Category: Behavioral Health

Employers, Employees, and Mental Health

Employee Wellness Affects More Than You Think

A healthy employee is a productive employee. WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates about 1 trillion dollars are lost globally each year from depressive and anxiety-based illnesses in the workplace.  Employees unhappy at their jobs, whether due to bullying, harassment, career fatigue, or general discontent, are much less likely to be engaged in their work.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that depressed employees perform about 20 percent worse at physical tasks, and 35 percent on cognitive tasks.  A difficult job environment can lead to diminishing physical and mental health, substance abuse, absenteeism, and an overall lack of effort.  Companies which routinely address and support their employees’ mental wellness have less turnover, less costs, and higher productivity.

The Workplace Can Be an Environment for Success

The workplace offers a number of innate advantages: communication and program policies are set and centralized; social interactions and networks are readily available; and employers can issue incentives for appropriate and healthy behaviors.  For larger companies, data collection (e.g. satisfaction surveys) is an invaluable tool used to inform trainings, management techniques, and budget direction of employee health services.  Team-building events, huddles, one-to-one sessions, and so on are all great opportunities for an employer or their Human Resources personnel to touch base.  Clueing into an employee’s mindset and needs can determine how best an employer should offer their support.

Employers Play a Critical Role

Improving employee mental health is a meaningful cost-saving measure in the long-term, but might require some initial investment; employers should consider a number of solutions depending on their budget.  Free clinical screenings would help employees identify the need to seek out a professional psychiatrist or therapist.  In an ideal environment, employees would have insurance with negligible out-of-pocket expenses for medications and psychiatric counseling.  Free or subsidized access to life coaching, lifestyle experts, and self-management programs can help round out an employee’s wellness journey.  As WHO suggests: every dollar put into mental wellness treatment means four dollars in employee health and productivity.

Every employee will have different needs.  Seminars, workshops, and/or classes on mindfulness and stress management teach autonomy to employees in dealing with their issues.  Scheduled moments for meditation and alone time provide respite to employees needing to reconfigure and breathe.  Likewise, encouraging holistic activities such as yoga and tai chi during and outside of work could embolden employees in managing their anxiety (especially during stressful moments).  Employers might even consider providing a dedicated quiet space for employees.  Perhaps most importantly, giving employees the ability to share and collaborate with trusted members of upper-management helps both parties be on the same page.

Employees Should Advocate for Their Needs

All employees should feel safe and confident at work.  To ensure this, employees might better define their relationship with their employers and colleagues by laying down expectations and boundaries – particularly when concerning a medical disorder.  Of course, employees are not obligated to divulge their illnesses, but might consider doing so if comfortable – talking openly helps remove the stigma, and paves the path forward for others.  Employees should take advantage of resources provided for mental wellness whenever possible, and champion for programs they think would benefit themselves and their colleagues. 

Closing

The suggestions above are just a few examples of how to promote a successful work environment; employers should conduct their own research and consult with their Human Resources department to determine their best path.  After all, each workplace is its own living, breathing organism, complete with different needs.  Whether as an employer or employee, investing in mental health today is a guaranteed return for the future.

The City of Laredo: A Model for Border Town Behavioral Health

As the third-most populated city along the Mexico-United States border, Laredo, Texas is a unique microcosm of behavioral health challenges.  Laredo’s nearly 96 percent Hispanic population, which is predominately uninsured (31 percent) or underinsured (41 percent; through Medicaid, Medicare, or CHIP), has routinely struggled with affordable access to behavioral health care. With only eight or so licensed psychiatrists treating approximately 300,000 people, mental health treatment has traditionally been a reactive solution, rather than a proactive one.

The Times Are Changing

The City of Laredo Health Department (CLHD), the only Local Health Department in Webb and its surrounding counties of Jim Hogg, Maverick, and Zapata, has proved an invaluable resource for these rural Americans.  Thanks to their recent partnership with Televero Health, Laredo is finally able to offer comprehensive behavioral health care to its underserved and struggling citizens: women; adolescents; those living with HIV/AIDS; those struggling with addiction.  To quote CLHD’s Director, Dr. Hector Gonzalez: “once we found out more than 60 percent of our patients had an abnormal behavioral health screen, where did we send them?  We are a Health Professional Shortage Area and the most needed are psychiatrists.”  Many of these patients now get their evaluations and treatment exclusively through Televero providers.

Our approach is to deliver a turn-key behavioral health program, complete with a collaborative care team of licensed therapists and counselors (vetted, dedicated, and bilingual); provide integrated behavioral health programs (primary care, HIV child/adolescent, SUD/addiction, and more); enable telehealth visits through a HIPAA-compliant platform (care coordination, automated patient communications, scheduling, billing, and records integration); and guide the operation until it is self-sustaining.  With several hundred consults provided and a no-show rate of less than 15 percent, our joint efforts speak for themselves.

Our partnership with CLHD is a continuous process of growth and support. As their Chief of Health Preventive Services, Dr. Luis Cerda, puts it, “Televero has provided CLHD with an excellent service that I now feel is an in-house service.” 

We are proud of our shared accomplishments, and together, look forward to a future where behavioral health resources are at everyone’s disposal. 

What Are On-Site Telepsychiatry Services?

Telepsychiatry Defined

Telepsychiatry is the use of telemedicine, or “remote medicine”, technology, to provide psychiatric assessment and treatment to patients.  When implemented properly, telepsychiatry services are indistinguishable from in-person care.   While there are some limitations to telepsychiatry depending on the U.S. state of operation – the ability to prescribe certain classes of medicine; reimbursement rates for CPT codes – the quality of care is always equivalent.

Recent Developments and Their Impacts

With over 5,000 mental health care Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the United States, more clinics and hospitals have turned to telepsychiatry for solutions.  States like Texas are acknowledging the efficiency and reach of this technology by enacting parity laws – laws which guarantee equivalent reimbursement by private payers for services rendered through telehealth technology.  These laws are encouraging for physicians at the forefront of healthcare advancement, as they facilitate the low-risk methods that will be needed to address the growing demand for behavioral health services.

Improving Access to Care

For many clinics, telepsychiatry might be the only practical solution to treat patients needing behavioral health care.  As psychiatrists and other mental health professionals primarily practice within or close to major city limits, rural areas often rely on a single practitioner to treat hundreds, if not thousands, of potential patients.  Most general practitioners are not adequately equipped or specialized to serve those with mental ailments, and too often must refer their patients to emergency care.  Adding remote screenings, evaluations, and treatment to your current practice model would be useful in bridging this gap in care.

The Advantages for Your Clinic

As a fixture of your clinic, telepsychiatry is non-intrusive and cost-effective.  Depending on how you choose to finance your behavioral health services – whether by accepting commercial insurance; offering a sliding fee schedule; seeking external funding – you might be able to greatly increase your practice’s revenue.  Expanding your reach of care through behavioral health is also a good way to introduce new patients to your practice, and satisfy existing ones.

Getting Up and Running

Adding behavioral health services in your clinic comes with its own challenges: hiring the best-fit psychiatrist or counselor; understanding the billing and reimbursement structure; implementing a web portal and video client under HIPAA-compliance; and so on.  Thankfully, there are companies that will work with your clinic to operationalize the process (do the heavy-lifting).  Whether you are a physician, nurse, or practice manager, your priority is caring for your patients.  An external solution can help you focus on what you do best.