Quest, in conjunction with Catapult Health, to offer virtual behavioral health screenings

Quest Diagnostics has been a leader in the battle against COVID-19, with its quick processing times of hundreds of thousands of daily tests.

On Tuesday, the Secaucus-based company announced it is joining the fight on another front: Offering assistance in behavioral health.

In partnership with Catapult Health, Quest will offer virtual mental health screenings for employer organizations and their employees. The collaboration is designed to help organizations facilitate virtual telehealth access to clinical services for their employees and adult dependents, with emphasis on reducing risks related to preventable chronic diseases, as well as helping with behavioral health issues.

Dr. Jay Wohlgemuth, chief medical officer and head of Quest’s employer population health programs, said he hopes the program will solve a number of issues.

“Social distancing and fear of contracting COVID-19 make it difficult for many individuals to access preventive care services from their health care providers,” he said. “At the same time, employers recognize that at-home care, technology-enabled options, including preventive care and screening, can be highly effective in enabling prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, supporting better workforce health and lower medical costs.”

Because health plans typically reimburse Catapult’s preventive care checkups as a covered annual preventive checkup, Quest officials said they feel this will reduce medical costs for employers and the need for employees to visit a doctor for the checkup.

That need may be great — and unmet.

A study from the Society for Human Resource Management shows that about 1 in 4 employees is reporting depressive symptoms, such as anxiety and feelings of tiredness. Quest officials feel these screenings could be a first step in spotting depression and other issues.

“Quest Diagnostics and Catapult Health have complementary capabilities that, together, will improve the ability of organizations to support their employees’ health by providing a patient-centric service that meets them where they are during the pandemic and beyond,” Wohlgemuth said.

The collaboration pairs insights from Quest’s biometric screenings offered at-home via specimen self-collection, at Quest’s Patient Service Centers, and at the worksite with Catapult Health’s new VirtualCheckup solution.

The VirtualCheckup includes a video preventive care checkup to allow for confidential analysis and consultation with a nurse practitioner. Each checkup covers personal and family health history, Quest’s lab test and biometric data, prescription drug adherence, depression screening and concludes with the creation of a personal action plan to include referral into employer health and benefits programs.

The consultation also screens for potential COVID-19 exposure, and individuals identified as at-risk may be directed to COVID-19 diagnostic testing services provided by Quest.

Quest officials said a nurse practitioner will check the PHQ-9 and if there is an immediate, serious risk — such as the potential for suicide, they will immediately intercede. If it is not an emergency, the nurse practitioner can refer them into mental health programs offered by the employer or employer EAP.

It would work the same way for an urgent health issue. The individual may be referred to a specialist or for in-person testing — whatever is appropriate.

The key is getting an observation. Since many employees do not have a primary care physician, this is a good way for employers to ensure their employees are being seen.

Catapult Health CEO David Michel said doing nothing could be costly in a number of ways.

“When people skip doctor visits, the consequences can be grave in terms of poorer long-term outcomes and higher medical costs,” he said. “Because they sponsor much of the nation’s health care, employers end up absorbing these costs to a great degree.

“Our unique virtual care model is designed to change that by taking preventive care into employee’s homes, thereby solving for access to care, safety and overall preventive care compliance.”