What To Look for and the Questions To Ask When Choosing an EAP

Stressed out employee bombarded with requests.

What To Look for and the Questions To Ask When Choosing an EAP

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are designed to easily connect employees with professionals who can help them manage the everyday pressures of life. But not all plans are created equally. The services each provider offers can vary greatly.

Most EAPs are third-party providers that address work, family, relationship and substance use issues through evaluations conducted over the phone and a referral to an appropriate mental health professional. Others offer a wider range of services, including 24-hour nurse hotlines, crisis counseling and wellness programs, as well as assistance with financial planning, credit management and legal concerns. Services are generally low-cost; they are always confidential and can be made available to dependents.

Finding an EAP that offers your employees access to quality care while providing you with the service needed to effectively administer the plan is not an impossible task. With your broker or benefits adviser working with you side-by-side, you should be able to find a plan that meets your needs.

What to look for in an EAP

The most common service EAPs provide is short-term counseling. You will want to find an EAP that offers easy access to mental health professionals who are accepting new patients and can schedule an appointment without a long waiting period.

You will also want an EAP that is equipped to address a number of mental health issues. Common problems addressed include:

  • Mental health issues (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.)
  • Drug addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety at work
  • Conflicts with coworkers
  • Grief counseling
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Work-life balance

Some EAPs offer the first three to five sessions with a mental health professional at no cost. In most cases, the EAP doesn’t offer long-term counseling, but it can connect the employee with an appropriate provider.

Questions to ask in your RFP

The first step in finding a quality EAP is to send a request for proposal (RFP) to the top carriers in your area. Your broker or benefits adviser already has relationships with these vendors and can help you decide who might be best for you and your employees.

Your RFP should include the following general questions:

  • What services are covered?
  • Are they available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
  • Who answers phone calls, and how are they trained?
  • What professional certifications do you require of your providers?
  • What type of continuing education and training do you require?
  • Are providers trained in suicide risk formulation and treatment?
  • What are your privacy and security protocols?
  • How do you interact with area health plans?
  • Do you promote wellness and other preventive measures?
  • Have you provided EAP services to others in our industry?
  • Will you be available to train my staff on how to support employees experiencing mental health issues?

You should also ask questions about reporting:

  • How is utilization reported?
  • Do you record and report employee satisfaction with EAP services?
  • What other reports will be available?
  • How often is reporting received?

And be sure to inquire about the EAP’s outcomes and industry standing:

  • How does the utilization of your EAP compare to others?
  • How do you measure outcomes?
  • Can you provide return on investment (ROI) and cost-benefit analyses?

Digital mental health options

Mental health professionals rely on face-to-face communication to help patients resolve their personal issues. However, many are beginning to embrace a more digital approach. This has enabled EAPs to run more cost-effectively and improve access for more people.

Many EAPs now offer online, user-directed tools for education and training. These systems may also provide easy access to scheduling and communication with mental health professionals, allowing them to support more employees and deliver improved outcomes.

When selecting an EAP, be sure to find out if they offer technology-supported mental health access. In addition, you may want to find out:

  • Can the platform be customized to your needs?
  • Does the platform utilize artificial intelligence or analytics to guide employees through the site and elect providers?
  • If so, does the platform allow employees to override these analytics to navigate the site and their selections independently?

Also, be sure to discuss what data would be available about your employee population. How robust is the system? Will it allow you the ability to track and report outcomes and ROI? If so, these reports will better help you evaluate the success of your EAP and determine how to better engage employees as needed.

After you’ve selected an EAP

Once you have evaluated all RFPs and chosen the best EAP for you and your employees, your broker or benefits adviser will work with you and the new carrier to:

  • Choose an implementation team, set goals and establish deadlines
  • Train your staff on the program, the services it offers and how to navigate the new platform
  • Develop communication materials that introduce and promote the EAP to employees

Working together, the implementation of your new EAP should run smoothly, and you will be able to offer a benefit to your employees that they value and appreciate.

This content is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing professional, financial, medical or legal advice. You should contact your licensed professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Coast General Insurance Brokers