The impact of behavioral health is finally getting its moment in the sun. As the shades of stigma are slowly lifted, people are beginning to speak about mental health and substance use disorders.
From the classrooms to the water coolers, thoughtful discussions are occurring every day. Consider a paper released by Harvard Business School and the Stanford Graduate School of Business citing that workplace stress accounts for nearly 8 percent of the national spend on healthcare and adds up to between $125 and $190 billion spent in healthcare costs per year.
Similarly, a study published in February 2015 by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry noted that depression is the leading cause of disability for U.S. adults ages 15-44 and results in nearly 400 million disability days per year. These statistics indicate that unmet behavioral health needs have a significant impact on workforce productivity.
Given the challenges of addressing behavioral health in the workplace, HR and benefits managers need benefit offerings to promote enhanced behavioral healthcare for their employees. These solutions should target accessibility, availability, and affordability.
Enter the rise of telehealth.
Telehealth is, quite simply, seeing a doctor or therapist via video on your phone, kiosk or web. Telehealth for behavioral health is sometimes referred to tele-mental health, tele-psychiatry, tele-behavioral health or tele-therapy. It allows immediate, convenient access to care, alleviating the overwhelming feelings that often accompany patients dealing with a behavioral health issue by stripping away the stigma of an in-person visit.
For patients – your employees – tele-therapy is provided by high-quality, licensed clinicians, with the opportunity for specialized and multidisciplinary care. Not only is it more affordable than brick and mortar therapy, increasingly it is covered by major insurers. The easy access to multiple providers reduces the uncertainty and confusion frequently experienced when searching for a therapist, and eliminates the frustration associated with finding therapists who are not accepting new patients. LiveHealth Online’s psychology offering is one example of how an employee can simply and easily find a clinician and get started.
Telehealth addresses longstanding problems faced by consumers of behavioral health. For example, finding a therapist outside of business hours, when most working adults want an appointment, is very challenging. Through telehealth, employees can access therapists after work from the comfort of their own homes, via a scheduled or on-demand visit. For those individuals who still feel a stigma attached to therapy, telehealth provides a more private solution. Telehealth has also been shown to decrease the cost of healthcare through reduced traveling costs, improved management of chronic disease, and shorter hospital stays and visits.
For employers, it delivers cost savings, specifically by reducing hospital admissions and readmissions as well as other medical and behavioral health costs due to the early intervention made possible by telehealth.. Moreover, employee satisfaction increases, as employees appreciate the value of time saved from the convenient access to therapy that more readily fits into the complexity of their schedules.
For example, Amwell for Behavioral Health places employees in direct contact with both therapists and psychiatrists who can provide real time solutions to address employees’ behavioral health concerns. Additionally, ancillary services such as strategic marketing campaigns are offered to increase healthcare utilization.
Employers are jumping on board. Willis Towers Watson estimates that nearly 80 percent of employers are expected to offer telehealth as a part of their health benefit offerings by 2018. Our recent employer benchmark survey found that 50% of employers specifically want to offer behavioral health through telehealth.
Through telehealth, employers can provide direct access to behavioral health services more efficiently, thereby increasing workforce wellness and employee productivity.
To learn more about how benefits managers are implementing telehealth for behavioral health and other services at their companies, download the 2016 Employer Benchmark Survey eBook here.