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nib supports individualised approach to mental health care

On the back of the Federal Government's announcement to overhaul mental health services, nib health funds (nib) is reshaping the way it supports customers who are at risk of this complex health issue.

Mental health treatment is now a common procedure for nib customers, with benefits paid increasing by 14% in FY15 and the cost of treatment per customer (over a year) averaging more than $17,000.

In light of this growing trend, nib is aligning its focus with the Government's new "stepped care" model by providing support in the form of early intervention services and out of hospital programs. The goal is to help fill the current gap for patients between the GP, the mental health specialist and acute care.

One such initiative is the MindStep program, which will see nib partner with Remedy Healthcare to deliver a support service for customers with depression and anxiety being discharged from the hospital to home. The MindStep program is a phone-based low intensity and prevention-focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This service includes social prescribing and signposting to other services as a way of supporting individuals to better manage their depression and anxiety and help avoid future hospital admissions.

nib Group Executive Benefits & Provider Relations, Dr Justin Vaughan, said he welcomes the Government's move to individualised treatment plans, which is something nib is also supporting through outpatient services like MindStep.

"As a health insurer we recognise our role in helping tackle this widespread issue by offering a three-phased approach to patient care," Dr Vaughan said.

"There's no denying the benefits of in-hospital care for patients suffering from certain mental health disorders, but with readmissions accounting for almost half of all nib customer episodes last financial year, there's a real need to cover programs that provide discharge support, as well as prevention services."

nib has also committed to targeting early intervention, with research showing that patients have greater success if they address mental health issues early and before secondary issues like drug or alcohol abuse arise.

"In addition to post-hospital care, we also understand the importance of prevention as a key driver in reducing mental health cases," Dr Vaughan said.

"For this reason, we've focused a lot of our charitable efforts through nib foundation on mental health and wellbeing projects, providing more than $6 million in funding for initiatives that have an emphasis on early intervention and support," Dr Vaughan added.

While the Government changes will be rolled out over three years, starting from 2016, it is still important for other industry experts, including private health insurers, to join the conversation and work together to identify where the gaps exist and how their support can best meet patient needs and improve outcomes.