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January 10, 2022

Telehealth: more popular than ever

PK Kriha

Behavioral health — including mental health — is important for companies to address

At one time, the concept of telehealth was thought of as faddish, possibly not very effective and it was a continual struggle to get participation from employees. The pandemic has resulted in the growing use of telehealth options as a more widely-used, accessible health care tool. The barriers to access have largely been removed and telehealth is now looked at as a positive approach to receiving health care.

For example, in 2018 only 2% of employees with coverage for telehealth visits used the service. But, according to Innovu, a data-driven insights company, there was a 2,100% increase in usage through May, 2020. That number has since gone down as in-person visits became more and more viable but telehealth visits remain popular and effective.

Telehealth can be an effective tool for addressing behavioral health needs

According to a McKinsey American Opportunity Survey, the number of individuals with behavioral health needs is expected to increase by nearly 50% compared to pre-COVID 19 levels. Another McKinsey study reports that the number of adults who have sought psychotherapy has recently increased by 28%.

Telehealth helps with a wide variety of physical as well as behavioral health needs. In the wake of COVID-19, the isolation of remote work as well as the fear of the disease, social upheavals and more, the mental state of many employees has been pushed harder than ever. Depression, anxiety and even suicide rates have increased significantly.

Telehealth is a major force in helping to deal with behavioral health issues — particularly mental health problems — especially in the workplace.

Telehealth provides easy access
An in-person mental health visit may easily take twice as long including travel time. But telehealth visits can increase access to trained providers and practices for anyone with limited time — job, family and caregiving responsibilities — or lack of geographic access. They can also be a huge benefit to those with physical limitations.

Telehealth helps overcome stigmas
Getting employees to address their mental and behavioral health can be difficult simply because of the perceived stigma attached to seeking help. Many people believe it’s a sign of weakness and paints them as “odd” or incapable of managing their mental state. Telehealth visits can be a non-threatening way to convince employees to seek help as well as an effective method of managing their overall well-being.

Telehealth provides effective treatment behavioral health issues
According to research performed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), telehealth is effective across the continuum of care for serious mental illness and substance use disorders, including screening and assessment, treatments such as pharmacotherapy, medication management, and behavioral therapies, case management, recovery supports, and crisis services.

Four points to contemplate

  1. Access for those without broadband, particularly anyone in rural areas

    Legislation can help provide more help to more employees by increasing broadband and allowing more access. Other options may be to set up private areas in the workplace where employees can have telehealth visits and ensuring that employees working from home have access.

  2. Accept that investing in care for mental and behavioral health is necessary and worth the effort

    The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that almost 86% of employees showed improved work performance and lower rates of absenteeism after receiving treatment for depression. The result? Even greater employee retention and increased productivity.

  3. Insurance coverage, especially when telehealth care crosses state lines

    How telehealth is paid for — and how much it ultimately will cost and save — depends on a variety of factors including agreement on coverage from carriers and state legislation concerning state-to-state usage.

  4. The gap between what employers believe and what employees feel

    Although a large number of employers are investing in benefits that address behavioral health, there appears to be a gap between that action and how supported the employees actually feel. A 2020 McKinsey Employer Health Benefits Survey found that 71% of employers with frontline employees feel they support mental health well or very well. But only 27% of frontline employees agree with that.

Marsh McLennan Agency can help you sort it all out

While many more questions need to be addressed, telehealth remains a key part of any health and wellness effort in every organization. That includes addressing mental and behavioral health.

MMA is here to help you understand the current state of telehealth as well what the future holds for this evolving area.

To set up a meeting, contact your MMA representative today.