Insights for employers addressing the global mental health crisis

Benefit management teams can put data and analytics to work for more targeted mental health support

By and Mindy Reynolds | 2 minute read | February 6, 2020

Employee benefit programs are working to address the global mental health crisis and improve the employee experience. Benefit management leaders can turn to a new report, How technology and data can improve access to mental health resources, for insights on employee engagement in healthcare around mental health needs:

1. The work environment is a significant factor affecting mental health.

We spend nearly one-quarter of our lives at work, which makes the work environment a contributing factor to our overall mental health and wellness. Recognizing this, employers have re-framed their employee benefits strategy to address an array of factors affecting mental health – from stress to personal finance, to establishing an inclusive and collaborative work culture. Employee benefit programs are designed to foster safer, more productive communities and help employees live well-balanced lives.

Employer clients are working to improve employee engagement in healthcare. Most employers are taking steps to remove the stigma associated with mental health services, expanding and rebranding traditional EAP programs to appeal to more employees. Several employers are providing mental health care within onsite and near-site clinics so that employees may more readily avail themselves of these services. Many of our clients encourage manager training to identify opportunities to help their teams connect to programs. In some cases, leaders share their own personal stories of program benefits as a powerful signal to their teams.

2. Data and technology can support a more holistic approach to mental health programming.

The employees who seek mental health services in the workplace or in the healthcare system represent only a fraction of the population who could benefit from support. As such, many employers are taking a more holistic approach to understanding employee engagement in healthcare so they can better target their initiatives.

Using medical and pharmacy claims data, for instance, employers can estimate the impact of undiagnosed or unmanaged mental health issues on their population. Studying patients with physical presentations of mental illness, e.g., pain or poor sleep, who don’t have a mental health diagnosis, or identifying markers of increased behavioral health risk such as a troubling diagnosis for oneself or a loved one, employers can design more proactive, better-informed care management and patient outreach strategies.

Employers are taking more data into account than ever before. Social determinants of health can help them identify demographic-related disparities and target more effective interventions. Data and analytics can help them deliver more targeted interventions to address the most critical needs within their employee populations.

3. New technologies will improve access to resources.

Employers are responding with information-fueled employee benefit strategies to improve access to and engagement with mental health services, especially in areas with low specialist availability. Our clients today are setting goals and evaluating the success of telehealth to deliver mental health services. They are providing apps, websites, and wearable trackers to manage stress, sleep, and unhealthy behaviors and, in turn, mining the data to evaluate the promise of these solutions.

Read the full IBV study: How technology and data can improve access to mental health resources

Learn more about how IBM Watson Health can help employers

Most Popular Articles