The world into which AIA Australia (AIAA) first launched its Mind Coach program was one vastly different to that we’re living in now. Even so, this vital telehealth service has proven both greatly beneficial and timely for the life and health insurer’s customers.

Having successfully piloted Mind Coach back in 2018, AIAA rolled out the program to the rest of its customers in September 2019. Just three months later, the infectious disease we now know as COVID-19 started to emerge.

At the time of its initial release, Mind Coach – a telehealth service that uses the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to promote psychological wellbeing – was AIAA’s latest mental health resource. With mental health the fastest growing cause of claims, accounting for 17 per cent of all Income Protection claims submitted to the insurer, AIAA recognised the critical difference that access to essential support services can make for customers on claim.

Over these past two years the Mind Coach program has delivered far greater customer outcomes than AIAA had initially imagined. AIAA claims staff have proven great advocates of the program from the outset, embracing it as one more line of customer support that’s helping to advance AIA’s purpose of making a difference in people’s lives. Not only did the number of Mind Coach referrals increase significantly during Australia’s first lockdown period, but the reported health benefits from the program were much higher than in the months before the pandemic emerged.

The fallouts from COVID-19

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including rising unemployment and fears over job insecurity, increased financial pressures, tightening social restrictions and general uncertainty, have created uniquely challenging times for many living in Australia.

This was particularly true during the first lockdown, which forced many people to face either intensified isolation or the challenges of juggling home, work and family commitments. Unsurprisingly, the number of people reaching out for help with managing their wellbeing during this period surged; a trend that, with COVID-19 cases currently on the rise in Victoria and NSW, and Melbourne again in a state of lockdown, can be expected to continue.

For greater stress, greater support

While claims rates remained static in the first two weeks of the first lockdown, the Mind Coach referral uptake increased by as much as 40 per cent during this period. The majority of calls received in March and April were related in some way to the pandemic.

Encouragingly – and impressively, given the scale and extent to which COVID-19 has disrupted regular life – the improvement in health outcomes matched the growth in referrals. Before the pandemic around half of all Mind Coach participants in the ‘severe’ category had improved outcomes. During it, two thirds of participants in the ‘severe’ category improved.

Overall, 84 per cent of participants who completed the program during the pandemic reported an improvement in how they felt. The Mind Coach program has been particularly effective at helping customers navigate not only their illness or injury, but how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them.

How Mind Coach works

AIAA claimants are eligible for seven free sessions with a Mind Coach. A customer may experience anxiety or depression either as a primary condition or because they are stressed and off work for an extended period. Mind Coach aims to help them get back to feeling healthier, happier and better connected, providing those experiencing anxiety or depression with tools, tips and information designed to enhance their resilience and emotional and social functioning.

After conducting an initial assessment to determine a customer’s levels of stress, anxiety and depression, a customer’s Mind Coach integrates relaxation strategies and values-based exercises into a personalised action plan for the customer to draw on throughout the course of their program and beyond.

The Mind Coach also conducts a follow-up assessment with the customer at the conclusion of the program to decide whether they could benefit from more intensive support. If necessary, the Mind Coach can then refer the customer to their local GP or connect them with Medicare psychological services.

These initial assessments and follow-up consultations are done over the phone or via online telehealth video-sessions, making the Mind Coach service perfectly suited to offering support during these socially-distanced times.

Copyright © 2020 AIA Australia Limited (ABN 79 004 837 861 AFSL 230043). This is general information only, without taking into account factors like the objectives, financial situation, needs or personal circumstances of any individual and is not intended to be financial, legal, tax, medical, nutritional, health, fitness or other advice.

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