Many healthcare providers believe a multidisciplinary approach, or collaborative care, is the “future of medicine.”19 This is a holistic approach that demonstrates how body and mind are linked by encouraging various healthcare professionals (e.g. case manager, mental health coach trained in social work, nurse, general practitioner) to communicate with one another to ensure the patient is receiving the best possible care.
Telemedicine isn’t the right solution for every case—for severe psychological distress, for example, an in-person treatment program is recommended. But online treatments such as videos with a therapist, iCBT modules and medical follow ups when medication is needed, can be effective—sometimes even more effective than in-person consultations, according to a 2008 study.20 Many types of patients, particularly when there is adherence to treatment and follow-up appointments, might benefit from a virtual care approach.
There is also a growing market for mental health and mindfulness apps. These often include guided meditations and advice on recognizing symptoms of stress and developing better coping mechanisms. The Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine has seen award-winning results with its BreathingRoom app, which is made available to adolescents and young adults in Canada through partnerships with various educational, governmental, and service organizations.
Patient journey and scope of practice
The most effective workplace programs are those designed to holistically meet the needs of employees. 85% of individuals who are diagnosed with major depression have at least one other additional serious medical condition, and 30% have four or more conditions.21 By providing patients with easy and convenient access for physical symptoms, mental health issues can be identified proactively through screening tools. They can then be addressed rapidly with a personalized approach, wellness resources, CBT psychotherapy, and more. Close follow-ups with a trusted person is key to ensure patient outcomes are positive. Developing a trust relationship with the care provider is essential for the patient to open up and be able to work on himself. For this to happen, the care should be coordinated by the same person throughout the duration of the care.
Precisely measure success
Crucial information about how your workforce is accessing mental health services through telemedicine can easily be aggregated and collated to help you adjust offerings and ensure your mental health wellness toolbox is relevant, useful, and delivering a high return on investment.
Enhanced privacy and patient confidentiality
Many patients find it embarrassing to go to their doctor’s office for a mental health problem because it can reveal their distress to others who know about the appointment. But when the connection to a health professional can be from any location, and without the need to spend time travelling to a distant location, care becomes much more discrete. That helps break down a barrier to seeking help.
Ensuring patient confidentiality is crucial—if people can’t trust their employee program to maintain privacy, they simply won’t use it.
Telemedicine can be an opportunity and a challenge. How will you protect individuals and make sure that employees confidential health information isn’t inadvertently shared with third-parties? You’ll need to work with trusted companies with expertise, certifications (SOC 2 for example) and established processes in protecting privacy who can demonstrate how they’ll stay ahead of the curve.
You’ll also want to brush up on healthcare legislation. In Canada, privacy laws fall under provincial jurisdictions, so you’ll want to look at Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), for example, to ensure that the telemedicine wellness program of your dreams complies with provincial laws.
While building trust and encouraging employee engagement should be your top priority, don’t let that discourage you from building the quantitative and qualitative reporting and metrics you need to demonstrate the business impact the program is having. As long as you are using aggregated, anonymized data, you can still get a clear picture of your return on investment in your workplace mental health program without jeopardizing employee privacy.
Compared to the high cost of traditional therapy, virtual care can be considerably more affordable. Furthermore, with the proactive approach of a holistic solution that addresses physical and mental health issues, the objective is to minimize mental health-related costs like short-term disability and long-term disability.
Several barriers to care or treatment (limited access to healthcare resources, time off work required, time to travel and wait for appointment, feelings of shame) are easily eliminated through a more convenient and integrated solution like virtual care. When an employee is unwell, potentially even unable to get out of bed in the morning, having a seamless option accessed from the convenience of their own home can help increase the chances of seeking help and the efficiency of the delivery of care, maintain patient engagement, and encourage adherence to treatment.