20 Feb Mental Illness Sucks! Why Is Mental Health So Important? [Interview]
Do you sometimes feel down, unengaged, or depressed?
You are not alone! In North America, the impact of mental illnesses is huge and intractable. One in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year. Similarly, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem in any given year.
We interviewed our Chief Executive Officer, Karl Pringle, to discuss why mental illness is such a pressing issue in North America and how GenXys is addressing the problem from the very first medication prescribed.
Here’s our chat with Karl!
Why is mental health such an important issue?
Until recently, we as a society were quite ignorant, (or at least chose to be), about the importance and the financial impact of mental health on individuals, micro and macro populations, and businesses. Across the U.S. economy, severe mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. The economic burden of mental illness in Canada, which includes health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life are estimated at $51 billion per year. (Source)
Thanks to the awareness programs like #BellLetsTalk and #MentalHealthMonth — held by employers, government, or non-government organizations — the taboos and stigma around mental illnesses are finally lifting. However, there is still more to be done, not least of which is the ability for individuals to get the right medications at the right time. Clinicians and health clinics across North America are leveraging our solutions to enable personalized treatments from the outset. Our solutions support providers in giving patients every chance to have optimum treatment outcomes.
As we become more informed about the impact that mental illnesses have on the people around us, the more we, as a society, are inclined to step up and contribute to positive outcomes. I am delighted to say that the GenXys team and our ecosystem of partners, and customers, do and will continue to play an active role in championing mental wellness through remediation and prevention.
What are the key areas that GenXys is trying to address?
Enhancing Care With Personalized Treatment Options
Some days we feel low; other days, we are ecstatic. Mental health is a complex issue for treatment. There are so many factors that all play a critical role in our mental well-being. There are societal and environmental contributors that may influence a person’s ability to cope with stress. Additionally, there are genetic predisposition and biochemical contributors amongst others that are all interwoven. All these interconnected factors make finding the optimum course of treatment equally as complex.
Additionally, the treatment effectiveness can vary from one patient to another based on their unique genetic makeup. Despite using all available information to personalize medication therapy, the first antidepressant that is prescribed may not work as desired. After an initial medication trial, safely switching to an alternate antidepressant or adding another medication as augmentation or adjunctive therapy also adds another layer of complexity to depression treatment.
Navigating the complexity of mental health is a constant challenge for healthcare providers. Here at GenXys, we help healthcare professionals provide enhanced care to patients by incorporating all variables of prescribing. Our work also enables healthcare providers to have more information at their fingertips to be able to discuss possible treatment options with their patients based on the highest levels of evidence and clinical experience. We consult and work with some of the leading experts in the field to guide our solution development.
Improving Mental Health in the Workplace
Now, let’s look at the impact of mental illness from a socio-economical standpoint.
Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. Of particular interest is that nearly half (48%-50%) of these costs are attributed to the workplace, including absenteeism (missed days from work) and presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work). Depression is thought to count for up to 400 million lost workdays per year in the United States. In any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems.
These statistics reveal how vulnerable the business and economic environment is to the financial impact of mental illness. The more severe someone’s depression is, the less productive they will be in the workplace. The more critical someone’s depression is, the more likely they will be on disability leave, which leads to increasing costs of disability claims. Adding up both the costs of lost productivity and disability claims, the total costs of mental illness in the workplace can become unmanageable.
Tackling mental health issues in the workplace has become a top priority for organizations across North America. Mercer’s national survey of employer-sponsored health plans identifies that managing high-cost claims is a top priority for 80% of large employers over the next five years. For pressing medical issues such as depression, care quality and timeliness are essential to achieve better outcomes and lower costs. Enabling the timely quality of mental healthcare in the workplace is what our solutions provide. Our solutions can help your employees get the right medications so they can recover and get back to work faster.
How is GenXys helping healthcare professionals provide better care for individuals with mental illnesses?
There are a host of effective medications to be prescribed available along with other non-pharmaceutical treatments. However, not all are safe, not all are appropriate, and not all are going to work as expected. Based on an individual’s situation, comorbidities, current medications, kidney/liver functions, and genetic makeup, not all drugs will be suitable. Not long ago, the industry discovered that there are well-established and high evidence-based links between genetic variants and the effectiveness of mental health medications for individuals.
A clinician can’t mentally model out all the interactions and data points in a matter of minutes and come to a list of optimized and personalized treatments. That is where solutions, like TreatGx, are a game-changer for clinicians and patients alike. As some refer to it, our ‘prescribing engine’ takes into account all the data points, including pharmacogenomics. Then, it auto-displays the safest and most appropriate treatments in real-time for the clinician and patient to review, discuss and choose.
Unlike legacy pharmacogenetic tests, our solution takes a condition-focused approach to treatment and includes all prescribing variables. Currently, there are 38 conditions available in TreatGx. Our team is continuously reviewing new literature to ensure that providers are using the highest level of clinical evidence when treating individuals with TreatGx. Hence, we did a big update on treating depression recently. Besides reviewing new clinical information, we are always finding better ways to improve health outcomes. For example, intolerable side effects of antidepressants were a common theme that came out of inadequate depression treatments. So we added side effect profiles in TreatGx to give providers all the information they need to start a conversation with patients about their side effects tolerance.
Using all the data points, including pharmacogenetics, to generate a list of optimized and personalized medication options for a given condition is the cornerstone of precision medicine for masses. We call it “precision prescribing.”
Finally, there is a way to make pharmacogenetics applicable to mass-populations and clinically relevant and actionable for all. Many large employers and insurance companies, like Sun Life, are now offering pharmacogenetic tests to their covered employees. No getting around it, mentally healthy individuals are crucial to effective and economically vibrant societies.
Over to you…
To learn even more about how our clinical decision support software works, read this blog.
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