Mental health has been propelled into the national spotlight. As we overcome national tragedies and household names share their mental and emotional struggles, the sobering truth is that people from all walks of life and backgrounds are affected — and that access to the right care is critical.
Employers are in a unique position to address behavioral and mental health care, and they have multiple reasons to do so. Not only is it an altruistic and responsible value-add for benefits packages, but providing easy and convenient access to behavioral health care contributes to a more productive and present workforce and, ultimately, a positive bottom line impact.
Behavioral health issues tend to have a silent yet prominent impact in the workplace in the forms of lost productivity and increased absenteeism. People come to work and their bodies may be in their chairs, but their minds are elsewhere.
Traditionally, this has been a difficult issue for employers to address. Teletherapy — a growing facet of telehealth — is changing that.
It’s fairly commonplace these days for businesses to use online, on-demand services to help their employees address common illnesses and injuries such as the flu, allergies or a sprained ankle. It’s a big-money and time saver for the business, plus it’s significantly more convenient for employees.
Now, businesses can offer their workforce access to mental health care in the same manner — conveniently and confidentially over a computer or mobile device.
Teletherapy is quickly becoming a game changer for employers of all types and sizes. Here’s why:
Ignoring mental health is costly. The Center for Prevention and Health Services found that a failure to address mental health costs employers between $79 and $105 billion each year in decreased productivity, absenteeism and increased healthcare costs. Employees miss more work due to mental health issues than other chronic and common conditions like arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Employees are seeking alternatives to in-office visits. Albeit diminishing, stigma around seeking treatment for mental health issues exists. Teletherapy allows employees to access critical assistance confidentially, without taking time off to attend regular therapy sessions in person.
According to a 2017 report from Salesforce Research, people are beginning to prefer talking with a provider remotely rather than visiting an office. In some regions, there may be few providers, or those providers could be far away.
Mentally healthy employees are more productive. According to Workplace Mental Health, 80 percent of employees who received treatment for mental health issues reported improved workplace productivity and satisfaction. That equates to a higher level of service and greater retention.
Teletherapy creates meaningful ROI. Research has shown that mental health promotion has a direct return on investment through increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and lower healthcare costs. Customized implementation and communications strategies that drive utilization of teletherapy will further increase ROI. Low-cost copays and ease of use extend the ROI of teletherapy even further.
It’s easy to implement
Teletherapy services can be integrated into an existing health plan with ease, either as an ancillary service or a stand-alone benefit. When designed right, the resources needed to build a cohesive benefit solution are minimal.
Teletherapy can bring numerous benefits to employees and employers alike. When choosing a vendor, it’s important to assess cost, implementation and utilization strategies, an easy-to-use platform and a robust provider network.
Glenn Dean is president and CFO of Scottsdale-based MeMD, a national telehealth and tele therapy provider.
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