We’ve heard benefits leaders and consultants pose questions such as, “What benefits challenges are other organizations facing?” and, “What should our team be prepared for over the coming months?” To help answer these questions, our team of Health Strategists reviewed the data within our Health Intelligence platform to uncover emerging employee health trends and critical insights. This analysis included data from over 2,500 employers, spanning various industries. Below are the key takeaways from their presentation:
The Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions
The first key trend Jennifer Jones, Springbuk’s Sr. Director of Health Strategy Services, highlighted is mental health. When reviewing data within the Springbuk platform, our team found that 19% of all members are diagnosed with a mental health condition, which is consistent with statistics across the country.
“What’s more surprising is these statistics represent findings from datasets before COVID-19. We anticipate that these numbers will increase throughout 2020 and into 2021 due to the impact of social distancing, self-quarantining, and additional trickle-down impacts from COVID-19.” - Jennifer Jones, Sr. Director, Health Strategy Services
Taking it one step further, when looking at the impact mental health conditions have on overall plan spend,, our team identified the average PMPM for a member with a mental health condition is twice that of a member without. We found a higher prevalence for younger ages – specifically in women under the age of 40. This can likely be attributed to generational differences, and the willingness to report or discuss mental health issues.
“What I find so interesting is how closely they align with the anticipated trickle-down effects of COVID-19. It’s important to keep in mind that only 43% of members with a mental health condition receive treatment or utilize tailored services. Knowing that these members have twice the monthly cost and most likely have more than one chronic condition, there’s a huge opportunity to get them engaged in mental health services that could potentially improve their overall health, spend, and general wellbeing.” -Jones
The Connection Between Chronic Conditions and Mental Health
The second key finding from our analysis highlighted the prevalence of chronic conditions across members in the Springbuk platform. Almost half of our dataset has one or more chronic conditions, and similarly to mental health conditions, those with a condition have significantly higher PMPM compared to those who do not.
“What stands out is the top five list of conditions that include hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes, which is to be expected. However, we also see arthritis and degenerative orthopedic conditions, which are both increasing and costly issues. With this in mind, it solidifies the importance of incorporating alternative programs to address these issues and focus on holistic health such as nutrition and physical activity.” - Jones
Additionally, much like mental health issues, we anticipate the effects of COVID-19 will also impact those with a chronic condition. This could include a rise in gaps in care for these members due to canceled physician visits, difficulty in maintaining prescribed medication adherence, and postponed elective surgeries.
Within the Springbuk platform, our team identified a tremendous amount of opportunity between the overlap of mental health and chronic conditions. They found that almost 70% of members with a mental health condition, also have a chronic condition. What’s even more important is that when a member has a mental health condition and at least one chronic condition, their health costs rise by 262%.
“We highlight this for several reasons, but mainly to emphasize the impact mental health can have on chronic conditions and maintaining the recommended care. When thinking about the most common mental health conditions we observe, such as depression and anxiety, it’s naive of us to think these can’t take a toll on the overall outcomes and progression of chronic conditions. By knowing and understanding this strong connection, it’s important to address mental health as a part of your disease management program.” - Jones
The Risk of Opioid Abuse Across Industries
The third key finding emphasized during our analyses highlights the growing opioid epidemic, and the impact COVID-19 could have on it.
Within Springbuk, our proprietary Event Detection Algorithm TM identifies members at risk for opioid abuse based on factors including the number of filled opioid prescriptions and underlying conditions that would put them at risk for abuse. The data indicates that 3.3% of all members are at high risk for opioid abuse. Our team uncovered the most significant risk associated with abuse is age. Only 1% of members ages 18-35 were at risk, while over 7% of members ages 60 and older were at risk.
“It’s important to note that when evaluating risk by condition, two specific conditions stood out: orthopedics and gastrointestinal disorders. Members with one of these conditions are 6x more likely to be at risk for opioid abuse. Research suggests members with long-term conditions, such as back pain, hip pain, and heartburn, were frequently over-prescribed medications – including opioids. Looking for treatment alternatives such as acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic care can significantly reduce the overall risk. With the growing impact of COVID-19, we want to emphasize the importance of including opioid and substance abuse treatment coverage in your plan design.” - Jones