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Some employers may have contracted with several mental health solutions over the past two years, so now it’s essential to reflect on those solutions.

There are various mental health solutions available from which employers can choose. But what exactly are they looking for in these offerings? We spoke with Dylan Landers-Nelson from the Business Group on Health, a non-profit association for large self-insured employers, about employer-sponsored mental health benefits and the 13th Annual Employer-Sponsored Health and Well-being Survey. We also look back on a conversation from the 2021 Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech Conference with Barbara E. Wachsman, MPH, who is a Senior Advisor at Frazier Healthcare Partners, and former VP, HR, and Benefits at the Walt Disney Corporation.  

Mental Health and the Workplace 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted numerous viewpoints regarding how we think about mental health in America, especially in the workplace. A November 2021 survey found that nearly one-third of companies with more than 50 employees increased the ways their employees can receive mental health services and 46% of companies with more than 5,000 employees saw an increase in employees utilizing mental health services. A survey conducted by Calm found that 76% of employees think mental health benefits are crucial when evaluating new jobs. A McKinsey survey found that 80% of employers reported concern about employee mental health.  

New Trends and Developments in Employer Mental Health Benefits

Barbara mentioned the positives and hurdles for startups working with large employer groups, saying the “good news about employers like Disney is that they are always looking for new, interesting, innovative ideas. They’re always looking for ways to have more healthy, productive employees. The bad news is you’re working with these big brands, who are very conservative, and kind of apply the same techniques that you would to purchasing other things.” Barbara continued that while employers are interested in adopting new solutions, they may be slow-moving.

In the Business Group on Health’s recent survey, 91% of employer members said mental health was their employees’ top priority. Additionally, 75% said that in 2022 they are moving to implement low or no-cost virtual counseling. Also, 42% said they are implementing or considering centers of excellence for mental health services, and 31% said they are implementing mental health navigators. 

Top Mental Health Benefit Strategies for Employers 

The Business Group on Health found that in their 2022 survey, access to care was the number one focus area for employers, with 76% of employers saying it was their top focus area. Barbara echoed this idea by saying employers “want access. They want to know that if someone needs care, that they can pick up the phone, they can log in, they can go through a portal, and they will find someone to talk to and someone who will either guide them or be able to provide care when they need it.” 

Some employers may have contracted with several mental health solutions over the past two years, so now it’s essential to reflect on those solutions. As Dylan Landers-Nelson mentions, it’s time for employers to “take stock of what they have in place and… focus on programs that are successful.” The past two years have provided data on solutions that may or may not be working, so employers can make informed decisions about what works best for their employees.  

Additionally, large employers are thinking about affordable solutions that appeal to a large population. As Barbara explains, “equity is extremely important. We’re offering the same benefits at the same price to everyone. So you want to ensure that what you’re offering will really appeal to that broad range of employee base.”

What Should Startups Keep in Mind?

In the United States, employers can considerably influence how their employees receive care. Barbara emphasizes, “the employer in this country is the one that determines the kind of care delivered, how it’s delivered, how much it costs, and they have such a huge role to play in helping customers deal with things like mental health.”

As Dylan mentions, one thing medium and large employers look for is the “ability to practice across state lines, certainly virtual services help with that, but there are a lot of specific state laws.” Multistate employers will likely look to launch services for all of their employees at the same time. 

Additionally, Barbara confirms that employers often think about “how can this be integrated into the overall ecosystem of healthcare?” There is a genuine concern about integration with other solutions and how all of them will fit together to create a cohesive healthcare experience for their employees. In fact, employers are starting to feel fatigued over multiple solutions that are administered in various ways. 

Main Takeaways for Startups

1. Mental Health is a Priority

The majority of employers are focused on bringing mental health solutions to their employees. 

2. Integration with Other Vendors

As employers feel fatigued from multiple health solutions, consider how your solution can integrate with other vendors. 

3. Access and Cost are Top Priorities for Employers

Employers want their employees to have low-cost solutions that give them more access to care.

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