As the public health situation around COVID-19 transitions from acute response to sustained mitigation, employers are trying to figure out how best to reopen their businesses while avoiding further spread of the disease. Despite the flood of information on the novel coronavirus being published daily, there’s been a glaring lack of planning frameworks to help companies prepare for a safe and productive return to the workplace.
In order to help fill that gap, we put together a Blueprint for a Healthy Return to Work, of which I share authorship with Senior Medical Director Dr. Tista Ghosh and Senior Director of Product Marketing Ben Ryugo.
This eBook comprises our efforts in applying epidemiological expertise and comprehensive data to provide a go-to resource for employers as they plan their reopening. Our deep-dive covers:
- Testing and tracking
- Workplace attendance
- Workplace preparedness
- Navigation and administrative support
- Clinical response
- What comes next
- Additional considerations
A number of these topics are ones I covered in a recent video on the top five ways employers can prepare their workforce for a safe return after COVID-19. Implementing rigorous forecasting, testing and tracking procedures as well as preparing the workplace for optimal conditions are all critical elements to reopening a worksite.
Relying on Healthcare Navigation to Keep Employees Safe
Healthcare navigation can also play a key role in keeping employees healthy and safe following their return to work. In the eBook, we write: To simplify the process of managing a confirmed or suspected [COVID-19] infection, employers can implement an escalation path for employees to quickly connect with clinical support that will direct them through the next steps in treatment. The escalation path will be most effective if there is a primary entry-point, either run by HR or delegated to one of the health benefit vendors, so that members can easily get started. A vendor with a diverse service offering can offer integrated care options to the employee, including telemedicine, care management, referrals to in-person care and expert medical opinions for complex clinical situations. The ability to rely upon one vendor for these services will streamline the experience and minimize the likelihood of process abandonment from the employee.
Preparing a Clinical Response Plan in the Face of COVID-19
In addition, our eBook goes over the need for employers to draft up and document a clinical response plan that includes a three-part rollout:
- Phase 1: Preparation—crafting a reopening plan with epidemiology expert input
- Phase 2: Active monitoring—implementing data processes to monitor the program’s success
- Phase 3: Clinical support—providing access to clinical resources to administer to any health need
For Phase 1, employers must collaborate with trained epidemiologists who are experts in the nature of pandemics in order to draw up a return-to-work response that balances company preference and culture with epidemiological best practices. … The output from the preparation stage is a documented plan that can be shared with the executive team for approval and can then swiftly move into execution in order to reopen worksites as quickly as possible.
For Phase 2, once the plan is in motion and worksites have reopened, steps must
be taken to monitor the health status of the population so that the worksites can remain open. … A critical aspect of the active monitoring phase is surfacing real-time data, or as close to it as possible, so that it can be analyzed and shared with the decision maker(s) who will decide whether an intervention is necessary. Catching an increase in COVID-19 cases before the outbreak has spread far gives management time to contain the outbreak before the worksite is forced to shut down entirely.
And for Phase 3, Employees who have either been exposed to the disease, are showing symptoms, test positively or have a non-COVID-19, high-risk clinical issue will need fast access to clinical resources in order to begin, or continue, their treatment protocol. … Impactful services that can support members in need of care include:
- Telemedicine (diagnosing, prescribing and ordering tests)
- Care management (treatment supervision and support)
- Concierge support services (guidance through administrative red tape, such as coverage and billing)
- Expert medical opinions (consulting on complex conditions and how to best treat during constrained access to care)
- Physician referrals (locate and schedule appointments with high-quality local doctors)
These programs will enable fast access, continuity of care and the elimination of gaps in care, all of which will be critical during the uncertainty of COVID-19. … Access to virtual care will also be particularly important so that infected employees do not expose others by visiting provider offices unnecessarily. Employers who do not currently offer virtual care will want to consider installing various services that can support what is likely to be many months of clinical disruption.
With a vaccine not likely to be ready for another 12 to 18 months (perhaps even longer), testing and tracking at insufficient levels, and the country starting to reopen, it’s more than likely that COVID-19 will reemerge. This bleak reality emphasizes just how important it is to hammer out a well-thought-out plan that extends well into next year.
Download the eBook, to get the full details on our Blueprint for a Healthy Return to Work.
And if you’d like to discuss any of the topics covered in the eBook, please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.