What’s the Clinical Forecast?
Whenever I see the word forecast, I immediately think of the weather. I love the weather. I love watching it, feeling it, and I even love the standard small talk conversation starter sharing the local weather of the day.
I’ve often thought about how different my life would be if I had gone into earth sciences and become a Meteorologist, instead of the human science and the public health world I ended up in. And, when I think of the two sciences, I realize what I love the most about both of them is the nature of predictability combined with the unpredictability. Sounds odd, I know. But, I guess it shows that while most of us tend to be creatures of habit and like stability, I’d dare say there are those of us out there who love a change and a surprise every now and then.
I know our world has seemed to be in a constant state of surprise these last 2 years, and there has definitely been a season of overload in that realm. So, I think it’s important to look back at the storm we’ve come through and use some of the findings to try and forecast the “clinical weather” ahead, and do what we can to help predict and provide the right gear to weather the next storm.
Predicting the Clinical Healthcare Storm
Fortunately, at Holmes Murphy, we have an amazing data model that allows us to dig deep and look at the patterns. So, what have we found?
An Increase in Mental Health Conditions and Substance Use Disorder
Mental health visits among our Holmes Murphy book of business increased 24 percent since 2019, along with a 21 percent increase in costs.
I think it’s important to acknowledge this number is likely understated, as an estimated almost 50 percent of mental health treatment is self-pay and not captured in any medical insurance reporting.
My forecast for the deterioration of mental health status is a multiplicative effect. There is both a human and cost impact on the individual, employers, and society at large.
Preventive and Elective Health Care Delays/Deferred Care
For our clients, cancer screening rates dropped between 3 and 6 percent from 2019 to 2020 and have not rebounded in 2021.
Preventive visits for those aged 35+ dropped 2 percent from 2019 to 2021, and those not receiving a preventive visit show to have higher avoidable ER visits and more inpatient admissions — both of which we know are costly to both the individual and employer.
My forecast for patients delaying necessary and discretionary treatment is that cancers are likely to be discovered at later stages, and worsening conditions could lead to more costly treatments.
Chronic Condition Management Delays
Diabetes, osteoarthritis, coronary artery disease, breast cancer, and mental health/substance use have continued to drive the struggling and in-crisis categories shown in our Holmes Murphy client data.
There has also been a 3 percent decline annually in the healthy category, leading to a growing concern that more disease and issues are on the horizon.
My forecast is that underlying health risk factors do not appear to be improving, and unmanaged disease will lead to more complications and cost.
Positive Impact of Increased Usage of Telemedicine
Per our Holmes Murphy data, telemedicine visits showed more than a 7x increase in visits since 2019 and a 9x increase in the type of office visits being virtual versus in-person since 2019.
My forecast is that a strong continued uptick, favorable consumer perception, and tangible investment into this space are all contributing to the continued growth of telehealth.
Preparing for the Forecast
I realize this forecast has been mostly cloudy and cold with a slight peek of sunshine coming late in the day. I know most of us would prefer a longer season of warmer, moderate weather. And, I think there are ways for us to get into that weather pattern because, unlike the weather, we actually can control and impact the human body!
So, what can you do to change the clinical forecast for your employee population? Connect people with care!
Care means a lot of different things to different people. At Holmes Murphy, we believe it can take the form of 3 lanes — right provider, right prevention, and right pathway.
Included in these lanes are a variety of ways you can connect people with care, including directing your employees to the highest-quality providers, providing health advocacy and navigation, having a primary care strategy and emphasizing virtual and preventive care, offering full-spectrum mental health services, steering your employees to centers of excellence, and more.
Your connecting with care may look different than other organizations. You may want to move to another lane, while other organizations around you stay in one lane for a while. It really comes down to your core beliefs, culture, and willingness to invest in your most-prized service — your people!
If you’re not sure how to even get started, have questions on connecting people with care, or want to talk more about what Holmes Murphy is seeing through our own data, reach out to us! We’d be happy to help you forecast for what’s a head and answer any questions you may have.
Published on: 04.14.22