What will be the Pandemic's Mental Health Legacy?

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about the healthcare industry. Whether that be infrastructure, supply chain or disparities in care, many healthcare professionals are looking to the future to see what will change based on what we learn now. A facet of healthcare that is a part of many recent discussions is mental health—how it has been impacted and what changes should occur for better health outcomes.

MedCity News recently hosted “MedCity INVEST,” a five-day conference featuring various industry experts discussing public health & health equity, healthcare delivery, healthcare investing & financing, empowering patients, behavioral health and employer health.

During a breakout session titled, “From mental health to whole health,” panelists shared insights on the need for mental health to be incorporated into primary care, including strategies for doing so and the challenges that need to be overcome in this important discussion. While there have always been disparities in mental health care, the pandemic amplified the need for a clearer understanding of longstanding problems in the industry.

Stacia A. Cohen, R.N., MBA, Executive Vice President of Health Services for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield , participated as a panelist alongside Jessica Zeaske, Partner of Echo Health Ventures, Kevin Dedner, CEO of Hurdle, and Daniele Fallin, Chair of the Department of Mental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Cohen highlighted key issues we collectively must solve:

  • Shifting focus from "mental illness" to "mental health" must include focusing upstream on the factors that impact the mental health of communities where we live, learn, work and play.
  • Greater adoption of evidence-based practice to impact health, including examination of outcomes by population. Intentional work is needed to close health disparities experienced by people of color.
  • The "digital divide," or access to affordable healthcare, is increasingly determined by reliable broadband coverage. This is not available in some communities and not affordable for many.
  • The rapid acceleration of outcomes and value-oriented payment models is needed. FFS reimbursement remains a key barrier and focus on outcomes will enable meaningful innovation in the ways care is delivered—consistent with the ways people prefer.

As Cohen shared, "at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, our sleeves are rolled up to tackle these issues in partnership with providers and communities. We've all got work to do."

Visit MedCity News here to read the full session recap. And, if you missed it, the session recording is featured here.

To access additional information on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus Resource Page.

Stacia Cohen


Stacia Cohen

Stacia Cohen is the Executive Vice President of Health Services for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. She is responsible for developing and executing a cohesive strategy across all provider relationships, clinical and quality programs, medical and coverage policy, community health, and social impact that drive meaningful impacts on health, access, affordability, and equity.

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