HLTH23: Highmark taps Spring Health to expand behavioral health access

LAS VEGAS—Highmark Health is joining forces with Spring Health to expand behavioral health access for a wide swath of its members.

The two partners will launch a mental well-being platform that integrates into the insurers' existing member app, providing convenient access to daily wellness activities, care navigation and clinical services both in-person and virtual, such as therapy, medication management and around-the-clock support.

The insurer plans to roll out the platform for members in fully insured employer plans, Affordable Care Act coverage and Medicare Advantage beginning in January 2024, said Anil Singh, M.D., senior vice president and executive medical director of curated and population health at Highmark, at a briefing for reporters Monday.

He said the team viewed it as critical to ensure that members could readily connect to the platform without needing to navigate through a slew of apps to access the care they need.

"The partnership with Spring has been just instrumental in allowing us to have that single front door that leads to access," Singh said.

Building out the My Highmark experience has been a key focus for the company. At HLTH in 2022, the insurer announced it would team with Google Cloud and League to launch the new app, creating a single sign-on experience for members to reach a slew of services and key data.

Behavioral health made sense as the next addition, Singh said, as it's been a critical focus at Highmark for some time, given that many of its members live in regions where access is a significant barrier. In the announcement, Highmark said that more than half of U.S. counties, as well as 80% of rural counties, lack even a single psychiatrist.

Highmark estimates that the platform will increase access by 40% for its members, including children and teenagers.

And, while more people are talking about behavioral and mental health needs in the wake of COVID-19, stigma remains. Patients average seven to 11 years between the onset of symptoms and seeking treatment.

Spring Health connects each member with a personalized care plan that is tailored to the results from an initial assessment. They can also book appointments in real time, filtering providers to meet their needs by a number of factors such as specialty, condition, gender, ethnicity and language.

A peer-reviewed study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Spring's tools have helped 70% of users improve their mental health, with the average time to remission landing at 5.9 weeks.

Kelli Morrison, vice president of health plans and channel partnerships at Spring Health, said during the briefing that one of the goals of the partnership is to "debunk" the idea that making it easier for people in rural areas to access care will drive up costs.

"This partnership sets a new standard in behavioral health and how we measure both access quality and outcomes between payer and provider," she said.