In the News: July 7–14

MENTAL Health Challenge Aims to Combat Loneliness

A recent Healthcare Finance article describes a new challenge by HHS: create a virtual system to combat loneliness and isolation, both of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will have implications far beyond its end. Known as MENTAL (Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation), the challenge aims to identify a user-friendly system that can connect individuals with community-based programs and resources specific to their needs and abilities. The Administration for Community Living and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health are currently accepting proposals from businesses, health care providers and organizations across specialties, and the community to enter the challenge and get involved with the initiative.

Reports from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine show that more than a third of the population older than 45 feels lonely and a quarter of those over 65 feel socially isolated. It has also been reported that risk of premature death due to social isolation is on par with that of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. Social distancing requirements have only further increased the distress and isolation felt by older adults, which is why tools and resources are a must to better connect and engage the community with positive mental health initiatives. In addition to the prize money, challenge winners will get the chance to be a part of a public-private campaign with the potential of reaching 10 million socially isolated older adults, veterans and those with disabilities.

It is no surprise that the demand for behavioral health services is on the rise. Many programs have already been deployed to improve access to these services through telepsychiatry and digital mental health services. To learn more about current trends and the outlook for behavioral health services across the industry, please read the Sg2 FAQ Demand for Behavioral Health Services Fuels Adoption of Virtual Health.

Walmart Expands Its Health Care Supercenters

As mentioned in Sg2’s recent virtual Executive Summit State of the State presentation by Bill Woodson and Steve Jenkins, a MedCity News article discusses Walmart’s plans to continue opening “health care supercenters” across the country. The first of their kind, these supercenters offer patients an all-in-one stop for many health care services such as primary care, urgent care, diagnostic imaging, behavioral health and therapy services, and dental care. There are plans to add nutrition counseling, exercise classes and other wellness services in the future.

These centers are also unique in that they offer static and transparent prices (eg, primary care visits for $40 for adults and $20 for children), regardless of the patients’ insurance status. Walmart has already implemented 4 of these supercenters: 3 in Georgia and a new one in Arkansas. In the future, these supercenters may consider offering more specialty services to reach a broader patient population.

Walmart Health’s operating model is an innovative spin on convenient care clinics that will challenge the traditional sites seen today. Understanding the impact of these innovative models and how to appropriately respond is necessary for your organization to be competitive in your market. To learn more about low-acuity volume trends, as well as strategic guidance and case examples of other successful players in this space, read the Sg2 report Low-Acuity Sites of the Future: Reconfiguring the Primary Care Puzzle.

US Public Health Experts Face Burnout Due to COVID-19

A recent article in The Atlantic details the experiences of public health experts in the US who have been helping battle COVID-19 and how they are close to burnout. Though they may not be on the frontlines treating patients, they are providing advice to policy makers, keeping an eye on how the pandemic is progressing and helping hospitals prepare, which is causing both physical and emotional exhaustion.

Since 2008, funding for public health has declined—along with related jobs—which means, now that the US needs guidance from the public health sector more than ever, there just aren’t enough experts to provide it. And those experts who are left are working around the clock—while feeling like their advice is not being heeded from the government and being targeted by Americans who are lashing out after being asked to stay home and/or wear masks. As Nicolette Louissaint, who runs the Healthcare Ready nonprofit, put it, back in March she and other public health workers “were already running on fumes.”

COVID-19 is taking its toll on US health workers—whether they are public health experts or frontline care providers—both emotionally and physically, and physician burnout was already a widespread problem even before the pandemic. Learn what leading organizations are doing to combat this problem in the Sg2 FAQ Assessing and Addressing Physician Burnout.

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