Posted by David Schacter on October 28, 2020
David Schacter

A deep-dive into bringing Dialogue’s new Employee Assistance Program to fruition and how its member- and client-focused offerings are closing gaps in the EAP market.

For decades, employers have included Employee Assistance Programs in their benefits packages as a way to show employees that they care and that they value the well-being of their team members. However, there is a dire need for change within this service that is considered essential by many employers. While proposing several new service ideas to clients last year, the discussion soon diverted away from the agenda and instead turned to how clients wished their Employee Assistance Programs could be improved. As one of our clients expressed that day, “The experience is really bad” – and it turns out that that opinion isn’t an anomaly. In fact, general satisfaction rates for EAPs are quite negative, sitting below 40%


So, what’s the problem with traditional EAPs?

We decided to see how we could make a difference. By testing different EAPs on the market and interviewing countless employers, employees, and industry professionals, we determined that most EAPs share common problematic pain points. 


Employees don’t know what an EAP is, or that they have one

When asked what employees think of their EAP, the majority often don’t even know what an EAP is, let alone know that they have one available to them. This poses a huge problem, not only for employers but for the employees themselves: employers are paying for a service that isn’t being used to its full potential, while employees remain unaware of the resources at their fingertips intended to improve their well-being.


Inconvenient communication

Even if employees are aware that they have an EAP at their disposal, many don’t use it due to how inconvenient it can be to get in touch with it. Most EAPs still only have one way to connect with their representatives: by contacting a 1-800 number. Especially in this day and age, contacting a call center is hardly the most appealing method of communication, especially for someone likely in a distressed state. Reaching your EAP provider should be simple and convenient, and dialling up a call center is the last thing you want – or have the energy – to do. 

 

Extended wait times

Based on market research conducted by Dialogue, extended wait times are the primary reason for EAP dissatisfaction. Between waiting for someone to pick up the phone, waiting for someone to call you back, waiting for a first appointment and then finally waiting for a follow-up appointment, it could feel like you’ve spent weeks of your life waiting to get help. The process is also often disjointed and lacks simplicity, leading EAP members to repeat their concerns at several different touch points. Employees who seek help from their EAP could already be in a state of distress, and waiting two weeks for an appointment should not be an option.

 

Short-term solutions

By nature, traditional EAPs provide short-term solutions. This means that they’re not connected to other employee health and wellness programs, like telemedicine and services included in group insurance plans. After successfully jumping through the hoops and benefiting from several sessions with a counsellor that suits your needs, once the maximum number of sessions included in your traditional EAP has been reached – that’s it and that’s all, with no more care available. Continuity of care is key for long-term health impact and how traditional EAPs currently function simply does not resolve issues in the long run.

Despite all of their flaws, EAPs are still very much in demand. Whether a parent becomes sick, an employee finds themselves in the middle of a divorce, or some other unexpected, life-altering event occurs, crises do happen and employers want their employees to have access to the support they need. This left us wondering: How could we resolve traditional EAP pain points to help bring further value to our clients?

 

 

Reimagining the EAP with one integrated health platform

We’re pleased to expand our offer to members with access to additional health and wellness support all in one app. Whether you’re looking for primary care, mental health resources, legal and financial support, or help with other personal issues, you’ll find it all in one place: your Dialogue app. With a single point of entry, members can now get support wherever they are through virtual consultations as well as having the benefit of integrated physical and mental health care, with streamlined coordination across multidisciplinary resources. 

To reimagine the Employee Assistance Program, we established 5 design principles to set the ground rules for our all-in-one integrated health platform to make your employees happier and healthier.

 

Clear, visible offering

We wanted to eliminate the phrase “What’s an EAP?” from our members’ vocabulary. Our new EAP was designed to provide transparency to employees on which services they have access to. We also created a member engagement toolkit to boost awareness and share the many benefits of employee assistance services. These engagement initiatives ensure you’ll have all the resources you need to promote your new EAP, helping stimulate utilization and generate a high ROI.

 

Modern digital experience

Our program was designed to reflect company values so that you can promote your EAP with pride. Gone are the days of 1-800 numbers, outdated-looking brochures, and complicated user workflows that typically accompany an EAP provider. Transforming the look of a traditional EAP into an elegant and user-friendly platform, our EAP offers a streamlined virtual care experience that your employees can count on, consult after consult. 

 

Rapid service

Our EAP guarantees appointments in 24 hours for those who want it, so your employees can get the support they need when they need it. Of course, emergency cases will always receive immediate attention, but if you’re stressed and want to speak with someone about a non-urgent issue, you can get counselling from wherever you are within a 24-hour timeframe. Dialogue will instantly take a look at all availabilities across our entire care team, and find you the next available spot. 

 

Continuity of care 

A big challenge with mental health is that there’s often a fragmentation of care. When you receive therapy from one provider and medical support from another, there’s bound to be a disconnect. Our EAP allows employees to get the support they need with the same provider, as well as across additional different care professionals that employees may encounter along the way (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and case managers, for example). Dialogue’s integrated health platform permits all care professionals dedicated to one member’s case to share the same medical record, coordinate and communicate their care together. 

 

Follow-ups for 100% of cases

After every session, our team will follow up to make sure everything is going smoothly and to check to see if you need any other support. This enables our team to ensure that the care professional is a good fit for the employee’s individual needs and that the employee can connect and benefit from all of their sessions.

Continue with counsellor

Once a member has reached the end of their sessions, they have the option to continue with the same counsellor. Instead of having to find a new therapist and then explain your whole story from scratch, you maintain the same ongoing relationship with the same person.

 

Transparent reporting and engagement

Employers can now gain a clear understanding of exactly how the EAP is benefiting their employees. Reporting outcomes allows everything to be tracked digitally, so not only can employers see which services are being used, but Dialogue can also report the actual improvement in your employees’ mental health levels. As always, all personal health information of employees will remain 100% confidential. You’ll have full visibility of the full impact your program is having, while your team can rest assured that the care that they receive and their health details will be kept private. We’ll also be launching engagement campaigns to encourage utilisation of the EAP. Instead of waiting for employees to have an issue and remember their EAP, we actively reach out through communications, such as emails and push notifications. 

 

The EAP of the Future

Our brand-new Employee Assistance Program combines all the essential services of an EAP to produce an enhanced employee experience. From mental health support, family and relationship coaching, legal consultations, financial consultations, child and eldercare support, work and career counselling, on-site critical incident response, manager support, or more, your employees will have access to all the resources they need with Dialogue’s new EAP. Furthermore, we’re thrilled to have recently announced the acquisition of Optima Global Health, a decades-long leader in Employee Assistance Programs. Over the coming months, we will collaborate closely to successfully integrate our organizations and deliver additional value for our clients and partners. 

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: for our employees to feel great and love the services at their disposal; to be proud to talk about our benefits with potential candidates, and to know the ROI of the services we pay for. With our new EAP, built into our integrated health platform, we can meet all of those objectives. 

We’ve all collectively settled with what was available for too long, and now we can finally provide the fully integrated care experience that each employee deserves. After all, health is everything – don’t settle.

Dialogue’s EAP is launching on October 19th. Speak with a Dialogue account manager to find out how you can get your organization started on this new care journey.

Topics: For Organizations