Benefits specialist unveils digital mental health program

by Leo Almazora06 Dec 2017
Green Shield Canada (GSC) has announced that it is launching a free custom digital mental health program for all of its plan members.

“Over the past two years, GSC has highlighted the worrisome trend of reliance on anti-depressants as our country’s predominant first-line mental health therapy,” the company said in a statement. Acknowledging the strong evidence supporting the use of antidepressants for severe depression, it said that drug claims data show medications being overprescribed even for less severe illnesses.

The company also said its claims data shows that patients are not adhering to antidepressant drug therapies. Citing a study published in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, it said that approximately 50% of patients do not adhere to such medications.

To address these problems, the company has introduced the GSC Mindfulness Training Program, reportedly the insurance industry’s first digital preventative mental-health program. Developed in partnership with Canadian mindfulness experts, it will be offered through GSC’s Change4Life health portal.

“We want our plan members to have easy access to information and training that will help them better manage their mental health,” said David Willows, GSC’s chief innovation and marketing officer.

Plan members will be able to access the six-session program for free online and through their own personal devices. As part of its launch, bonus points are promised to plan members that complete it, and one participant will be awarded a grand prize in early 2018.

Aside from the benefits to members, Willows added that the mindfulness program would be beneficial to health plans overall. By reducing the use of drug therapies as a first option, plan sponsors could avoid wasting money on ineffective treatment.

“If our health benefits plans are to remain sustainable in a time of rising health care costs, we must all look for the evidence-based, preventative solutions that will make people mentally healthier in the first place,” he said.

Related stories:
Manulife pilot brings digital therapy to Canada
Employers need to act proactively on mental illness, says Morneau Shepell head