Manulife Financial Corp. is has announced a series of pilot projects aimed at improving health outcomes for group benefits plan members dealing with mental-health issues, chronic pain and musculoskeletal disorders.

On Thursday, the insurer announced five pilot projects, some of which have already begun and some of which will it will launch in 2018, aimed at finding new and innovative ways to deliver treatment to members of group benefits plans. It’s undertaking the pilot projects in collaboration with providers such as Toronto-area based CBT Associates and Altum Health, a division of the University Health Network that provides health-care services to injured workers and those with disability claims.

The projects include a pilot using pharmacogenetic testing that will start in the winter. Through it, plan members taking medications for chronic pain, anxiety or depression can volunteer if they’re having unwanted side-effects or poor results from their drugs. For those participating, the provider will send a test kit to complete and send back, with the results going to plan members and, if they consent, their doctor. The goal is to reduce side-effects and improve the effectiveness of drug treatments.

Read: The role of technology in improving access to timely care

The other pilot projects include:

  • Virtual cognitive behavioural therapy, along with support from a care co-ordinator, starting this winter.
  • Virtual psychological services, along with in-person support at six Ontario-based clinics, through CBT Associates and its care platform, Beacon. The pilot project will also start in early 2018.
  • Multidisciplinary mental-health services that includes assessment by a psychologist and a psychiatrist, along with in-person and virtual treatment co-ordinated by an occupational therapist. Manulife will undertake the pilot project, which began in August, in collaboration with Altum Health in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Interventions to address musculoskeletal disorders, such as lower back, neck and shoulder pain. Delivered through Altum Health, the project will aim to find the root cause of plan members’ symptoms and provider earlier access to more intensive and personalized treatment. It will include a multidisciplinary approach and the support of a care co-ordinator to help plan members stay on track with their recovery. The project began in April 2017.

Read: A call for urgency in treating mental disorders

“UHN Altum Health and CAMH believe in Manulife’s approach, that multidisciplinary and collaborative care is key to putting members with a mental-health condition on the path to recovery and getting their lives back,” said Sylvia Boddener, senior director of Altum programs and quality at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Any plan sponsor with short- and long-term disability benefits coverage through Manulife can participate in the pilot projects, which will run for a year. The requirements for plan members to qualify include being off work on disability or struggling due to issues related to one of the pilot projects.

Manulife expects to release the results in the winter of 2019.

Editor’s note: Manulife has clarified since initial publication that it’s no longer accepting additional plan sponsors for the pharmacogenetics project. 


Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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