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How to Evaluate Mental Health Benefits

Webinar Highlights: How Top Consultants Evaluate Mental Health Benefits

80% of employees said they were more likely to stay at a company that offered high-quality mental health benefits. But how can HR and benefits professionals know if their workplace mental health strategy is competitive in today’s market? To answer this question, Modern Health assembled a panel of experts from top consulting firms, Willis Towers Watson, Marsh McLennan Agency, NFP, and TRUEbenefits. Our panelists weighed in on the current landscape of mental health solutions and shared ways that HR and benefits professionals can build more robust benefits strategies. Here are the key takeaways from this discussion. 

1. Consider Employer Location & Provider Access

Employer location is an essential factor when evaluating mental health benefits because access to care can differ vastly by region. There’s also a significant shortage of mental health providers, with nearly a 50% gap between individuals who need help and those who receive care.

What’s more alarming is that the shortage of mental health providers in many regions within the US is even more significant. Amanda Hahn, VP of Health and Benefits at NFP, shared that many populations in several East Coast states are underserved. According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, here are the drastically low rates of individuals that receive mental health needs:

  • New York: 23%
  • Connecticut: 15%
  • Washington DC: 5% 
  • New Jersey: 33%

To ensure that employees receive the care they need whenever they need it,  consider whether a mental health solution provides support through a robust network of providers. Essential Tip: When evaluating a mental health benefits solution, consider how quickly employees can gain access to providers.

2. Pay Attention to Employee Demographics

Having a precise pulse on workforce demographics is the first step in understanding how to serve a wide range of culturally diverse needs. Individuals can often feel more comfortable with providers that reflect their values, cultural background, or other demographic and psychological traits.

“Individuals would like to have a provider that mirrors who they are,” said Aanya Lee, Senior Consultant at TRUEbenefits. “There is a lack of providers, so having a provider that mirrors their person, personality, and individuality in their market is a challenge.”

Diverse needs are particularly true for employees across the globe who need care in a specific language or time zone. Essential Tip: find a mental solution that offers ongoing training to their network of providers and has clinical practices to ensure the best quality of care regardless of provider location.

3. Be Mindful of Employee Care Preferences 

Employee mental health care needs constantly change, and one size does not fit all. As Bryan Vercler, Head of Partnerships at Modern Health, noted in the webinar:

“People in Latin American countries, for example, prefer group solutions while employees in Asia and the Pacific may gravitate towards digital and self-guided solutions. Knowing your demographics could thus help you offer the right mix of solutions that will satisfy your employees.”

HR leaders and benefits professionals may want to look for a mental health solution that offers personalized support such as one-to-one therapy, coaching, self-paced programs, and group sessions to expand their current benefits. Essential Tip: look for a mental health solution that helps drive engagement by providing various mental health offerings that meets diverse employee needs.

4. Assess Utilization Data and Trends

Looking at engagement and utilization data can show companies whether their employees benefit from a mental health solution and whether their needs are getting (or not getting) met. Robyn Harmon, Director at Willis Towers Watson, suggests looking at current health care costs, in and out of network utilization, where individuals are going for service, top conditions, and RX costs. Harmon notes: 

“Even if EAP utilization is low, that’s not necessarily a good indicator of what the need is in the population. It could be a factor of challenges with navigation, access to good care, stigma, finding that right provider, and the list goes on.” 

If companies find that employees are turning to their primary care doctors for mental health prescriptions, it may show that there are barriers to mental health care in their location. It could also mean that employees simply aren’t sure where to turn when they need help. Once HR and benefits professionals find existing gaps, it may be easier to find a mental health benefits solution that would be able to fill those specific needs.  Essential Tip: when evaluating a mental health solution, confirm that the partner can provide real-time reporting to help quickly analyze employee benefits data.

5. Look Beyond Financial Returns

The costs of employee absenteeism due to mental health issues and the low engagement or lack of satisfaction it may cause can take a toll on a company’s bottom line. Yet the inverse can also be true. According to a 2021 study by Modern Health and Forrester, organizations that invest in employee health and wellness see an estimated 6x return on their investment. 

While many companies look at ROI data when evaluating benefits, HR and benefits professionals need to look at this from a total return perspective. Many positive outcomes from mental health interventions might not be quantifiable in these numbers. When referencing one of her clients who realized that employees have become much more prevention-focused after utilizing coaching support, Robyn Harmon noted this was the case. Essential Tip: find a mental health solution that offers employees support to foster personal and professional growth. 

6. Opt For A Solution Holistically Supports Mental Health 

Adam Moise, Principal at Marsh McLennan Agency, discussed the importance of coaching, training, stress management, and career path and development. As a Benefits Consultant, Moise states that coaching support can be very valuable to employees:

“What a smart idea to include coaching together with true mental health support or therapy. Not everyone needs therapy. In fact, many people don’t. Many people just need a nudge in the right direction.” 

Although health care plans and EAPs might provide traditional mental health benefits, additional types of support can help personalize the care experience and provide resources that support all employees regardless of their needs. Essential Tip: look for a solution that can help employees across the entire spectrum of mental health needs from low to high acuity needs, supports personal and professional development, and offers dependent or family support.

7. Evaluate the Employee Experience 

One thing that significantly affects the adoption and utilization of your mental health solution is how easy it is for employees to find and use the benefits. As Amanda Hahn suggests, here’s what often happens when employers first start to implement new mental health benefits: 

  1. The employer notices a demand for employee benefits like telemedicine, meditation, or coaching. 
  2. The employer adds this benefit to their offerings. 
  3. A few months into tracking the data, they notice a low utilization or engagement. 

What happened? Usually, the low utilization results from employees not knowing about the availability of benefits or feeling overwhelmed with all the available options. Low utilization can also happen when benefits are offered through a different provider rather than an all-in-one solution.

To prevent overwhelming employees, find a provider that offers as many features as possible in one place while helping employees navigate to the one that will fit their needs. Once you’re implementing your new solution, lean on peer-to-peer networks or employee resource groups in addition to management spreading the word. To save you time, it’s also important to partner with a solution that can provide materials to support employees, management, and other vital stakeholders. Essential Tip: ask a mental health solution whether they offer trial access to test out some of the benefits or solutions they offer. If you want to evaluate your benefits to see if there’s room for improvement or learn more about Modern Health, schedule a demo to connect with one of our team members today.

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Modern Health is the comprehensive mental wellness platform that combines the WHO well-being assessment, self-service wellness kits, an international network of certified coaches, and licensed therapists available in 35 languages all in a single app. Modern Health empowers employers to lead the charge in acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, de-stigmatizing the conversation, and increasing accessibility of mental health services for all.