The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed Americans to rethink their approach to healthcare and payers and providers to rethink how they deliver and pay for that care. This is particularly important for mental health as many providers and public health officials fear a “second wave” of mental health concerns.
COVID-19 Impact on Mental Health
Even before the pandemic, around 48 million US adults experienced mental illness each year. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 53 percent of adults in the US had their mental health negatively impacted by COVID-19 due to economic downturn, continued isolation and social distancing, and more.
Additionally, a CVS Health study found that 36 percent of providers reported that all or most of their patients are facing significant mental health challenges. With the consequential impact of worsening mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorder symptoms—payers have had to move quickly to provide resources.
How Payers Are Leveraging Telehealth To Address Needs
From the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth appointments spiked. For example, In just nine weeks, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts saw over 1 million telehealth visits—nearly 50 percent of which were mental health related. In response, the payer increased its mental health provider network by over 30 percent to ensure members’ needs were met.
Beyond the circumstances requiring telehealth appointments in many cases, there’s also an acceptance and even preference for virtual care. CVS Health found that consumers are open to receiving virtual care for mental and behavioral health.
By taking advantage of telehealth and digital communication, payers can check in on members, identify problems quickly, and ensure they’re receiving the support they need. This can also alleviate burdens on nearby hospitals fighting the pandemic by preventing unnecessary emergency department visits or hospital admissions.
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