This year, U.S. employers will more closely evaluate their health plans, partnerships and providers as they try to create value, achieve higher quality and obtain cost-effective services.
The Health Business Group’s 2024 Large Employer Healthcare Strategies Survey notes that this will extend to high-profile areas such as mental health, rising cancer treatment costs and drug prices.
1 | Mental health challenges intensify
Overall, 77% of employers reported an increase in mental health issues, compared with 44% of respondents last year; a further 16% in the 2024 survey said they expected mental health challenges to be a factor in the future Bigger problem.
To address this issue in the coming year, employers will focus on increasing mental health services for depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. Respondents recognized that this can be difficult due to provider shortages and burnout among clinicians serving this population. Thirty percent said they are already seeing an impact, and a further 36% said they expect to face greater challenges in accessing care on behalf of employees.
More than one-fifth of respondents also said they are seeing higher chronic disease management needs and an increase in disability claims for workers with mental health issues.
Giving patients more options to connect with caregivers through telemedicine and other remote access points can encourage patients to get the care they need. Meanwhile, a report from the American Heart Association last fall noted that integrating physical and behavioral health services can improve timely access to services, reduce the stigma of seeking care, improve patient outcomes, lower total costs of care and increase staff satisfaction. .
2 | Employers worried about acceleration of late-stage cancer diagnoses
About 41% of employers expect more late-stage cancers among their workforce due to delays in screening during the pandemic. Half of respondents said cancer is the No. 1 driver of their health care costs, and companies are taking steps to address this issue.
Pay more attention to advanced screening measures and maintain 100% coverage of recommended prevention and screening services. Employers are also keeping a close eye on clinical advances in oncology, including biomarker testing and immunotherapy, in hopes of improving outcomes for cancer patients.
More than half of employers (53%) said they would seek to establish links with cancer-focused centers of excellence (COEs), with a further 23% saying they would consider this approach by 2026. COEs tend to be large organizations that provide a high level of service. High-quality, patient-centered, multi-specialty treatment. But as Andrew Norden, MD, a neuro-oncologist and chief medical officer at OncoHealth, points out, a COE isn’t always the best choice for diagnosing people with the disease. OncoHealth helps employers, health plans, oncologists and patients understand cancer care.
Norden explained in a recent column that community cancer centers play an important role for patients because they are often more accessible and can provide high-quality, cost-effective care. It will become increasingly important for provider organizations to help cancer patients navigate and understand all of their options.
3 | Expectations for virtual health in overall healthcare delivery are beginning to slow
Employer perceptions of virtual health appear to be changing amid concerns about whether virtual health will have a positive impact on outcomes, quality, cost, experience and integration. Many are also concerned that there are too many virtual solutions, saturating the market and leaving employees with too many choices. Employers say they will evaluate their supplier partnerships and seek to streamline and consolidate them in the coming years.
Key concerns employers have about virtual care include the potential for a sense of isolation among employees due to a lack of care coordination between virtual and community providers (mentioned by 69% of survey respondents) and a lack of integration among providers. experience. As hospitals and health systems adapt their virtual care strategies, it’s important not to lose sight of the critical foundations of care coordination, communication, and maintaining a high-quality patient experience.