- During the public health crisis in 2020, the need for mental and behavioral healthcare grew exponentially
- Payers should seize this opportunity to promote mental and behavioral healthcare through telehealth services
- Telehealth mental health services are best offered on secure, unified healthcare communications platforms
For too long, people with mental health issues suffered in silence as treatment was stigmatized and difficult to access. The global health crisis in 2020, which led to millions of people isolating from family and friends, was a watershed moment for mental health. More patients wanted to access it, and due to changes in policies, more mental health providers were available through telehealth.
As society recovers from the effects of the health crisis, mental health issues won’t disappear instantly. Healthcare payers must take steps to promote better mental and behavioral health among their members.
How can payers promote member mental and behavioral health?
There are a number of ways in which payers can promote member mental and behavioral health:
- Continue funding telehealth for mental health providers
- Offer incentives for healthcare providers to use healthcare communication tools
- Offer training for healthcare communication tools
- Make it easy to navigate the member experience when seeking mental health services
- Communicate with mental health providers through a unified communications platform
Continue funding telehealth for mental health providers
In March 2021, Cigna published a study about changing member behaviors. Researchers discovered some things that weren’t entirely surprising: telehealth visits rose due to the risk of contagion, and more patients sought behavioral health services because of increased anxiety (among other issues).
However, what surprised researchers was that even as telehealth usage for other specialties decreased, patients continued to use telehealth for mental healthcare. This finding shows there’s a clear demand for mental health services as society recovers.
This patient demand offers payers an opportunity to support mental health. The first and most important step payers can take is to continue funding telehealth mental health services. They represent a safe and reliable option for patients who might not have access to mental healthcare otherwise (more than 112 million Americans live in areas where mental health providers are scarce).
Provide incentives for healthcare providers to use healthcare communication tools
Think of telehealth as an equation. There must be patient demand on one side of the equation; on the other side, there must be healthcare providers who are willing to use healthcare communication tools such as a unified communications platform.
Before the spring of 2020, less than one percent of mental health/substance use disorder appointments were held as telehealth appointments. There were a number of reasons for that, including regulatory issues and reimbursement issues. However, many healthcare providers, including those in the mental health field, simply didn’t feel comfortable with delivering their services via telehealth.
With the global health crisis, those statistics changed. It was no longer safe to see patients face to face. There’s a new demand on the part of patients to receive telehealth services for their mental and behavioral health needs.
Providers must receive incentives to continue delivering those services. Incentives might vary from provider to provider. Perhaps it’s a cash bonus to invest in the right healthcare communication tools, or maybe it’s guidance in selecting the best platform to fit the provider’s needs.
Offer training for healthcare communication tools
During the global health crisis, not every mental healthcare provider had access to a set of reliable healthcare communication tools. Some only held phone appointments. Others used a selection of point tools for video conferencing and telephony. If payers offer incentives to use a set of more robust healthcare communication tools, they should also offer training to level the playing field.
Effective training ensures providers can deliver mental and behavioral healthcare services through telehealth with the aid of healthcare communication tools. Providers will feel more comfortable, gain value from all of the platform’s features, and create a better experience for patients.
Make it easy to navigate the member experience when seeking mental health services
The experience for insurance plan members seeking mental healthcare has frequently and sadly been deeply unpleasant and frustrating. Payers have been accused of denying claims or placing obstacles in members’ paths to treatment.
Members complain that when they contact their healthcare payer, they’re passed off from representative to representative. No one seems to be able to help them; no representative has enough information to solve their problems.
This doesn’t have to be the case. A unified communications platform can improve the member experience. For a start, it offers more than one channel for members to contact a payer (telephony, chat, and video conferencing). Moreover, payers can create a dedicated line for members for mental healthcare claims, so that members aren’t shunted from rep to rep.
Unified communications platforms integrate with systems of record such as CRMs, so the rep understands a member’s history. The rep can also record new information so no data is lost (and there’s no frustration the next time the member calls).
Moreover, unified communications platforms increase internal collaboration; a rep can reach out to a colleague quickly and easily to solve problems.
Communicate with mental health providers through a unified communications platform
A unified communications platform also makes it easier for payers to communicate with providers. The relationship between mental health providers and payers has long been adversarial, with providers claiming payers frequently deny claims or create barriers to treatment.
With a unified communications platform, payers and providers can easily and securely share information with one another regarding members and claims. Payers can ask clarifying questions to better understand the need for treatment, and providers can gain deeper insight into payers’ rationale for approving claims.
Improve your member experience with RingCentral
RingCentral’s unified communications platform makes it easier for providers and members to communicate with payers, so payers can safeguard the mental health of their members. To learn more, request a demo.
Originally published Aug 11, 2021, updated Aug 24, 2021