The combination of virtual and in-person care and the growth of mental health services is among the top health and well-being trends for the year 2022.
According to a release by Business Group on Health, “Virtual care that integrates with in-person offerings and the continued expansion of mental health and well-being services are among six health and well-being trends that construct a “collective urgency” for employers and their workforces for 2022”.
The other trends determined by the Business Group are ongoing attention to health equity, quality, and value; a redefining of workforce well-being to support emerging needs, and elevate the focus on health policy. All trends result from recent findings from the Business Group’s 2022 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.
According to a survey in August, the survey showed top concerns including health equity, the pandemic’s long-term impact, expanding access to mental healthcare, monitoring trends in healthcare delivery, and preparing for development in healthcare spending. The 136 employers who took part in the Business Group survey in June 2021 show diverse sectors of industry and provide health insurance for more than 8 million people.
While COVID-19 still has an impact on almost every aspect of health and well-being, the upcoming year will be marked by large employers’ ongoing commitment to these critical areas. According to Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health, “Each of the trends is critically important yet together emphasize collective importance that requires prioritization“.
The Top Health and Well-being Trends for 2022 are:
- The health, well-being, and workforce policy domain has become more active. This shift presents both opportunities and challenges, such as improving high-value care, enhancing virtual health and primary care offerings, and securing health plan financial stability and identity. Employers are increasingly engaged on policy priorities such as health care cost containment, quality, affordability, access, reducing administrative burden and uncertainty, payment models, prescription drug pricing, paid leave, mental health, virtual health, health equity, surprise billing, transparency, and pandemic-related relief and programs.
- Virtual health has a growing role in primary care and the management of chronic conditions. It is a solution for some access issues surrounding mental health. Utilizing its full value will take time and effort. The focus will shift to achieving optimal quality, appropriateness, experience, and integration of virtual health with in-person delivery in the future. There is a need for patient navigation across in-person and virtual care solutions, in such areas as clinical and data integration, and challenges with appropriate reimbursement; cost-sharing; and policy barriers. Onsite clinics are likely to revive in 2023-2024 to support workforce health, well-being, and safety as part of the post-pandemic future.
- The pandemic has aggravated long-standing challenges related to mental health and emotional well-being including access, stigma, quality, and resources. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated progress in reducing stigma, it also resulted in the understanding of chronic anxiety and stress; the impact of social isolation on child and adolescent mental health; burnout; and substance use disorder (SUD) crisis. Employers are providing access to mental health and emotional well-being through online resources and digital therapy, which can bridge access gaps for employees.
- Important systemic discrepancies impact the ability of some individuals to access quality health care and create barriers to attain ideal health and well-being. These disparities affect the ability to manage chronic conditions; undergo timely treatment for diagnoses like cancer; and receive evidence-based infertility treatments and recommended prenatal care, among other services. Employers seek to achieve health justice by offering inclusive and affordable health benefits and well-being programs; seeking representative provider networks; analyzing health disparities globally; and addressing implicit bias and systemic racism to mitigate differences in health status, emotional well-being, health outcomes, and mortality across the entirety of the workforce, including those in under-resourced or marginalized groups.
- The prevailing fee-for-service payment model is also an obstacle for innovation and a cause for misaligned incentives. Persistent fundamental flaws with the health care delivery system not only disrupt innovation in medical and pharmacy services but result in great default in quality, outcomes, patient experience, and cost. In the coming years, employers’ health care costs are expected to increase for a constellation of reasons, including deferred and missed care and the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19. The quickly growing view could strengthen these challenges if not successfully integrated into a holistic care delivery experience with a continued commitment to quality and value.
- Head employers continue to drive the evolution of the workforce, including how and where employees work. Well-being resources will need to shift accordingly. Meanwhile, employers remain focused on programs to support psychological and workplace safety, remote or hybrid work, and leave-related impacts. Also in the future, employers will continue to incorporate employee voice and choice, focus purposefully on health equity, go beyond behavior change by seeking to alter the circumstances that shape physical and mental health, and both honor and grow the trust employees have in their employers in terms of safety, health, and well-being.
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