Why your company health plan needs a digital therapy solution
Think digital and offer your employees better mental health support
When it comes to employee mental health, it’s critical to find the most effective ways of supporting individuals with the right therapy and the right tools. By taking advantage of the new digital therapy options available, companies can reduce absence and disability costs while seeing a positive impact on employee productivity and mental health.
Innovations in digital therapy are allowing companies to support more employees with accessible and practical technology — putting them on a brighter path to quick recovery. Whether they are a growing business or an established enterprise, organizations of all sizes are embracing these digital solutions, with the data proving that such practical therapy is leading to improved outcomes.
Although mental health is commonly associated with issues such as clinical depression or PTSD, the truth is that other ongoing issues such as low-level anxiety, chronic pain and insomnia can impact workplace performance and degrade employees’ quality of life. Fortunately, these issues can also be addressed with digital therapy that is intuitive, tactical and gives patients the ability to access support wherever and whenever they need.
Practical and empowering therapy
Paula Allen, Vice President of Research and Integrative Solutions for Morneau Shepell, has focused much of her career on mental health and disability management, and has seen the positive impacts that newer digital therapy and tools have had on employee health.
“People are drawn to this type of digital support. There’s an attractiveness to a therapy that is practical and empowering,” Paula explains, having seen the growth of digital tools in the market for over a decade. With the availability of more advanced tools, Paula has noticed that companies are actively looking to learn about how this can affect digital therapy.
Combining digital technology with more traditional CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is a more recent development that allows employees to use their smartphone, tablet or computer to access support at any time. This new therapy solution comes with a lot more advantages.
“CBT is very empowering because it’s skill-based. You’re developing those new skills and putting them into action immediately. It’s very practical and you can see the impact of them right away,” Paula says.
“In a very fast-paced environment, there are so many people that are functioning at a high-level, but they have underlying depression or other mental health issues,” noting that employees are looking for ways to learn how to manage and improve their mental health. “This is why a practical and empowering approach to therapy attracts a wider range of people.”
For corporate staff who have jam-packed schedules and an ever-increasing workload, it has become even more critical to offer a mental health solution that doesn’t require them to travel to a therapist’s office. And with remote office and corporate travel becoming the norm, employees can now avoid the obligation to commute to a therapy session — highlighting a major win for digital.
A strong business case for embracing digital therapy
“All of our clients are currently using some type of digital tool to help with mental health. We’ve been using email, chat and video conferencing, and have seen successful programs with great benefits to employees and companies alike,” Paula elaborates.
While most organizations must focus on reducing their disability management and long-term disability costs, the productivity of their workforce is critical — so this becomes a balancing act. Therapist-assisted Internet-based CBT is becoming one of the most evidence-based forms of psychological treatment that can help find this equilibrium.
In a recent study as reported in BMJ Journal, work-focused CBT was delivered to a group of participants who were on sick leave, at risk of going on sick leave or on long-term benefits. The results were quite positive — showing an increase in work participation and quality of life, as well as a decrease in depression and anxiety.
Research from the Cochrane Library, a leading resource to inform healthcare decision-makers, supports the direction of adding a digital component to this type of therapy.
“Anxiety disorders often result in high healthcare costs and high costs to society due to absence from work and reduced quality of life,” the Cochrane Library states, pointing to research that shows CBT as an effective treatment. The organization goes further to explain how Internet-based tools provide possible solutions to overcome the many barriers of the traditional therapy — including access to software and helping those in remote areas who would have difficulties finding support. “It is hoped that this will provide a way of increasing access to CBT,” the report explains.
Fitting the right Internet-based CBT into your health plan
Internet-based CBT solutions can complement existing health support options such as online group therapy, video counselling or face-to-face CBT. When adding any therapy solution, it’s also critical to ensure you have the right solution.
“Digital platforms like Internet-based CBT allow you to interact with exercises, do journaling and easily access your homework. It’s a place to actually do the work of the CBT,” Paula explains, making an important note that this does not mean a patient will be completely on their own if using digital therapy.
“With our iCBT solution, there is always a therapist. The program is guided by a trained therapist who can view the patient’s progress and provide that extra level of expertise and support. When necessary, that support is offered offline, and that part isn’t digital,” Paula adds. With other digital therapy tools on the market, a trained therapist isn’t always present, which removes the benefit of the therapeutic relationship and motivational support.
“iCBT teaches coping strategies for returning to work, and program therapists can add this module to the treatment plan of any employee who will be returning to work,” Paula explains.
Although anxiety and depression are often top of mind for this type of therapy, there are also issues that people don’t immediately consider that could be impacting your employee productivity. “There’s a wide range of things that iCBT can address including managing pain and managing insomnia,” Paula adds. Digital therapy can address those common issues as well, which can potentially reduce the overall number of disability claims in an organization.
Top employers need to invest in programs that maximize productivity, and mental health can be a significant factor impacting employee performance in the workplace. Human beings are the biggest investments for organizations, and digital tools can help employees stay productive at work — potentially avoiding a leave of absence, or returning to work healthier and more equipped.
Ultimately, offering digital tools for therapy means that outcomes are improved across the board — employers can find success with their return to work programs, therapists are able to reach more patients, and employees feel more supported, empowered and healthy.
Does your company have the best strategy, practices and policies in place for absence management? Find out in the “Best practices in absence & disability management” eBook.