Behavioral Health Trends: Virtual Care Is Here to Stay, Consumers Prioritize Work-Life Balance

Exclusive Evernorth research reveals a disconnect between plan sponsors and members.

The term “behavioral health” has grown to include mental health, resilience and well-being, as well as treatment and support for mental and substance use disorders. As the importance of behavioral health is increasingly recognized, few dispute its strong connection to overall health, both in the medical community and the general public. Our latest market research details how mental health is shedding its stigma and becoming a priority for a mainstream audience.

Virtual care: setting a new standard for mental health

Virtual behavioral health visits are the new normal, thanks to a multitude of digital apps and telehealth solutions. Early in the pandemic, virtual care established a new standard for convenience. Consumers have continued to embrace virtual mental health services, with virtual visits rising from 11 percent in 2020 to 17 percent in 2021, according to the survey.

Given a virtual care choice, 55% of consumers say they would prefer video calls as the point of access, followed by phone calls at 22%. Only 14% prefer mobile apps, and 9% prefer text messages. Men express greater reluctance than women to use app-based mental health services. For those who do embrace virtual care, the driving motivation is the option to connect privately in the comfort of their own home or space versus a traditional health care setting.

The disconnect between interest and investment

HR decision makers agree that supporting behavioral health is an important business priority. In fact, 35% said it was one of their organization’s top three anticipated investments over the next two to three years. But when it comes to defining and prioritizing behavioral health needs, plan sponsors and consumers could be better aligned. Members are seeking workplace policies and a culture that supports their mental health, while plan sponsors emphasize independent (mostly virtual) mental health solutions that enable members to care for themselves beyond the workplace.

Consumers want a cultural shift toward support for work-life balance and burnout, while health plan leaders prioritize tools and technology to help members achieve behavioral health success on their own.

Although consumers’ top behavioral health concern is support for work-life balance, only 25% of human resources decision-makers (HRDMs) and 12% of health plan leaders (HPLs) say they provide it. Organizations prioritize more individual, personal solutions in contrast to the broader benefits members want. Members are asking for organizational change to promote better behavioral health.

Plan sponsors typically invest in solutions to increase virtual mental health visits. But consumers rank more contextual, broader benefits as much more important. While 66% of consumers report satisfaction with the behavioral health support and benefits they receive from their plan sponsors, only 21% report being “very satisfied”—and 17% express dissatisfaction. Whole-person health seems to be the best common ground—the best starting point to integrate both perspectives.

Whole-person health as common ground

The survey found that 32% of HRDMs anticipate shifting focus to address employees’ whole-person health and wellness. Whole-person health considers the physical, behavioral and social needs of the individual as part of a whole system, with each element contributing to long-term outcomes. Overall, 53% of consumers agree that plan sponsors should provide benefits for whole-person health.

Looking ahead, these findings represent a potential starting point for HRDMs and HPLs to provide a comprehensive approach to the spectrum of care, both as a benefit and as an investment in the culture that plan sponsors want to promote. Looking toward the future, whole-person health seems to be the best way to bring plan sponsors and members together to reach their goals.

Click here to access the full Health Care in Focus report and download the Executive Summary.

The research methodology: In Q4 2021, Evernorth partnered with Ipsos to conduct a nationwide survey of more than 3,000 consumers with employer-sponsored health insurance, 575 human resources decision-makers, and 58 health plan leaders. Viewing the health care landscape through the lenses of consumers and plan sponsors provided unique insight into the expectations consumers have for their benefits compared to how employers and health plans are responding.

See how our solutions can help
Evernorth Behavioral Health
Evernorth’s data-informed approach to behavioral health provides personalized and customized care across the entire continuum for the populations we serve. These solutions predict emerging health needs, close gaps in care, and drive cost savings—all while empowering whole person and whole family health.
MDLIVE is a leading 24/7 virtual care delivery platform that offers convenient and affordable virtual health care services to over 60 million members nationwide.

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