Imagine a future where everyone has the right tools at hand to care for their physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace, enabling the supportive environment we all need to thrive. Imagine the positive impact this would have on improving absenteeism, productivity and as a result, your bottom line. How far away are we from this Utopia becoming a reality and what is the role of digital prevention and intervention moving forward?
Our recent research into the link between musculoskeletal (MSK) and mental health reflects the demand for a holistic solution to treat both physical and mental health in a coordinated way. As stated by Dr Steve Boorman, Director of Employee Health at Empactis: “It is important to understand the relationship between mental health and musculoskeletal health and, where possible, try to deal with both symptoms together.” Ensuring your organisation’s physical and mental health services complement one another is critical in improving employee wellbeing and as a result, reducing absenteeism.
An effective wellbeing strategy should focus on prevention and early intervention, supporting employees to take an active role in improving their health before it impacts their work life. A Health Cash Plan which supports both physical and mental health is a great place to start, providing integrated care pathways to treat multiple issues simultaneously. Moving with the constantly evolving wellbeing landscape, Health Cash Plans are no longer limited to money back on dental, optical and physiotherapy treatments. Although these services remain popular and are effective in helping employees to keep on top of their wellbeing, digital solutions that deal with physical and mental health are becoming increasingly prevalent across the Health Cash Plan sector.
At Health Shield, our Health Cash Plans offer a number of digital solutions to employee wellbeing, ranging from our NHS-approved* mental health app – Thrive, to our On-Demand Physio and GP Anytime services, all designed to be easily accessible, innovative and user-driven. Our plans provide a clear, sign-posted care pathway for employees seeking support with their physical and mental health. For example, if an employee on our Tailored Health Cash Plan was suffering from an MSK issue and a mental health condition as a result, they could start by using our On-Demand Physio service, giving them access to advice, a diagnosis and a recovery programme from a Senior Chartered Physiotherapist. The employee could also claim money back** on physio treatments, download Thrive, or call our 24/7 Counselling and Support Helpline for personalised support, guidance and a self-management programme to improve and maintain mental health. If further support was required, the employee could also be referred to face-to-face physio or access our face-to-face counselling or GP Anytime services.
What might this holistic approach look like in the future?
Although employees currently have access to digital solutions for both physical and mental health, we are yet to see an integrated digital platform which deals with both in one place. A digital, user-led pathway would enable users to seamlessly navigate their services and benefits autonomously within one portal. For example, if a user was suffering with severe back pain and anxiety issues, they could use the portal to access every aspect of their tailored care pathway, from on-demand professional physio advice to downloading a mental health app at the tap of a button, with clearly sign posted routes and options to help them along their journey to health.
They could also use the portal for non-digital solutions; to book physio appointments, claim money back on treatments and get access to face-to-face counselling if they felt they needed extra mental health support. Designed to track and monitor progress, an intuitive portal could also build up a detailed picture of health for the individual. Company reporting could also be an option, enabling employers to download an anonymous report detailing the general health of their employees over time, providing insights into the effectiveness of each service and an idea of return on investment.
Although a digital revolution within the health sector may frighten some, the benefits of digital prevention and intervention far outweigh the doubts. To name just a few benefits, digital solutions are scalable, discreet, private, easily accessible, simple, personal, tailored, intuitive and accurate. Dr Andres Fonseca, CEO of Thrive Therapeutic Software, predicts that mental health in particular could even take the form of augmented reality and artificial intelligence in the future. Whatever the future holds for digital prevention and intervention, employers should gear up for an exciting journey!
* The app meets NHS quality standards for clinical effectiveness, safety, usability and accessibility and has a supportive evidence base.
** Up to agreed limits.