A crisis such as COVID-19 affects all business sectors. However, it puts a particular spotlight on insurers. How has Discovery risen to the challenge of giving South African businesses the right support to navigate the complexities of doing business during a pandemic?
In this episode of the Discover Healthier podcast series, Azania Mosaka talks to Nonku Pitje, Head of Employee Health Solutions at Discovery. Together, they dig deeper into what Discovery is doing to understand and support businesses and their people through the COVID-19 pandemic’s incredible pressures.
- DID YOU KNOW that this episode (Episode 16) is part of a three-part series exploring Discovery Health’s response to COVID-19? Visit our Discover Healthier podcast page to tune in and listen to:
- Episode 14 – all about developing a healthcare response to the pandemic and Discovery’s WHO Global Outbreak benefit
- Episode 15, about free COVID-19 Online Doctor Consultations and turning top local hotels into COVID-19 isolation facilities.
Helping business to formulate and execute an effective response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly influenced the way in businesses operate, their commercial viability, their ability to support their people and more. Seemingly overnight, businesses both large and small have found themselves navigating an unprecedented operating environment. Executives and their management teams are expected to deal not only with the personal impact of COVID-19, but also the profound impact on their company and employees.
“That’s why Discovery has moved quickly and invested heavily in understanding the current business climate,” says Nonku. “We have taken these insights and developed multiple platforms that are absolutely relevant to helping South African businesses to formulate and execute an effective response to COVID-19, particularly as employees return to the workplace. Given the importance of protecting employees and ensuring the continuity of operations, we have worked hard to ensure that our support services are absolutely comprehensive.”
Understanding Discovery’s COVID-19 Business Support services
“The pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, the likes of which we have never seen. We have, in the recent past, fielded frantic calls from employers to say things like, ‘A few staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. I need to shut down. What is the next step? How does contact tracing work? I’m afraid this is going to impact my business, what do I do now?’ ” Nonku explains.
“At Discovery we are responding to a very clear business need for proper support to screen people, prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to contact trace in the workplace. Also, businesses are asking us to help manage staff who are very fearful of COVID-19, and reintegrate those who recover from the disease back into business. We are hearing a loud call to help business to make sure that they continue to do the work that allows them to keep hiring people and keep the economy running. So that’s the level at which we want to respond – taking the stress of COVID-19 away from employers, to allow them to focus on their work.”
Discovery’s COVID-19 Business Support services includes multiple pillars of support
1. End-to-end COVID-19 screening and prevention as well as case management of all confirmed cases of COVID-19. “We offer app- and website-based pre-screening tool to screen employees, which can be used when they are at home, or at the office. We encourage employees to use it to log their symptoms each day so that they know whether it is safe to go to the workplace,” says Nonku. “The app also allows for on-site capturing of temperature results, which are stored centrally. Should the screening flag a person as ‘red’ we will proactively contact that person and walk the path with them towards quarantine, medical care, testing and self-isolation and help them to reintegrate once they are healthy.
2. Identifying employees who are on Discovery Health Medical Scheme and at high risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. This includes employees who have co-morbidities or who are immunocompromised in any way, and employees over the age of 60. “We reach out to these individuals, explain the risk and how to minimise it. At Discovery, we have done the same for our staff base and have asked high-risk staff members to work from home. We will help any employer work through the same process and support their staff,” Nonku explains.
3. Case management of employees diagnosed with COVID-19 including ongoing support, regular check-ins, progress tracking, and reintegration into the workplace.
4. For employees diagnosed with COVID-19, we also manage manual workplace contact tracing through the development of contact lists and access to a team of case managers who will reach out to the contacts. “This is a complex process in which trained experts identify those who have, in the prior 14 days, been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. We ensure that this group of direct contacts understand how to self-quarantine, to deal with any symptoms, access testing for COVID-19, and do all that is necessary to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Contact tracing is required from a regulatory perspective but it is also fundamental to minimising the spread and impact of COVID-19 in a workplace,” says Nonku.
5. Daily reporting about how COVID-19 is playing out in each business, contact tracing, suspected and positive cases of COVID-19. Weekly reporting dashboard of general queries, contact tracing and case management.
6. Multiple tools support employees’ wellbeing including access to Wellness Advisers for emotional and financial wellbeing support, as well as wellbeing tools for employers.
7. Discovery’s COVID-19 24/7 hotline offers clinical advice and guidelines to employees who have symptoms or COVID-19 or who screen in the ‘red’ zone on the screening app’s Risk Assessment. “The hotline offers further, telephonic screening by health professionals who will assess and triage employees and really, navigate testing and treatment with the affected person, check on them daily and, if their condition worsens, get them into a healthcare facility for care,” Nonku adds.
8. Employers have access to credible information through the Discovery COVID-19 information hub. “That’s why we have developed our Discovery COVID-19 information hub which includes a section dedicated to helping employers with articles, podcasts and toolkits with downloadable emailers, posters and infographics, as well as a database of approved PPE suppliers,” says Nonku. The COVID-19 information hub is located on the Discovery website and dedicated to providing the latest news, updates and information available.
9. On-site response to outbreaks of COVID-19 in the workplace. “COVID-19 outbreaks do happen,” says Nonku. “Our on-site response COVID-19 outbreak team will land and manage everything from office closure, office sanitisation, contact tracing, mass on-site screening and testing, sending those who need to self-isolate home – or arranging for their access to a Discovery partner COVID-19 isolation hotel – regulatory reporting and return-to-work confirmation.”
10. Worried about recovering from COVID-19 at your home? Listen to our podcast and find out what it takes to turn a top hotel into an isolation hotel for those who contract COVID-19. This is made possible through Discovery’s partnership with top local hotels.
11. COVID-19 consulting services. Discovery offers access to actuarial modelling and projections around COVID-19 and its impact on each business or industry. “We’ve done this particularly for large organisations to facilitate their scenario planning and planning around employee retention and hiring,” says Nonku. “This includes advice on business preparedness for COVID-19.”
“We would like to one day look back and see minimised impact on businesses and maximised ability to contribute to our economy”
Nonku adds, “All of these solutions aim to give business owners a chance to handle COVID-19 in a very co-ordinated way, to feel supported in detecting COVID-19 and minimising the spread as well as reducing severe illness and mortality in their staff complement. We would like to one day look back and see minimised impact on businesses and maximised ability to contribute to our economy, because their workplaces were managed so well and downtime was kept to an absolute minimum.”
“I think we all know that we need that for the country but also for individuals in those workspaces. We also want to make sure that, from a health and wellness perspective, we stripped out the fear associated with COVID-19 and ensured that people feel confident in Discovery Health’s role in navigating the COVID-19 journey with and for them. Ultimately, at a South African level, we’re helping to look after the economy and the health of all people.”
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