Business Group: 6 health and wellness trends to watch in 2022

The Business Group on Health has identified several trends in health and wellness to keep an eye on next year, which they say highlight the sense of "collective urgency" employers and their workforces feel.

For example, the organization echoed an ongoing industry trend: virtual care isn't going away following a massive increase in use during the pandemic. However, the Business Group argues that taking full advantage of its strengths will require integration with in-person offerings.

The Business Group also said that it expects employer on-site clinics to rebound in the coming years, particularly 2023 to 2024, as the post-pandemic world shakes out.

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

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Here are the other trends to watch, according to the Business Group:

Mental health, wellbeing solutions will continue to grow

Mental health challenges worsened under the pandemic, and that's expected to be an area of continued focus for employers, according to the report. They're investing, for example, in online resources and digital health solutions to ensure more workers can access behavioral healthcare.

However, emerging mental health challenges are set to be an upcoming hurdle, the Business Group said.

Child and adolescent mental health worsened significantly under the pandemic, according to the report, especially due to social isolation. A crisis of untreated substance abuse disorder is also coming to the forefront.

A spotlight on health equity

Health disparities came under the microscope because of the pandemic, and the Business Group said that will be a key consideration for employers. Health inequities can prevent people from accessing the care they need, impacting their ability to manage chronic conditions as well as severe acute needs such as cancer.

To address inequities, employers are making benefits and wellness programs more affordable and inclusive. They're also aiming for representative provider networks and taking on implicit bias and systemic racism.

Value-based care in focus

Employers are expecting health costs to continue to rise due to a slew of factors. Cost pressures could worsen without a greater push toward value-based care models, according to the Business Group. Expect employers to commit to greater quality and value.

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The next evolution in workplace wellness

Wellbeing programs must shift to meet the demands of the current workforce, the Business Group said. Employers are embracing new models of work, including continue remote and hybrid approaches.

Wellness programs will also evolve to better incorporate the employees' voices. This is crucial, according to the report, to continue honoring and growing the trust that workers have in their employer to play a key role in helping them manage their care. This extends to engaging with employees around health equity.

More health policy activity on the horizon

The increased activity in health policy poses both challenges and potential boons, the Business Group said. The focus on healthcare in the policy arena could drive greater uptake of value-based care and address rising care costs.

Employers are actively involved in the conversation on a number of topic, according to the list, including prescription drug pricing, transparency, surprise medical billing and pandemic-related relief programs.