Guest Blog: Making Progress in Improving Outcomes for Patients with Depression by Kris Soegaard, Chief Operating Officer, Minnesota Health Action Group

Guest Blog: Making Progress in Improving Outcomes for Patients with Depression by Kris Soegaard, Chief Operating Officer, Minnesota Health Action Group

Depression is a chronic illness just like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t see it on an X-ray or in a glucose test, but it is every bit as treatable as other health conditions. The reality is, however, that there is more hesitancy to discuss depression as openly as other illnesses. Because May is National Mental Health Month, it is a good time to highlight how The Action Group and its members are contributing to improving outcomes for patients with depression — a primary driver of health care costs — and how all employers can help employees with depression get the care they need.

  • Minnesota Bridges to Excellence. This employer-led, pay-for-performance initiative drives clinical improvements in depression, diabetes and vascular disease that lead to better patient outcomes. Last year, the number of Minnesota clinics achieving the optimal standards for depression care increased 81 percent over the previous year — the biggest jump in depression care since clinics began reporting on this condition in 2009.
  • Help and Healing Toolkit: Depression Resources for Care and Recovery. This online toolkit is designed to help fight depression by delivering evidence-based resources to improve collaboration between patients and health care providers. It is the result of a cooperative effort between The Action Group and MN Community Measurement, and builds on a long-term depression treatment initiative in Minnesota. It even includes a patient-friendly self-management section.
  • Employers Helping Employees. There are a number of things employers can do to address the issue of depression in the workplace. Action Group members have shared best practices in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness which, in turn, enables and encourages those with conditions like depression to seek appropriate treatment that allows them to be fully present at work and at home.
    • Provide an educational toolkit for supervisors and managers to equip them to identify and address employee behaviors commonly associated with depression.
    • Promote available resources such as employee assistance programs, work/life balance programs, health coaches, nurse lines, and mental health benefits.
    • Check with your health plan about resources they provide and make them easily accessible to employees.
    • Assess your culture and business practices to see if they could be contributing to stress, anxiety and depression. Is work/life balance fully supported? Are you creating an inclusive environment that inspires people to be fully present at work? Are you establishing a “culture of readiness” where people are aware of and can easily and rapidly access the resources you provide to make intelligent health decisions?
    • Use the Gallup-Healthways Wellbeing Index! Take advantage of findings from more than 178,000 interviews nationwide, which examined Americans’ perceptions on topics such as physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and health care. You may find opportunities worthy of addressing in your own organization.

Employers can make a difference in the personal and professional lives of their employees, dependents and retirees who have depression. Resources like The Action Group, our Minnesota Bridges to Excellence initiative and the Help and Healing Toolkit can help employers improve health and health care in Minnesota.

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