Virtual Primary Care Expands Access to Mental Health Support
January 17, 2023
First Stop Health
As we move into the new year, an increased need for mental health support follows employers and benefits professionals from 2022. For 3 consecutive years, depression and anxiety have remained the top mental health concerns, followed by stress and substance use. This increased demand for mental health support has put a strain on providers and limits availability.
But with virtual primary care, employees can get convenient, easy access to quality mental health providers. In fact, 89% of mental health providers depend on some kind of virtual setting to support patients.1 By offering virtual primary care, employers can encourage their employees to prioritize their mental health. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reveals that “Primary care physicians [PCPs] are the primary managers of psychiatric disorders in one-third of their patients... and two-thirds of patients with depression receive treatment for their depression in the primary care setting.”2Annual wellness checkups with a PCP include mental health screenings, as recommended the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
To see how it can make a difference, here are just a few ways virtual primary care is evolving mental health support.
Currently, 77% of counties in the United States are designated as a Mental Health Provider Shortage Area.3 Virtual primary care allows employees to access mental health support where and when they need it via phone, app or website based on their preference and comfort level. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey, there are disparities in access to mental health support for women compared to men. More than a third of women seeking care cited provider availability as a barrier to care – nearly 40% had to wait more than a month to see a mental health provider and 16% could not get care at all.4
Virtual primary care connects patients to doctors in just a few days for faster, more convenient care and includes resources for different language requirements, differences in vision and hearing abilities and all levels of reading and health education to increase access equity.
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 80% of mental health providers have seen an increased demand for support, 60% said they cannot accommodate new patients and 46% said they are unable to meet the demand for mental health needs.1 This has boosted the national average wait time to 6 weeks for patients seeking a mental health provider and if depending on a PCP for mental health support, patients still must wait almost 4 weeks for care.5,6
With virtual primary care, patients can connect with a doctor in days and at their convenience. Employees do not need to consider travel times or taking time off work to get the care they need. If a health concern is urgent, they can connect with a virtual urgent care doctor typically within minutes.
Cost is one of the biggest barriers to seeking support for mental health concerns. In fact, 33% of respondents to the KFF survey mentioned above revealed they did not get mental health care due to cost.4 Appointments range from $100 to $200 per visit. And, to receive the best results, a patient must continually visit a doctor over many weeks, months or years.
With virtual primary care employees can access quality, little-to-no cost mental health support for themselves or family members. Plus, there is no need for travel and other personal expenses with virtual care, unlike traditional in-person mental health care.
How First Stop Health Virtual Primary Care Supports Mental Health
Access Equity: Virtual Primary Care removes access barriers like provider availability, geographic limitations, time constraints and restricted language capabilities. Employees can also choose primary care doctors based on age, gender or race preferences. FSH Virtual Primary Care doctors offer a safe and inclusive clinical environment to serve all employees and culturally competent care ensures the best support throughout individuals’ unique healthcare journeys.
Time Savings: Virtual Urgent Care (Telemedicine), included with Virtual Primary Care, allows employees to connect with doctors in 6 minutes on average. Employees can use our app, website or phone number to connect with a doctor, and as all visits are virtual, they do not need to worry about personal barriers like travel, taking time off work, finding childcare, etc.
Cost Savings: FSH Virtual Primary Care offers cost savings in 3 ways for employees: 1) It is free for employees and their family members to use, 2) Virtual visits divert in-person visits which require more out-of-pocket costs and 3) Personal expenses (travel, childcare, time-off work, etc.) are avoided. For employers, Virtual Primary Care reduces healthcare spending for employers and visits do not incur claims as it runs outside of the group health plan.