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Michael Thompson Highlights Key Healthcare Areas of Focus for Employers

Mental health care is an area of focus for the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, because this care is getting worse despite there being more acceptance regarding the need for improved mental health, said Michael Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.


Mental health care is an area of focus for the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, because this care is getting worse despite there being more acceptance regarding the need for improved mental health, said Michael Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

Transcript

What are some key areas that the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchasers is focusing on?

From a health perspective, there’s a couple of areas that we spent a lot of time on. One, is actually mental health, where we have found that there is a lot of issues that need to be addressed in the system today. You know, from a cultural standpoint, the good news is that, culturally, we’ve come to understand and accept the need for improved mental health. And in fact, we find overwhelming support from employers, recognizing how important the mental health of their workforce is to their business and to their health strategy.

But from a systems standpoint, it’s actually getting worse. Some of the issues that we’re trying to address are issues around network access. Many professionals in the behavioral health space are not practicing in networks. While we may have a lot of providers in the directories, most of those providers or many of those providers are not taking new patients or to get an appointment takes a very long time.

And this is manifesting itself in very poor ways and essentially has set up a 2-tier system: those who can afford to go out of network and those who can’t. And very few people really can afford to go out of network. And so, this is a problem.

Beyond that, I think, most of the medications for mental health are actually being prescribed in primary care, and on the one hand that they’re trying to be responsive to the needs of their patients, on the other hand they aren’t really adequately trained in this area. So, we’re looking to integrate behavioral health in a more methodical way through a collaborative care­–type model into primary care and try to support those types of models.

Technology can also play a role there in telebehavioral health and more remote type access, but again there’s a lot of work to be done to improve that system.

On the other side, oncology is an area where there’s been great progress made in terms of treatment and medications. The mortality rate has actually dropped by 25%; in mental health the mortality rate has actually increased by 25%. So, you can see the contrast there.

What we’re finding there is the need for our systems and our approaches to streamline so we can kind of get to the right answer faster. And we’ve done kind of end-to-end assessments on how we are managing oncology and supporting patients with oncology through our plans, through our intermediaries, and as employers, in terms of accommodation and return to work. And so, I think the good news is we’re making significant progress in improving our treatment of cancer, but I think we need to bring our processes and policies in line with those advances.

 
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