HealthMay 24, 2023

How can healthcare respond to study on physical, mental, and financial impact of menopause?

Health plan education and engagement can help mitigate the physical and financial consequences women face from menopause.

The New York Times highlighted a Mayo Clinic study that suggests menopause symptoms not only take a varied and significant physical and cognitive toll on those who experience the transition, they cost “American women an estimated $1.8 billion in lost working time per year.” Menopause patients are lacking resources and outreach at various touchpoints throughout the healthcare ecosystem to help them understand and better navigate their experiences.

The impact of menopause on women

While Mayo’s findings on the economic impact of menopause are staggering, the study details that lost working time and income is only one part of the story. Some of the 4,000 women surveyed throughout the United States explained “that their symptoms had become so debilitating that they either quit their jobs or were laid off in the preceding six months.” This adds to a growing body of research and discourse about the effects of menopause on women’s physical and mental health and financial security.

“There’s a dearth of information, and women are on the receiving end of this process that is not very well understood, or at least, not very well discussed,” says Eve Atri, Editorial Director of UpToDate® patient and member engagement solutions (formerly Emmi®). “It's a long transition. It's a very difficult transition. Women are often left out in the cold to grapple with it on their own.”

For care managers and health plans, offering those experiencing the menopause transition more support and outreach, including education, becomes critically important to mitigating these adverse impacts, Atri adds. Particularly if they aren’t receiving adequate resources elsewhere.

The need for more (and more candid) menopause education

In a 2022 article for the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Stephanie Faubion encourages women to start discussing menopause with their providers earlier, starting around age of 35 or 40. She also acknowledges that “the challenge is that education is lacking about menopause.”

Providing education and engagement resources can help bridge the gap between provider visits, Atri notes, reaching patients and health plan members on their own time and devices with easily accessible materials. It’s also an opportunity to help build empathy and remove stigmas around what might be seen as a difficult-to-broach subject.

“It's your body, and I don't think there's anything taboo about your body or what's happening with it,” she says. “That’s what undergirds everything we do at [UpToDate]. We approach patient outreach as: These are natural processes and procedures that are going to happen, and our way of reckoning with that is to have straightforward conversations about it in an empathetic manner.”

Supporting those experiencing menopause in the workplace

While providers are certainly on the front lines of educating women on the changes they can expect with menopause, employers also need to adapt their approach. In an opinion piece for Forbes, Joy Altimare, Chief Revenue Officer at EHE Health, asserts that “menopause remains an overlooked and neglected women’s healthcare issue.” While Altimare goes on to share ways that employers can offer better support for their workforce, nearly half of which will experience menopause in their lifetime, truly delivering support for women throughout this stage of the life will need to include efforts from the broader healthcare community.

One tool at an employer’s disposal may already be in their arsenal – the care management program at their employee health plan.

Payers are another touchpoint of health information for their members. In an article highlighting payers’ role in improving member experience, Allison Combs, Head of Payer for Wolters Kluwer Health Clinical Effectiveness, notes that “payers are focusing on ways to reach more people, be more effective in their outreach, and how to help the people they reach understand their care options and feel comfortable and confident.” Thus, payers are positioned to be a reliable source of menopause information through their care management programs, if they aren’t already providing this service.

The role of health education resources for members

Many payers utilize member education resources, like UpToDate Guide, that include resources on menopause. Highlighting these offerings to employees would help employers support employees experiencing menopause in this transitional time. The solution is releasing its first multimedia patient education program focused solely on menopause in early 2024.

As the discussion around menopause continues to evolve, keeping evidence-based content and educational resources at the forefront of support will ensure women have trustworthy and empathetic information at their fingertips.

Learn more about patient education and engagement solutions for care management and download the whitepaper “Improving the member experience.”

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