Virtual Care Blog Series — Part 4

While Mental Health Awareness Month may be over, the conversation around mental health is more important than ever. Research shows that the leading causes of stress are the future of the nation, financial concerns, employment, politics, and violence and crime. Today, for many, all these areas are under immense pressure. During these unprecedented times, many are also feeling isolated from friends and family, have experienced job loss, or lost loved ones to COVID-19.

Lack Of Mental Health Support Puts Sustained Post-Pandemic Business Continuity At Risk

Pre-pandemic, Forrester reported that unsupported mental health conditions lead to higher medical spending, as well as employee absenteeism and presenteeism, which cost US businesses billions annually. Now, as lockdowns lift and businesses tentatively look to reopen, our PandemicEX survey data shows us that 50% are afraid to go to work. With fear and anxiety on the rise, mental health support is a critical element of any post-pandemic business continuity plan; without it, employers risk a compounded burden on employee health and productivity.

Key Trends: Why The Data Points To A Pivotal Moment For Mental Health

Across multiple virtual mental health vendors, we have heard the same trends:

  1. Utilization for virtual mental health visits is higher than ever.
  2. There is greater incidence of new mental health diagnoses.
  3. The severity of existing and new conditions continues to increase.

The pandemic and national crisis around racial inequality is causing many to feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, sad, and angry. While these are completely normal feelings, if not addressed, they could have a lasting impact on mental health. In April, diagnoses for anxiety, mood disorders, and adjustment disorders doubled compared to the pre-pandemic time frame on Amwell platforms. Consistently, across multiple platforms, anxiety, depression, and stress top the list of conditions patients are dealing with daily, and those with existing conditions are facing new challenges, increasing the severity of their illness. Lyra Health and Ginger both reported an increase in their baseline scores as of May 2020, which rely on clinical assessments such as PHQ-9 (depression) and GAD-7 (anxiety) to monitor the severity of a patient’s mental health.

Utilization And Enrollment For Virtual Mental Health Continue To Climb

Ginger reported that its overall customer base grew by nearly 40% in Q1 2020. Approximately 28% of sign-ups in Q1 were driven by members from new clients that launched in Q1. A client of Lyra Health that launched its virtual mental health service for employees saw one-third of the expected annual employee registrations in just the first week of deployment. Amwell shared with Forrester that behavioral health utilization skyrocketed in mid-March. By the end of March, weekly behavioral health volumes were up 285% since the beginning of the year. This did not slow down — in the month of April, Amwell’s partners conducted more behavioral health visits than all of Q1 combined.

The good news? More programs continue to receive funding to stand up virtual care capabilities. As of June 10, the FCC had awarded funds to over 100 mental and behavioral health care providers to ensure that their patients receive the treatment and support they need during the pandemic. Furthermore, Ginger, which offers a coaching model as part of its service offering, reported in May that its members’ emotional states appeared to be calming, hearing from many coaches that the last three weeks have felt more manageable in terms of the severity of conversations and that they are seeing more members successfully engage in the coaching process.

Mental Health Support Is Critical For Return-To-Work Efforts By Employers

When we asked about the most frequent ways patients are finding care, we heard that as many as 50% are finding services by turning to their employer first. This emphasizes the important role that employers play in mental health support. It is imperative that employers encourage open conversations in the workplace not only about how employees are coping with the stresses of a “new normal” but also about what services are available and how to find them.

Mental health support is a critical element of any business continuity plan; without it, employers risk a compounded impact on employee health and productivity. In April, Ginger released data indicating that one-third of employees are losing 2-plus hours of productivity per day, which is more than any other crisis in our recent history. Furthermore, in a recent Forrester survey, we found that 50% of respondents do not feel safe going back into work.

What Can Employers Do?

Start the conversation at your company now if you have not already.

  • Educate managers on how to start the conversation with their employees.
  • Make resources available on internal sites and raise awareness across the business on where to find assistance.
  • Help employees understand the associated costs and options available to them.
  • Assist employees to get connected to services that are HSA/FSA-eligible. If you do not already offer access to services, now is the time to find a partner.
  • Reach out to your health insurer or contact the vendors working in this space to understand how to best support your employees.

Do you work in employee experience and are struggling to make the business case to invest in mental health support for your employees? Need help in understanding more about the vendors in this space? Contact us. We are currently researching how to help employers everywhere make the case for investment in virtual mental health.

Have more questions? Forrester clients can request an inquiry to dig deeper on these trends and read our research here. Want to participate in the discussion? Send us a note at

Paul-Julien Giraud contributed to this blog.

Special thanks to the vendors that continue to contribute to our weekly series, including Amwell, Ginger, Lyra Health, and Teladoc.


About The Series

To better understand how adoption has played out in the market, we have been connecting with many vendors in the virtual care space, including mental health. Missed the previous blogs? Check them out here.