Employers offer numerous perks during a job search to help recruit and retain the best employees. From monthly pizza parties to paid gym memberships to critical health insurance, employee benefits are tangible and intangible perks that can make a job offer even sweeter than salary alone. Medical, vision, and dental benefits are three of the most common and core benefits employers offer to their workforce.

Medical insurance requires an insurer to pay some or all employee’s medical costs, including wellness exams, surgical procedures, prescription drugs, maternity care, and specialist visits, in exchange for a premium. Medical insurance can be purchased without a benefits package independently. Still, in the case of medical benefits, employers pay a portion of the premium, which means lower costs and better coverage for employees.

Medical insurance usually doesn’t include eyes and teeth, so the second two pillars of traditional benefits include vision and dental coverage. Vision care insurance covers routine eye exams and costs associated with eye health: contact lenses, glasses, and frames. Dental benefits cover issues with teeth and gums and usually include annual cleanings and x-rays. Occasionally, coverage includes cosmetic procedures and orthodontia, but not always. Vision and dental insurance are add-on packages with a lower group rate.

Why medical, vision, and dental aren’t enough

The biggest problem with the standard insurance benefits is that these elements work together, not independently. This trilogy of insurance focuses primarily on reactive, physical health care, treating individual symptoms or conditions without considering their effect on our whole body and mind. For instance, heart disease may have a variety of factors: diet, lifestyle, stress levels, and physiological symptoms like high blood pressure. With traditional reactive care, patients may receive treatment for blood pressure, but the other factors more aligned with a healthy lifestyle have only a casual mention. There are some proactive and preventive medical care within medical benefits, but they are often lesser known, poorly utilized, and ineffective.

Medical, vision, and dental may be the big three in health benefits, but employers are looking to provide more effective benefits that better provide wellbeing and help control costs. An impressive benefits package can also entice top talent. Expanding from medical, vision, dental to include a fourth type of coverage: mental health benefits—is an effective way to reach all three goals. Improve effectiveness. Control costs. Compete for the best talent. With medical, vision, and dental, mental health benefits round out the comprehensive whole-person care employees need.

What is whole person care?

Rooted in integrative medicine, which aims to uncover and mitigate physical changes before they morph into more substantial diseases, whole person care focuses on the balance between mind, body, and spirit with complementary treatments. In whole person care, a patient may be treated for physical symptoms of cancer but also the mental and emotional changes that accompany treatment.

Whole person care integrates a large team of experts who treat and support different aspects of the patient’s health.2 These teams can include:

  • Medical doctors
  • Specialists
  • Psychologist
  • Pharmacists
  • Massage therapist
  • Wellness coaches
  • Social workers
  • Nutritionists
  • Meditation therapists

Ideally, care team specialists work together by sharing patient data and care plans with other members to deliver care at the right place and right time. After surgery, for instance, a patient may rely on nutritionists and meditation therapists to enhance physical healing and medication management. In this example, surgeons and medical specialists take care of the patient’s body while other members of the care team care for mental and emotional aspects of healing.1

Benefits of whole person care

Whole person care can lead to positive healthcare interactions and more compliant patients. A study from the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems found that whole person care clients showed a 50% reduction in Emergency Department use and nearly 90% reduction in readmissions from their first year in the program vs. the second year. Participants also showed an increase in positive reporting for emotional health and a 175% increase in good “overall health” reports.2

The study also found that whole person care patients had higher follow-up rates, more timely care plans, and doctors had more success reaching difficult-to-reach patients thanks to improved coordination between medical and mental health providers. By breaking down the healthcare silos, patients received better care with multidisciplinary touchpoints and care grounded in empathy and shared experiences.2

Mental health and whole person care

Whole person care is closely tied to mental health support and treatment, and the COVID-19 pandemic was a stark reminder of how closely linked mental and physical health can be. With the traumatic nature of the pandemic, months of isolation, economic problems, and ongoing health concerns, experts believe the prevalence of mental health conditions saw increases of up to 50%.3

The American Hospital Association suggests three models for integrating mental health more closely with medical treatments: adding behavior health specialists as a regular part of patient care; placing easily accessible behavioral health clinics in the exact location as medical care clinics; and offering referral-based behavioral health care in a second location, including virtually.3

In fact, virtual mental health services could be the answer to closing the care gap and supporting whole person care for employees.

Digitally enabled mental health solutions

More than 60% of the population lives in areas that lack adequate psychiatric care, and even in places where employees can find care, only 40% of those caregivers take any form of insurance. Out-of-pocket costs for mental health care make care difficult for many.4

Creating paths to care with benefits packages that include mental health can remove several common barriers to mental health care. Including telehealth or virtual mental health services can dramatically improve access to rural or vulnerable populations. Digitally enabled solutions give employees options for personalized care or self-guided coaching for a customized approach to mental health. They can support overall employee well-being for a happier, more engaged workforce.

At Uprise Health, we offer digitally enabled solutions and EAP programs to solve mental health challenges and help employers provide benefits for whole person care. These benefits include:

  • Digital courses created by clinical psychologists and designed around evidence-based approaches.
  • Services including legal, financial counseling, parenting guidance, eldercare, and nutrition backed by 30 years of experience providing employee assistance programs.
  • Coaching for whole person care topics like meditation, better sleep, alcohol addiction, and financial stress.
  • A balance of in-person care and virtual group sessions, modules, and real-time one-on-one coaching.
  • A care navigator to help you access personalized services to meet your unique needs.

Whole person care is helping to meet the mental, physical, and emotional demands of today’s patients, but for this type of care to work, employers should offer a breadth of benefits to make whole person care affordable and accessible. To learn more about whole person care and how digital services can help, download our free resource: A Post-Pandemic Playbook for Addressing Employees’ Mental Health Needs.


    1. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/unlocking-whole-person-care-through-behavioral-health
    2. https://caph.org/2020/06/29/whole-person-care-leads-to-improved-care-coordination-better-care-and-better-health/https://welkinhealth.com/whole-person-care/
    3. https://www.aha.org/system/files/media/file/2019/06/Market_Insights-Behavioral_Health_Report.pdf
    4. https://data.hrsa.gov/topics/health-workforce/shortage-areas