How online counseling is reshaping company wellness plans

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Virtual healthcare is moving beyond checking in with a doctor or nurse practitioner to diagnose fevers, aches and rashes.

Employees of small businesses can now access virtual mental health professionals for issues such as their depression, addiction and stress from divorce and money woes without leaving their homes or missing time at work.

Virtual wellness provider MDLIVE recently announced MDLIVE Prime, a virtual health and wellness benefit that now gives patients access to mental healthcare in all 50 states. The program features licensed therapists and psychiatrists who reside in the same state as the employee. While they cannot prescribe medications yet, they can offer patients counseling and recommendations for increased care.

MDLIVE Prime is aimed at small businesses, which typically struggle to offer robust behavioral health offering to its employees, says MDLIVE founder and chief business development officer Randy Parker.

“From a benefits perspective, there’s an opportunity to disrupt the age-old EAP program that almost every employer is using,” Parker says.

“There are benefits that are part of those employee assistance programs that make a lot of sense, but we think that there is a time right now to create a virtual EAP solution that takes the most needed benefits around behavioral services, and educational and content services that can create a much better outcome for employees,” he adds.

Avoiding stigma
A virtual approach to mental wellness could be a workaround to the stigma that is still attached to behavioral EAP offerings.

“It has the privacy aspect and it could also eliminate the EAP stigma where employees think they have a behavioral or mental health issue. They can do this online and you don’t have to tell people that they are [seeking this type of help]. It could break down this barrier,” says Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants.

Also see:4 ways to boost telehealth utilization.”

He adds, “Video discussion could deliver more privacy and help people schedule calls more easily. Unlike telemedicine where you need a prescription, with a tele-psychologist they really don’t need to be [in the office] to monitor vital signs.”

“Telemedicine has never taken off like the industry expected it would,” Schmidt says. “It is still kind of underutilized, and I think the counseling piece might be a new benefit than what you already have in EAP programs.”

MDLIVE Prime behavioral sessions can take place in the participant’s home via a video session from a smartphone, tablet or computer with a camera and an Internet connection. This provides confidentiality to an employee who doesn’t have to miss work during the day or have a session in a company conference room.

Along with behavioral health counseling, MDLIVE Prime offers a secure second opinion for medical diagnoses and treatment plans and a healthcare marketplace for shopping for better savings for medical care.

Mobility is key to the program, Parker says. “We want to make it available on mobile platforms and [offer] text therapy or by phone or a secure video, all those different modalities.”

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Wellness Wellness programs Outcomes-based wellness incentives Technology EAPs Non-insurance benefits Mobile technology Employee benefits