Manulife to Pilot Digital Therapies for Mental Health

Manulife is leading five pilot programs for new treatments that see the Canadian insurance company experimenting with digitally-delivered therapies for mental health.

The multinational insurance organization’s new disability management pilot programs are aimed at speeding up access to treatments for both mental health and musculoskeletal disorders.

Mental health has become the leading cause of long-term disability leave in Canada. In Ontario, it’s common for people to wait for six months to a year for mental health counseling and therapy. Three of the five Manulife pilots are harnessing technology to make it easier for members to receive treatment when they need it most.

Starting in the winter, one pilot will power an app-based approach to digital therapy, starting with a web-based diagnostic assessment. The patient will complete e-learning modules for self-help care guided by an ‘eTherapist’ and have access to digital therapy 24/7 through any device.

Another pilot—launching this winter as well —will provide early intervention and expedited access to virtual cognitive behavioural therapy through a computer, tablet or mobile phone. A third mental health-focused pilot is already underway, offering virtual psychiatry services and delivering face-to-face treatment through video-conferencing.

“Manulife is working with some of Canada’s top healthcare providers to make best-in-class technology and treatment options accessible to our plan members, so they can return to health faster, and bring their best to work each day,” said Cori Lawson-Roberts, Manulife’s AVP of national disability services.

Manulife has tapped CBT Associates—a network of cognitive behavioural therapy clinics—and UHN Altum Health, leading providers in their respective fields. The programs are also being launched in partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a world leader in research and the country’s largest teaching hospital for mental health and addiction.

“UHN Altum Health and CAMH believe in Manulife’s approach, that multidisciplinary and collaborative care is key to putting members with a mental health condition on the path to recovery and getting their lives back,” said Sylvia Boddener, CAMH’s senior director of Altum programs and quality.

Manulife reports that 30 per cent of their disability claims are related to mental health issues and are the number one cost. The company hopes its digitally-driven pilots will not only reduce the barriers to professional help but also reduce disability-related absence costs and shorten an employee’s absence from work.