Changes in Work Life and Healthcare Are Here to Stay

The Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) recently hosted a Thought Leadership Roundtable that featured First Person CEO and Founder, Bryan Brenner.

Bryan was joined by other top executives from organizations, including our partners, Delta Dental of Indiana and Springbuk. Their discussion consisted of the country’s social unrest and how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing work-life and healthcare benefits. To access the full IBJ Thought Leadership Roundtable, click here. Below you’ll find Bryan’s insights to the questions they asked.

Q: First, let’s acknowledge that our nation is gripped with racial turmoil. How is your company doing its part to be part of the solution?

FirstPerson and Performance Lab proudly stand with the black community. Racism has no place in our society. We recognize we have a lot to learn and we are listening, but that doesn’t mean we will be silent. We are connecting with community and civic leaders to advocate for and financially support causes that fuel progress and change. We will also be providing additional support for employees as they lend time or money to organizations leading change.

Q: Diversity and inclusion is more critical than ever for employers. How is your company responding?

The first impactful thing employers can do is to start a learning journey for their teams. Educating on the issues is critical to tearing down biases. Next, employers should look inward and answer these questions: Do our policies meet today’s needs? Are we actively seeking diverse talent? Research shows that inclusive teams produce the best decisions and innovations over time. And it’s the right thing to do.

Q: How do you see the COVID-19 pandemic changing how we deliver care in this country?

The obvious change is the new acceptance by providers, patients and payors around digital care. Next up, you’ll see a redesign of the patient experience. The pandemic is forcing everyone to realize that patients don’t want be left to navigate business lines of health care—going here for this and there for that. They want their health to be holistically viewed and supported.

The disruption is significant and will include new digital experiences at every turn. It will be exciting but not without pain of transition. At FirstPerson, we embrace the opportunity to help employers navigate this new world and have developed a team with diverse skills to support this transformation.

Q: How prevalent do you think telehealth will become and how will it affect costs and quality of care?

Telehealth is here to stay, and for good reasons. Even before COVID-19, telehealth was already exponentially growing. Our partners at Community Health Network saw patient visits in March that were at or above levels in November, yet 70% of the visits were virtual—an incredible fact to consider.

Q: What are the pros and cons of telehealth/telemedicine?

Telehealth is one part of an overall ecosystem of care. It can provide greater access for all, removed barriers and efficient experiences. When used inside an overall platform for delivering care, it provides all the upsides in the world. It’s exciting to see what’s possible for not only traditional primary care visits, but also with mental health, physical therapy, check-ins and the like.

Q: Speaking of mental health, it was already a major issue for employers, and it might loom even larger in light of pandemic and social unrest. How should employers respond?

To address mental health, it starts with culture and leadership. Leaders being open and honest with their team about stress, anxiety or disruptive life events will show transparency and that you care. Encouraging managers to lead with empathy will begin to shift your culture. For this to grow organically, organizations will need to invest in education and training. This will empower them to lead with compassion, love, and support.

Employers need to ensure well-being is much more than walking programs and eating fruits and vegetables. Our entire culture has been taken off its normal path and that creates a lack of balance for everyone. Now more than ever employees are going to need assistance with emotional health, social well-being, financial counseling and creating work-life balance. The top performing companies will create cultures that address all of these areas, helping their employees excel not just at work, but in life!

Q: How do you expect COVID-19 to impact benefits plans for the remainder of 2020 and into 21?

As expected, claims are down due to the delay of certain services and procedures, and we are also seeing lower than expected costs due to COVID. However, we anticipate costs to increase in the latter part of the year as those deferred services begin to occur. Overall, 2020 is a down year for claims, and that’s a good thing moving into 2021.

In addition, carriers have shown a desire to be competitive and retain and grow in this environment, and we expect that to pay off for benefit plan outcomes moving into 2021. Our data analytics team and our health intelligence partner, Springbuk, are working around the clock to look ahead employer by employer.

Q: How do you think the COVID-19 crisis will change the business community and the way we communicate?

The disruption of COVID-19 has fast forwarded the natural transitions in business that were happening already. Business will become more agile, flexible, innovative, inclusive and technology and data-driven. It will be incumbent upon leaders to find new ways to partner, make faster decisions and change to meet customer, market and talent demands.

Q: What long-term changes is your company making to the work environment as a result of the health crisis? Is what you expect from your employees changing?

We have engaged in defining and implementing what a new way of working looks like. Through this time, we have learned the value of working remote and the flexibility it affords our team. We experienced an increase in team connectedness through twice-weekly company-wide connections, a practice we will continue indefinitely. We continue to see huge value in our office space even though our team will continue working remotely indefinitely. In person interactions are still critical to success, and even though video interactions have proved most valuable, we believe the office, in time, will take on a new, more collaborative purpose.

Q: In what ways has leadership taken on a new meaning during and after the pandemic?

The pandemic has created a need for great leadership well beyond what a normal work environment needs. In non-crisis times, an organization can create its five-year business plans, implement infrastructure, policies, procedures and guidelines to follow. In crisis, so much is happening so fast that organizations must have great leaders who are educated and equipped to lead people. Great leaders calm their people’s fears and provide new vision to work toward a common goal.

At the start of the pandemic, FirstPerson immediately implemented a task force to address the fast changing situation head on. Through these daily meetings, we quickly learned each other’s strengths and were able to set initiatives up for success. We’re a more powerful team than ever before.

Q: In response to the pandemic, do you have any lessons learned or best practices you can share?

We quickly recognized that people were becoming fatigued from the number of virtual meetings they’ve been part of. With this also came calendars full of engagements with little time to actually work. As a company, we have established a twice-weekly, two-hour block of universal work time. During this time, employees can focus on accomplishing their work. People are beginning to feel good about their ability to have time to complete work in uninterrupted chunks of time.

Q: How is your company supporting the long-term economic recovery of the community?

At First Person, we’ve always had solid and proactive engagement in our community. We see this time as an opportunity to double down on our partnerships with organizations like Central Indiana Community Foundation, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the Indy and Indiana chambers, United Way of Central Indiana, Goodwill and so many others. We’ve doubled down on financial, talent and treasure support. We will look back on this time as a real turning point for change and new possibilities, and there’s no better city for collaboration than the Indy region.

Full IBJ Thought Leadership Roundtable

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