Addressing behavioral health access with telemental health solutions

Published October 24, 2019

Michelle Jones* had an appointment to see her therapist. Between her high-powered career, two children and an ongoing divorce, she had a lot on her plate and needed emotional support. When lunchtime hit, she grabbed her phone and her keys and left the office. In less than a minute, she was speaking with her therapist from her parked car. 

“It was the only private space she had in her life,” explains Jones’ therapist, Lindsey Henderson. Henderson is the director of therapy for the clinician organization that powers LiveHealth Online, the telehealth service used by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem BCBS). 

A 2019 consumer survey report found that consumers are increasingly comfortable using telehealth. Millennials (ages 18-34) are nearly three times as likely to have received digital care as older generations, and 38% of millennials want to use telehealth for behavioral health services—higher than any other demographic. Behavioral health conditions affect this population in particular, according to The Health of America® report on millennial health. Of the top 10 health conditions affecting millennials today, six are behavioral. 

In many ways, behavioral health services are a good fit for telehealth platforms, according to Henderson. “We don’t have to reach out and touch our patients like a medical doctor,” she says. “We’re lucky because we don’t lose anything. And sometimes it gives us a lot more information.” 

During video calls with her patients, Henderson gets to see into their lives—what their bedroom, living room or car looks like. Are there piles of dirty clothes or dishes? Is there chaos in the background? All of this informs her assessment, she says. 

Remote access to behavioral health services can also benefit patients. LiveHealth Online makes care more accessible to rural communities that may not have a therapist nearby, as well as people like Jones who don’t have time to get to therapy. Receiving care from a patient’s own home can enhance privacy and safety. Then, there are patients “whose symptoms themselves prevent them from getting out to an office regularly, such as anxiety disorders,” explains Henderson. For them, virtual care may be the only option. 

Currently, LiveHealth Online is providing behavioral health services to several thousand Anthem members each month—a number that has been growing consistently since they launched therapy services in 2016. “We are so focused on offering our members an emotional well-being solution,” says Aneesh Kumar, Anthem’s vice president of commercial product. “One in five Americans is walking around with a behavioral health condition and not being treated.” The key, he says, is access and affordability—both barriers that Anthem’s telehealth solution is able to address. “We fundamentally believe that digital access will drive down the cost of care to help make healthcare more affordable…and more accessible for everyone.”

*Name has been changed to protect member’s privacy

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. LiveHealth Online is the trade name of Health Management Corporation, a separate company providing telehealth services on behalf of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  To learn more about how Anthem is making care convenient for their members, follow them on Twitter and Facebook