Integrated Mental Health Care for Employees

Mental health is indispensable for optimal long-term patient well-being. Psychiatrists are uniquely situated to enhance access to mental healthcare and strengthen the whole health of patients through effective, integrated care models.

Integrated care is an umbrella term used for any approach that endeavors to combine psychological and physical services within both inpatient and ambulatory programs. Not only does this fusion of behavioral health services better satisfy individuals, but it also allows for a more cost-efficient treatment by tackling common issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. Psychiatrists are confident that through integrated care, we will not only observe improved patient outcomes and satisfaction but reduced costs too. As we continue to gain insight into how best to provide quality care, insurers, health systems, and providers are becoming more interested in utilizing evidence-based integrated care models.


What is Collaborative Care?

When feeling unwell, people commonly visit their regular doctor. But when it comes to mental health issues like depression, addiction, and anxiety, accessing specialized care can be a real struggle. Even if someone is lucky enough to get the help they need via referral, they may still not connect with the treatment provided due to many factors, including the stigma associated with mental illness, inadequate insurance coverage, and shortages of qualified providers in local areas.

Employers have to bear the burden of overwhelming costs associated with depression, costing an estimated $44 billion every year in lost productivity. Unfortunately, about half of depressed employees remain untreated and miss out on effective care that could help them heal. To ensure their workforce is in optimum health, it is essential for employers to actively facilitate access to quality medical treatment so people can get back on track.

Through Collaborative Care, individuals receive a more comprehensive and holistic approach to treatment. This model emphasizes integrated care in one primary healthcare setting by providing both mental health services and medical assistance. Patients benefit greatly from this convenient one-stop option since it includes treatments for common conditions such as depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders within familiar surroundings. With the help of Collaborative Care, countless people are able to achieve positive results when it comes to their overall well-being.


How Does Collaborative Care Work?

A collaborative care model integrates a well-trained primary care provider with a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals, such as a psychiatric consultant and often additional mental health providers who are managed by an experienced caregiver. By utilizing this comprehensive approach to treatment, patients can benefit from the expertise of multiple individuals specialized in various areas.

In contrast to the typical care model, where a person with depression reaches out to their primary care provider for referral and may or may not access specialized mental health treatment thereafter, the collaborative care model is much more effective. It starts off by assigning either a PCP or a specially trained treatment manager who will coordinate between themself, the individual in question, as well as any psychiatric consultant they need. Moreover, telepsychiatry can be used in underserved communities lacking proper resources.

The Collaborative Care Model is an advantageous approach involving measurement-based care (MBC), including validated symptom rating scales for treatment decisions, monitoring progress, and making necessary adjustments. This model also provides care providers with a means to report on successful results from their treatments as it encourages people to be more engaged in their healthcare, understand it better and ultimately achieve improved outcomes faster. Backed by over 80 research studies validating its efficacy, this form of care proves far superior compared to typical methods used elsewhere.


How Does Collaborative Care Help Employers?

The collaborative care model is more economical than traditional care. Implementing this model could potentially benefit employers substantially, resulting in cost savings of approximately $1800 per employee annually from healthcare costs and improved productivity.

Incorporating Collaborative Care on a national scale has been proven to reduce healthcare spending by 5-10%, resulting in potential cost savings of an astonishing $26 billion up to $48 billion yearly. This data undeniably proves how necessary this model is for employers and suggests that they should strongly consider asking their health plans to ensure providers within their network are properly trained and offering services along a collaborative care model.


Tips for Employers in Implementing Collaborative Care-Based Healthcare Plans

Connect With Your Health Plan

  • Leverage this data and open a dialogue with your health plan regarding the care provided to employees. Here are some examples of questions you can ask:
  • How many primary care offices in their network have undergone the training needed to provide collaborative care services for depression and anxiety?
  • Can they provide evidence of the results achieved in primary care offices that implement their model? What data do they have to demonstrate its effectiveness?

Ask Your Health Plan to Use Billing Codes

  • Urge your health plan to utilize collaborative care billing codes in order to reimburse providers for providing this highly successful model of care. As we know, collaborative care is extremely effective and should be recognized, encouraged, and compensated by all health plans who have partnered with respective providers.


Promote the Importance of Collaborative Care Models with Employee Assistance Programs

  • Collaborative Care is an effective and innovative model that can benefit those with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. It is essential for your external EAP provider and in-house team members to understand this method so they can properly inform employees seeking help. Working together, you all make sure everyone receives the best possible aid for their particular needs.


Include Mental Health Questions in Health Risk Assessments

  • To collect helpful mental health data, be sure to utilize HRAs that include questions on stress, depression, and substance use disorders. If any employees show positive results upon screening, provide them with information on successful care models such as collaborative care, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and mental health benefits.


Include Screening for Depression and Anxiety

  • Health risk appraisals, primary care services, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and disability management processes should all incorporate screening measures. Additionally, employees must be informed of free online depression screenings such as those offered by Psyclarity Health.

Share Mental Health Resources with Employees

  • Make it easy for your employees to access resources and information regarding successful treatment options for common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, such as collaborative care. Doing so will ensure they have the necessary tools to take control of their well-being.


Employers Can Push for the Necessary Changes in Mental Health Care Quality

Employers possess the potential to drive notable changes in mental healthcare quality by utilizing their leverage as healthcare purchasers. Asking probing questions and engaging with health plans on treatments and outcomes related to mental health will hold them accountable for providing effective services while also allowing employers to secure a higher return on investment when it comes to healthcare.


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The Union Workforce Initiative is for educational, training, and awareness purposes only. This is not an Employee Assistance Program. We help build awareness within the workforces of employer/employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals, nurses, doctors, and other educational professionals.