As employers work to reopen or ramp up their operations, they face the challenge of creating a work environment that helps to prevent new outbreaks while working to support employees impacted by COVID-19. A recent Cigna study found that one in seven COVID patients who were hospitalized have still not been able to return to work two months later — meaning that employers need to prepare for workforce gaps for the foreseeable future. At the same time, they need to reassure employees, who may be concerned that returning to the work will put the health of their families, friends and themselves at risk. To accomplish this, one key is to define, communicate and implement a new set of health and safety policies to protect health and ensure peace of mind for employees.
As with all new policies and procedures, communication is key. Start by making it as easy as possible for employees to do the right thing. A few examples:
- Make PPE and hand sanitizing stations easy to access and provide visuals of proper use.
- Provide visual cues to remind employees, customers and guests to practice social distancing.
- Adjust the business flow to make it easier to utilize plastic barriers and other protections consistently.
- Revisit time-off policies to ensure you do not penalize people for staying home when they feel ill.
- Encourage employees to get their flu shots as soon as possible (if they haven’t already) to help reduce the strain on our healthcare system in the months ahead.
Telemedicine and virtual care utilization are on the rise. Virtual Wellness Centers expand employers’ ability to support their employees, providing high-quality health services to employees and their families that is affordable and convenient. With the rise of COVID-19, employers now also need to think differently about how to navigate access to care more than ever before — leveraging virtual care technology to manage employee health. The result will be lower total medical costs, optimized referral patterns and an advocate for employee health.
We also see a significant rise in loneliness, depression and insomnia. Providing their workforce and their dependents with new resiliency tools to help them navigate these issues will become a necessity for employers. Practicing meditation and mindfulness can also help employees. Employers keeping in contact with their team in new ways is also necessary to stay connected.
We know the COVID-19 pandemic is already changing healthcare delivery options as well as triggering ongoing medical and mental health needs. The following are a few of the ways we are helping support employers and employees in light of the evolving nature of the crisis:
A comprehensive online resource: Cigna’s website includes a comprehensive Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center dedicated to offering resources and guidelines for individuals, families, employers, seniors and health care providers.
Wellness, mental health and behavioral resources: Cigna has curated a wide range of resources from Cigna experts, community partners and other trusted experts. For example, one of the available webcasts, “Managing the Return to Work,” helps employees put the impending return-to-work reality into perspective and provides tips to cope with the change.
Emphasizing telehealth: Difficulty in accessing mental health services has long been an issue of concern in this country. The pandemic has exacerbated that problem, as in-person doctor visits have been limited. The healthcare industry is changing to meet new demands and Cigna has already expanded its virtual mental health provider network so patients can get the care they need when they need it via an on-demand telehealth appointment.
Virtual care is a good way to get medical attention without leaving home. While a diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be confirmed through virtual medical care, patients may be directed to self-care or to follow-up with their primary care physician (PCP) or a local hospital for additional evaluation and care.
There are many testing sites now, and where testing occurs depends on where the employees live. A PCP is the best source of information because they can work with the local health department and health systems to know the latest guidance. Locations of COVID-19 testing sites can also be found by searching online.
It is also important employers encourage their employees to have their wellness visit before year-end and to complete any follow-up care they have deferred during COVID-19. Also, to encourage employees to get their flu shots as soon as possible (if they haven’t already). By staying on track for healthcare to monitor health conditions with appropriate evaluation and treatment, early detection and appropriate maintenance can be performed. Physician offices now have safety measures in place to help protect their patients for in-person visits. These important healthcare visits may even make it easier for patients to be treated virtually in the future.
As a result of COVID-19, every business faces new realities — and a long list of unknowns.
Cigna responded by waiving out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 FDA-approved at-home specimen collection kits and other diagnostic tests for our members. Members of Cigna can order a COVID-19 at-home specimen collection kit.
Recently, Cigna has added more services to provide affordable, predictable and simple solutions with the launch of Evernorth. This evolution of our health services platform will serve as an innovation engine — developing comprehensive solutions for the most complex healthcare challenges. For example, one of Evernorth’s first offerings is “Healthy Ways to Work,” a suite of solutions to help employers address the unique workforce health challenges created by the pandemic, including a COVID risk dashboard and tools to help reopen worksites quickly and safely.
And, committed to make it simpler and more convenient for customers to access mental and emotional health resources, Cigna recently partnered with Talkspace, an expanded suite of condition-specific virtual providers.
Market President for Arizona
Read the other “As Business Changes, So Will Our Healthcare” perspectives.