Dr Renee Schneider Details How Lyra Health, Employers Have Addressed Mental Health Amid COVID-19

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the mental health of US workers, Lyra Health has advised partnered employers to increase access to high quality, evidence-based mental healthcare, said Renee Schneider, PhD, vice president of Clinical Quality at Lyra Health.


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the mental health of US workers, Lyra Health has advised partnered employers to increase access to high quality, evidence-based mental healthcare, said Renee Schneider, PhD, vice president of Clinical Quality at Lyra Health.


AJMC®: Hello, I'm Matthew Gavidia. Today on MJH Life Sciences News Network, The American Journal of Managed Care® is pleased to welcome Dr Renee Schneider, vice president of Clinical Quality at Lyra Health. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your work?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, thanks for having me here today, or at least virtually here. I'm the vice president of Clinical Quality with Lyra and a clinical psychologist. A lot of my work involves managing our network. We have 3000 providers across the US, and I work very closely with them. Then also monitoring the quality of our programs—so looking at outcomes data.

AJMC®: Can you discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of employees?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, well, what we're seeing is a few things. One is that there has been an increase in the numbers of mental health problems. Another factor we're seeing is that there has been an increase in the severity of those problems. So, we conducted a survey of about 450 Lyra providers and found that about 60% of them said that their clients were demonstrating a worsening of symptoms. So, we're just seeing that there are new problems and the problems that were pre-existing have gotten worse.

AJMC®: As you alluded to, Lyra’s analysis, “Under the Radar: Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health of U.S. Workers,” there are several crucial implications that were seen for employers, such as the distinct 80% of workers who reported impaired productivity. How have organizations such as Pinterest, Starbucks, and Genentech worked to support employees whose mental health issues appear to be intensifying?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, it's a great question. We're seeing a number of different approaches. So, for some customers, they’ve launched with Lyra earlier than expected so that their members have access to evidence-based mental healthcare sooner than they would have otherwise. We're also seeing, Pinterest for example, is doing virtual yoga and meditation groups—so ways to really help people de-stress. Other customers like Genentech are trying to identify people who are on the front lines, who are most at risk and reaching out to them.

AJMC®: What trends or needs have grown among the workforce for large companies since the pandemic?

Dr Schneider: I think the biggest trend has been a shift towards telehealth or video therapy. So, prior to COVID-19, about a third of Lyra’s sessions were conducted via video—the rest were in person. Now, we see 96% of sessions are conducted via video. So, there's been a big shift towards reliance on video therapy.

Another avenue that employers are pursuing is increasing the number of webinars and Q&A's that they're offering employees. So, really focusing on mental health. They're offering webinars like how to communicate effectively, how to reduce stress, how to recognize signs or symptoms of mental health problems in yourself or someone else.

AJMC®: Can you explain how the analysis was conducted? And what was the most surprising finding for you?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, so we surveyed 450 private practice providers who are all part of the Lyra network, and we asked them questions—it was a brief survey, we asked them questions about their experiences with clients since the start of COVID-19. The most surprising finding for me has been the increase in suicidality and self harm. We see that people who are coming to treatment now have higher PHQ-9 scores and higher GAD-7 scores so they're more anxious and depressed. Along with that we're seeing higher rates of suicidality and self harm.

AJMC®: One significant finding of the analysis was the steady rise in thoughts of self-harm or suicide, as you just alluded to, among members from 9% before the pandemic to 19% at the end of April. How have Lyra worked to address these concerns, especially when nearly 23% of members have decided to forego care?

Dr Schneider: It's hard—we can't compel people to come to care as much as we might like to. What we've done though, is we've made Lyra available 24/7, so people can, even if they're not feeling ready for therapy or for coaching, they can call in and get in the moment support anytime of the day or night. Then that for us is an avenue where we can then direct them to care. So, we're helping them in the moment to de escalate, to feel less distressed, and then also to get them to care.

AJMC®: What recommendations have Lyra provided for employers in improving the short-term and long-term mental health of their workforce?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, so some different things. Our employers have really stepped up their communication with employees, they are largely letting them know what sorts of resources are available to them, particularly in the mental health arena so that access isn't a problem. We also see a number of employers and we talked with employers about this, just looking at their PTO policy, looking at their sick leave policy—do they need to make adjustments given the changes associated with COVID-19? We also have talked to employers about really just again, increasing access to high quality evidence-based mental healthcare, making sure that they are utilizing providers who are collecting outcomes data. So, they're looking at clinical outcomes and utilizing that in their treatment approach.

AJMC®: Are there further innovations being considered by Lyra to address mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dr Schneider: Yeah, so some things that we've really focused on lately, I would say are our blended care program. So, this is a program where we connect clients with providers via video. and you have the same provider throughout the course of the episode—it's evidence-based therapy, but we've combined it with a number of digital exercises, tools, lessons, and videos that clients can access in between sessions. What we're finding is that the more that clients access those digital exercises and homework in between sessions, the faster they get better. So, we're really excited about this program, and we're really working to help clients to make the most of this blended care program.

AJMC®: Lastly, are there any topics that you want to address that have not been talked about?

Dr Schneider: I think it's important that we think about mental health for the long haul. This is something, COVID-19, that's going to be sticking around with us for a while, and may have a far reaching impact on people's mental health. So, just thinking about, how can we support employees? Are there other programs that people can put into place? So, besides communication, besides looking at sick leave and PTO, are there opportunities to really look at the benefits that you're offering and make sure that they're covering your employees? Both for COVID-19 illnesses and related illnesses, but also for mental health.

AJMC®: To learn more, visit our website at I'm Matthew Gavidia, thanks for joining us!