Virtual health, mental health emerge as top trends to watch in 2022, forecast says

The Business Group on Health offered its projections on key health and workplace issues in the coming year.

Virtual healthcare and the growth of mental health services loom as two of the top health trends in 2022, according to the Business Group on Health.

The Business Group, a non-profit organization, represents large employers’ views and perspectives on health policy issues. The organization identified six key trends for the coming year.

COVID-19 will remain a key driver on health issues but businesses will focus on several areas, said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health.

“Each of these trends is critically important yet together underscore a collective urgency that requires prioritization,” Kelsay said in a statement. “To be sure, while COVID-19 still has an impact on almost every aspect of health and well-being, the upcoming year will be marked by large employers’ ongoing commitment to these critical areas.”

Here’s a rundown of the Business Group on Health’s projections for the new year.

Virtual health thrives and evolves

Virtual health will remain an integral part of the healthcare landscape, particularly in managing chronic illnesses and offering more patients access to mental health services.

But virtual health will increasingly be integrated with in-person care, the Business Group projects. Patients will need help navigating in-person and virtual care options.

“In the future, the focus will shift to achieving optimal quality, appropriateness, experience and integration of virtual health with in-person delivery,” the group stated.

Onsite clinics will rebound in 2023-24 to support workforce health, the Business Group predicted.

More mental health options

More people are accessing mental health services, partly due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and also due to a reduced stigma in seeking help. Many are struggling with stress, burnout and substance abuse issues. Businesses will continue to work to provide mental health services and programs to support the emotional well-being of their workers.

Health equity

Healthcare organizations and the federal government have been focused on improving health equity among minority groups and vulnerable populations. Likewise, employers are focused on health equity.

Large employers will be offering “inclusive and affordable health benefits and well-being programs.” Companies will also be seeking representative provider networks, the Business Group said.

Employers are going to be examining structural racism and implicit bias to reduce disparities in healthcare outcomes and improve the well-being of workers.

Focus on quality and value

Employers are expecting higher health care costs, due to the pandemic and the possible long-term effects of COVID-19. In addition, some people have delayed treatment for other health conditions due to the pandemic and are likely to need care. Expect companies to be pressing for changes to address costs.

“The quickly evolving landscape could amplify these challenges if not effectively integrated into a holistic care delivery experience with a continued commitment to quality and value,” the group said.

Reimagining workforce well-being

As employees work in different ways, either at home or in hybrid programs, companies are going to need to revamp their programs to promote well-being.

Companies will “support psychological and workplace safety, remote or hybrid work, and leave-related impacts,” the Business Group said.

More engagement in health policy

Employers will be more active in healthcare and workforce policy, the Business Group said. Companies will be pressing on healthcare cost containment, prescription drug prices, health equity, mental health, virtual health and COVID-19 relief programs.