What Employers Should Do During a Pandemic Healthcare Shortage – Tips From an Epidemiologist

Categories: For Employers, General, Infectious Diseases

Right now, as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are facing different realities depending on where they are located. I would put employers into three categories.

  1. In the epicenter of the pandemic
  2. Waiting to enter the epicenter
  3. Past the epicenter (or successfully avoided it)

Group 1: In the epicenter of the pandemic

The first group of employers has operations in places where cases are rising dramatically, hospitals and ERs are at or near capacity, and the availability of primary care and urgent care has dropped substantially. Places like New York City and New Orleans are facing this as we speak. If you are an employer in these types of settings, your employees may be panicking right now.  

Some may have questions related to COVID-19 and symptoms that they or their loved ones are experiencing. Others may be unable to get into see primary care doctors or specialists for their non-COVID needs. For example, your employees with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, asthma or diabetes may have difficulty getting their medications refilled, or getting their regular checkups, which may put them at higher risk for complications requiring hospitalization or emergency care.  

If you are an employer in the thick of the pandemic, augmenting virtual health options could be the best thing to offer your employees. Consider making virtual guidance available through telephone support lines, clinician chat services, or other digital methods. In many cases, this will help offload those who are worried from the overstretched healthcare system, and help those who are really ill get the healthcare they need. 

For those employees who are having difficulty getting into their doctor for routine visits or regular medication refills, consider what telehealth options or mail-order/delivery pharmacy solutions you might offer. And think about telepsych or virtual behavioral health support options that you might offer your employees through this intense and difficult period. Another way to support employees is by offering virtual town halls or webinars with experts in infectious disease or epidemiology to help address questions and quell panic.

 

Group 2:  Waiting to enter the epicenter

If you are in this group, you may be seeing a rise in the number of cases in your area, but not to the extent of hotspots like New York. Your employees are likely waiting and wondering: will the place they live turn into the next New York, or even Italy, in the coming weeks? You are probably starting to see some healthcare resources dwindle, but there is still some limited capacity. If you are in this group, realize that you can very quickly move into the first group, sometimes in a matter of days.  

If you don’t have the virtual health resources mentioned for Group 1, now is the time to proactively get these tools in place. Time is of the essence, as the capacity of many current virtual health providers may become overstretched. Meanwhile, a loosening of federal guidelines around telehealth may change the landscape, and new options may become available. So it’s important to start doing homework on this rapidly-evolving space now.

 

Group 3: Past the epicenter (or successfully avoided it)

This is where Group 1 will land after things begin to calm down. Depending on the level of social distancing being used in your location, you may arrive here sooner with more of your community’s healthcare resources intact, or you may take longer to get here and see greater overall disruption in your healthcare landscape.  

Keeping your virtual health options going will be important, especially as it may take time for your healthcare systems to recover, and you need to continue to support your employees’ health and productivity. In addition, you should prepare for the possibility that another wave could occur later in the year, and having these options in place in advance will be important.

Bottom line: no matter which group you are in, think through ways you can augment an overstretched health system to meet your employees’ health needs and keep your business operations running. At Grand Rounds, we are here to support you and help you think through your options during these difficult times.

 

Connect with us to learn what Grand Rounds can do for your team during this time – click here.

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