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A Solution to Provider Shortages and Low EAP Engagement
Recent innovations have brought seismic changes to the way we operate in the mental health space. One such innovation in the health sector is telemental health, which is becoming ever more popular for many reasons, including reduced costs, increased accessibility, enhanced flexibility, and more benefits for promoting employee health and workplace wellness. Employees are more likely to engage when they have more options and access. Time and place are less of an obstacle, more choices are available to those seeking counseling, and the ongoing provider shortage means telemental health can increase access for many.
One primary reason to adopt telemental health programs is the relatively higher cost of traditional mental health treatments. The pandemic naturally increased the popularity and the usage of remote work, and along with that came a rise in telemental health programs.
Research has shown that telemental healthcare is highly effective, and in almost all cases at least as effective as in-person mental healthcare, improving patients' well-being with fewer barriers. With remote work becoming common, incorporating telemental healthcare into your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can make a difference in your team's well-being and overall productivity. The benefits are many; read on to learn more.
What is Telemental Health?
Telemental health or telehealth is simply the utilization of digital telecoms technologies (especially videoconferencing) to offer mental health solutions. Telemental health has already been shown to have some benefits that conventional, face-to-face therapy does not provide.
There are various accounts about the origin of telemental healthcare. For instance, it is said that the University of Nebraska medics were the first to introduce video communication to medical practice. That was in 1959 when they created a two-way network to send information to medical students in the institution. Five years after that achievement, they also succeeded in facilitating video consultations in a state hospital. Technology has come a long way since then, and so has the way we utilize it for medical purposes.
How Telemental Health Can Benefit Your Team
Bridges the Gaps
With telemental healthcare as part of your EAP, there is no need for any member of your team to travel in search of a counselor. The benefits of flexibility, choice, scheduling, cost, and more are a huge positive for your team and will increase engagement with the EAP.
The relevant digital assets are all needed to ensure employee health and workplace wellness. Hence, it is possible for treatment to take place between two parties, no matter their geographical location. This opens up possibilities and removes many barriers to traditional mental healthcare and/or EAP utilization. Employees have access to a much larger pool of providers and are not bound by location or the availability of those in their area.
Easy Adoption for Remote Workers
Telemental health is a more accessible option for many employees, but it is especially complementary to those who already work remotely. Those team members working remotely have the experience, the technology, and the comfortability with the process to quickly begin telemental health sessions. Easy adoption means higher engagement and more people who can receive the support they need.
Increased Convenience and Flexibility
Telemental healthcare provides both the patient and the healthcare provider with increased flexibility in terms of time management. Having this option available can also increase engagement for those who prefer in-person sessions. For instance, someone who prefers in-person sessions might miss out when traveling or have to cancel when their schedule changes. With telemental health available, they will be able to continue and miss fewer sessions when traveling. Additionally, employees who work on-site or travel for work will have more opportunities to see a counselor when their position would be a barrier to in-person sessions.
Similarly, some patients in rural areas or in high-demand areas might not have access to a therapist with availability, so telemental health options open the door to therapy for more people seeking it.
Cost considerations also make telemental healthcare an optimal alternative for overall well-being. Apart from travel costs, there may also be costs associated with office space, such as rent, electricity, and more, that would be passed on to the patient. All these expenses will not be necessary with the use of telehealth.
The Answer to Mental Health Provider Shortage
Again, the increase in options when utilizing telemental healthcare programs will give more access to more people. Many patients prefer to work with a provider that meets certain requirements, like gender, age, race, or other demographics. However, for many, the limited options in their geographic area might keep them from seeking therapy if no one is available to meet these requirements. Telemental healthcare options provide patients the freedom of choice, which will be one less barrier to seeking treatment.
This is also true regarding specialties, treatment types, and general compatibility. Many patients stopped therapy because they did not like their first therapist. When more options are available, patients don’t have to settle for their first choice; they can seek counselors who specialize in the issues they experience or offer the treatments they are looking for.
Due to the negative societal stigma (perceived or real) around mental healthcare, particularly at work, many prospective patients are unwilling to seek treatment or commit to continuing treatment, which can take an additional toll on their well-being.
With telemental healthcare, there is more privacy and anonymity available. This is also true of your EAP, as many employees who might otherwise be skeptical of utilizing the service are assured of private communication, thus avoiding the prying eyes of people who may discriminate against them due to their mental state. This is largely because telehealth sessions are required to adopt a HIPAA-secure video conferencing medium that guarantees patients’ privacy.
Telemental healthcare can be an extremely convenient way of boosting employee health in certain situations. For example, if any parties are incapacitated due to an injury or illness. Such conditions can be an impediment to physical mobility, making telemental care a vital tool for employees in that position.
Statistics indicate that over half of Americans will face a mental health challenge during their lifetime. With this relatively high prevalence rate, telehealth is a very viable option for those seeking employee health and overall workplace wellness. With the increased adoption of digital technologies, the market for telemedicine is destined for an upward trajectory. Companies whose EAP includes using digital technologies to treat mental health problems will be better off for it – their employees will have more options for engagement, which will increase their retention, productivity, and morale.
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