solutions?
You need a team of behavioral health professionals to help you craft a strategy. It will improve employment outcomes and your bottom line. You need a strategy that upends how you provide benefits and support your people in the management of their entire health and well-being. Further, you need forward-thinking behavioral health efforts that get you solid results.
For its part, Mercer can provide creative solutions that are crafted to meet employees’ challenges. And here’s the thing: if such care is offered, employees will take advantage of it. What you’ll gain is a more resilient workforce that turns out more work, and reduced care costs.
The fact is that between 25 percent and half of U.S. adults will have a behavioral health condition at some point. Integrating behavioral and physical health is crucial. If you, an employer, want lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and more productive employees. If you enlist the help of a consultant such as Mercer, you can craft innovative behavioral health management strategies that can help your workforce flourish.