This is Part 3 of our blog series on Improving Access with a Leading Provider Network.
Overcoming the mental hurdle of booking that first therapy session can be a significant milestone for a lot of people.
There’s often stigma to work past, which can include beliefs such as:
- “If I need help, something is wrong with me. I must be broken or abnormal.”
- “I just need to try harder and it will eventually go away.”
- “No one will understand what I’m experiencing.”
What’s actually true is that, just like physical illness, mental health challenges are medical problems. Everyone deserves to feel healthy and whole, and therapists are trained to help individuals get back to “normal” functioning as quickly as possible.
However, coming back for regular sessions is critical for success, and ensures that members—who are either enrolled employees or individuals enrolled in your health plan—are getting the highest possible mental health support on an ongoing basis.
It takes time and persistence to really experience life-changing results, and I believe that provider quality is at the heart of it all.
To effectively evaluate the quality of the provider network at a new or existing mental health solution, take a close look at the following areas.
Removing booking barriers
Everyone should receive help when they need it—not weeks or months later, especially if they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or other acute mental health needs.
Many large provider networks still have long wait times, with employees waiting weeks and even months to get an appointment with a provider.
Fast access to care is critical to helping members feel better faster, and average time to appointment can speak volumes about the quality of a mental health solution.
Finding the right care and the right provider
A clinically-validated assessment that provides a personalized care plan ensures the member receives the right kind of care. When members work together with a Care Navigator, who is also a licensed clinician, they are 80% more likely to stay with that same provider.
Being able to choose from a diverse network, and filter by specialty, gender, and pronouns, is equally vital.
When a member finds a provider who resonates with them, and understands their lived experiences, therapeutic alliance is formed—which is the biggest predictor of better mental health outcomes.
Continuity of care
High provider quality—great therapists, in other words—inspires members to come back again after their first session. Just as finding the right therapist should feel tailored and easy, scheduling new appointments should be a seamless experience.
If a member isn’t scheduling new appointments, it’s important to determine if they:
- Have personal reservations about therapy as a whole
- Are worried that therapy could bring up deeper issues they’re not ready to face
- Just didn’t like or connect with the therapist
Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as the therapist taking a proactive approach at the end of a session, and inviting the member to book their next session. It can also be helpful for the therapist to check in with the individual after a session to see how they’re feeling, and discuss any concerns they may have about the process.
Other times, it could boil down to a lack of rapport between the therapist and client, or in rarer cases, a lack of skills or professionalism.
Normal churn vs. points of concern
It’s to be expected that some members will stop scheduling appointments, and usually, it’s not a reflection of the client-therapist relationship. In fact, about 25% of all clients separate from any given provider.
When the churn rate exceeds this number, for over several months, it’s time to take a closer look to see if a review is needed.
It’s so important to make sure members are getting consistent treatment and staying with their providers, to ensure the best long-term outcomes. Our data shows us that if a member leaves treatment because they didn’t click with the first provider they were matched with, they typically don’t engage in treatment again.
Supporting the continued relationship can really impact the trajectory of their long-term mental health care. It’s not about the number of visits that our members book—it’s about individuals finding someone to be their therapist.
Ongoing performance evaluation
The majority of providers are excellent therapists with great client relationships.
But to ensure provider quality, an ongoing process is needed to evaluate their performance and identify opportunities for improvement, whether it be in documentation, treatment planning, or engaging members.
This enables providers to be better performers, better at engaging their clients, and to produce better outcomes.
Uncovering valuable patterns
A quality assurance team can act as a data-driven business office for providers, giving them valuable insights into how many clients they’re seeing, how many are staying, how often they come back, patterns of when they drop off, and what touchpoints motivate them to resume therapy.
Traditional therapists don’t get these kinds of insights.
This information allows providers, and the larger care team, to identify challenges and areas of opportunity, to constantly improve processes, and ensure members are getting first-class care.
Supportive improvement processes
A supportive performance improvement process ensures that providers feel validated, heard, and cared for. It creates the space for proactive conversations around any performance concerns, and for providers to tell their side of the story.
This gives a more well-rounded perspective of the challenges that are happening, so the focus can be on finding solutions and continuing to offer the best possible care.
Celebrating outcomes, not utilization
Rewarding providers for the outcomes they achieve with their clients, rather than utilization-based bonuses, makes a difference.
This encourages providers to build long-term relationships with the same clients, instead of constantly onboarding new ones. Another way to do this is to give providers the ability to place a hold on their new intakes, to make space to prioritize ongoing clients.
Genuine care and quality are at the heart of what we do
At Spring Health, our precision mental healthcare approach gives us the data we need to continually evaluate our provider network and ensure we’re delivering the highest quality of care.
Our diverse provider network goes beyond demographics, and includes a variety of subspecialties, appointment time availability, and both virtual and in person sessions.
Members can schedule an appointment with a provider in less than two days. They also have 24/7 access to a dedicated Care Navigator, who is also a licensed clinician, and can help with finding a therapist who is a better fit, provide support during a crisis, and proactively reach out if symptoms are getting worse.
Our quality improvement and quality assurance processes enable our providers to be constantly improving, so they can deliver the best possible care and experience for your members.
Care navigation is what truly sets us apart, and bridges the gap that exists between the availability and use of employee benefits.