Teledoc and Best Doctors

This month, during National Suicide Prevention Week, it’s important for labor unions, funds, and other organizations to not only bring awareness to their members, but to think about how they can best help members with mental illnesses all year round.

1 in 5 Americans suffer from a mental illness, costing the United States over $200 billion each year. Despite the prevalence, behavioral healthcare can be challenging for patients. As a result, more organizations are turning to virtual care delivery to provide a convenient solution to those members who need treatment, navigational support, and more.

These four trends are driving the need for a virtual behavioral healthcare solution:

1)  Suicide rates are rising

Suicide is on the rise just about everywhere—it’s now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It devastates the lives of so many people who are left behind—family members, friends and neighbors, and coworkers, and more. 

It can be difficult to determine if someone is considering suicide, so being familiar with warning signs and learning about the many resources available can help.

Dr. Aron S. Wolf, Teladoc’s Senior Behavioral Health Consultant, explains, “Most people who attempt it are internally dealing with conditions such as depression or PTSD,” explains “The individual may show a change in their behavior. They may become quieter, more withdrawn, or even sullen or angry with little or no provocation."

Reaching out for someone with a mental illness is difficult for many reasons, so a virtual behavioral solution is effective because patients can be seen within days, rather than weeks, which is typical for in-person visits.

2) Stigma is a major barrier for many patients 

The healthcare industry has made great strides in access, quality, and technological innovation, but there is a cultural shift required to eradicate stigma. Spearheading this are many celebrities who have come out in recent years as mental health advocates, like Prince Harry, who talked about his anxiety and suppressed grief regarding the death of his mother, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who opened up about his battles with depression and a turbulent past.

A study in the journal Psychological Medicine found that stigma was the most common reason participants didn’t get help. Senior author Sir Graham Thornicroft, professor at King’s College London, said about the research, “We now have clear evidence that stigma has a toxic effect by preventing people seeking help for mental health problems. The profound reluctance to be ‘a mental health patient’ means people will put off seeing a doctor for months, years, or even at all.” 
Helping this shift is virtual care delivery, because it makes behavioral health treatment a more conformable experience—allowing patients to choose where and when they have their visits. 

3)  There is an increased focus on comorbidities

Care fragmentation has long been a shortcoming of the healthcare industry. As 70% of behavioral health patients also have a physical comorbidity, and studies have found that people with depression have a higher burden of physical illness than those that don’t, there is growing need for a single solution to treat comorbidities in a coordinated way.

A behavioral healthcare solution like Teladoc’s provides a virtual platform for provider visits, expert consultations, and navigational support. Additionally, it’s backed by comprehensive service offerings to address physical comorbidities on the same single platform.

4)  Patients are more connected and want care on their terms 

Patients still face many barriers to behavioral healthcare, so labor members are increasingly expecting convenient, flexible access to mental healthcare as part of their benefits package. At Teladoc, one surprising demographic that utilized these services the most was millennial men. Generally, men are more challenging to get into treatment because of expectations and societal roles placed on them to be “masculine” and to not talk about their emotions—but technology provides a way for them to access care quickly and affordably.

Dr. Chris Dennis, a psychiatrist who sees Teladoc patients, explains, "(Virtual visits are) a prime opportunity from a treatment and engagement perspective because they're doing it on their own time in a safe environment that's comfortable for them.” He adds that he has seen patients from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and in a variety of places—even in patients’ closets if that’s what they need.

To learn how virtual care delivery can help improve the quality of life for your employees, download our whitepaper, Virtual Behavioral Healthcare Breaks Down Barriers and Increases Access to Quality Care.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of 36 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and/or Blue Shield companies.