Webinar Recording: The Trickle-down Effects of COVID-19

Our Sr. Director of Health Strategy Services,Jennifer Jones, spoke on the impact this pandemic could have on mental health conditions and gaps in care compliance. Below, we've summarized the four key takeaways from her presentation.

Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Gaps in Care

When gauging the impact COVID-19 could have on gaps in care, Jones first calls out that 60% of Americans currently have a chronic disease, furthermore, 40% of these individuals have two or more conditions. As we think about chronic disease, this includes common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, COPD, asthma, and mental health. On average, across the Springbuk platform, 11% of all members have a gap in care by not adhering to medication recommendations, physician visits, or regular lab tests or screenings. We anticipate that once quarantine guidelines are lifted, there will be a surge in physician visits and elective surgeries that have currently been put on hold. This increase could also impact those with chronic conditions and further delay their access to care and medication adherence.

"This is important because we know when members meet all their care guidelines, they're more likely to have more control over their condition. And, in turn, control future costs to treat those conditions, all well as minimizing the risk of complications moving forward." - Jennifer Jones

To manage chronic conditions, the World Health Organization has developed a 5-part framework for conceptualizing chronic disease treatment adherence. With a rise in unemployment, lack of social support during this period of social distancing, and a lack of access to care, this pandemic has the potential to disrupt every piece of this framework. The main conditions that could be impacted the most from this disruption include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease, due to increased risk of severe complications if these members contracted COVID-19.

How to Provide Support for Members in your Population with Chronic Conditions

Over the coming months, we are likely to see an uptick in non-compliance with chronic conditions. This could lead to increased risk and drive up costs for long-term condition management solutions.

To provide employees with additional support during these times of uncertainty, one tactic employers might explore is the introduction or expanded use of telemedicine. While some organizations may experience a learning curve at first, this alternative could be a reliable substitute for in-person visits, be that condition-focused or preventative.

Another tactic Jones highlights, is for organizations to lean into existing disease management solutions or vendors you've already been working with over the next coming months. We’ve seen a great response from a number of these management tools, such as OneDrop, a diabetes management solution. They ship supplies directly to a member’s home and provide digital access to their online coaches. By leveraging these resources, we anticipate your organization can more efficiently manage and mitigate the risk of increased gaps in care.

Understanding the Impact of Social Distancing and Quarantining on Mental Health

Overall, we have limited information on the impact of social distancing during disease outbreaks. However, studies of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and the SARS outbreak from 2003, indicate PTSD, anxiety, and depression were very common results of these outbreaks. These studies highlight additional support must be provided after the epidemic to address the adverse psychological effects of quarantine in order for it to be considered successful.” -Jennifer Jones

To understand where mental health metrics were before the pandemic, and anticipate the metrics over the coming months, Jones highlights to date: 1 in 5 Americans currently has a mental health issue. It's important to note the number of individuals currently impacted by a mental health issue, and how social distancing or quarantining may limit their access to management resources. During this time, it's essential that members in your population have continued outreach to ensure they have access to resources and support.

Taking it one step further, when looking at the members on the Springbuk platform, the PMPM of an individual with mental health issues, on average, are twice that of a member without this condition. What’s even more powerful, 69% of members on our platform with a mental health issue, also have at least one chronic condition, which further increases their cost by over 260%.

How to Provide Support for Members in Your Population with Mental Health Conditions

Over the next few months, we anticipate a rise in reported anxiety, depression, and potential substance abuse (including opioids and alcohol). We further expect that mental health issues will also have an impact on other conditions and health outcomes.

To equip your population with the support they need during this time, we suggest that you ensure your members have access to telemedicine alternatives, similar to what we recommend from a chronic conditions standpoint. Additionally, we suggest you equip your team with online resources or apps that are easily accessible in a time of crisis.

Finally, there may be some merited outreach to re-communicate with your members on existing services, such as point solutions or EAP (Employee Assistance Programs). We see a number of these different solutions creating easy-to-use toolkits for members, such as WellRight. Their resources page not only provides trusted resources around COVID-19 but a wide range of resources on the topic of mental health.

As this situation develops, Springbuk is here to be a resource for you and your organization. Our team of clinicians, data scientists, and health strategists continue to monitor this situation closely. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to release additional resources to equip your organization during this time.