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COVID-19: Adaptation is key – health analytics for planning in our changed world

March 11th saw the World Health Organization (WHO) declare a pandemic. This marked a change that immediately impacted our daily lives – our world has a new normal. In it, we need to rapidly adapt to change and heath analytics can show us what to tackle first.

Our ability to understand risk and anticipate spread of the novel coronavirus is inextricably linked to rapidly evolving data. We’re glued to sites like Johns Hopkins global cases center, the CDC cases count, and COVID Act Now models.  What we know has changed and is morphing swiftly and yet our lives cannot completely stop; businesses still need to function. It’s time for a new plan.

Health considerations and business planning

Even though you are doing everything you can to protect and help people, some percent of your population will be directly affected by COVID-19. While everyone has equal risk for contracting the infection itself, the CDC has identified risk factors leading to poorer outcomes, with increased need for hospitalization and in more severe cases, ICU services. This has a large impact on health and productivity, direct and indirect healthcare costs, and changes in patterns of healthcare benefit utilization. This also impacts sick days count and available workforce.

We’re helping our clients use health analytics in our solution today to immediately react, create new plans, and prioritize. We hope by sharing, you too can use health analytics (work with your vendors, partners, health plans, and IT team to get the same type of information) to help your organization.

Create scope to act fast

We recommend a framework of COVID-19 analytics that include these key focus areas in three phases:

  • Acute: quantify your population vulnerabilities for strategic planning & resource management
  • Short term: re-plan the current benefit year, track wellness issues, cost modeling for 2021
  • New normal: manage wellness in our new world, accelerate good health and prevention

Read on for strategies based on a data driven approach to navigate through the acute phase we find ourselves in now.

Acute Phase -COVID-19 analytics

Once formal shelter in place protocols are slowly lifted, the transition back to operating at full capacity will require sound planning. You’ll face the next set of questions: Who returns to work sites and when? How long should you extend work at home? You can use analytics to see where you have high risks to navigate decision making.

START WITH THE BASICS – Consider these basic questions:

  • How many are at risk for poorer outcomes based on preexisting conditions?
  • How many are at risk for poorer outcomes based on age?
  • How many could be hospitalized using existing statistical averages? How many might need ICU?

NEXT UNDERSTAND WHERE – Once you have looked at the volume of individuals considered at high risk for poorer outcomes, look at how those counts are dispersed geographically.

  • How is your population distributed geographically, especially those with higher risks for poorer outcomes?
  • Where do you have significant concentration areas?
  • How do your concentration areas relate to current risk areas both in terms of total volume and fast trending zones?

Armed with even just these basics, you can be thoughtful about any concentration areas where you see your population is particularly vulnerable for extended illness durations.

MAP RISK AGAINST INCREASED DEMAND – You’ll want to consider how types of employees and skill sets or functions will be affected. We have just hit a giant pause button – what happens as business re-engage?

  • Where do you expect higher demand in the next few weeks and months?
  • Where will you have unusual demand in your standard processes due to back up? New appointments? More returns?
  • Do you have a peak season or process precedent you can engage like retail and holiday season?
  • How do these areas of increase demand align to your areas of risk?

Look at risk (as defined by the CDC recommendations by the time you get to this point) based on job type, business function, or even just critical/non-critical classifications.

What should you do now?

Start your Acute planning phase today. Armed with data, you can look at questions differently.

  • What do we do next? Create a back-up plan for functions or geographies with high concentrations. You’ve reviewed and updated business continuity plans. Do you have streamlined onboarding plans in place? Is work well documented and transferable? Are you working with a temp firm? Can you create a collaboration with companies forced into layoffs (e.g., travel and hospitality industries)?
  • When do people return to work? If you are maintaining productivity with a remote function, perhaps continue this longer to increase the opportunity to self-contain? Consider if critical functions with higher risk populations should have different recommendations. This could be your IT function if it were filled with expert knowledge workers who are an aged workforce with higher prevalence of pre-existing health conditions.
  • Repeatedly adaptive: Importantly, the infectious nature of this disease means this is not a one-time analysis. You’ll want to continually revisit these questions and create an ability to repeatedly direct your workforce, staffing models, and back up planning with agility.

The world conversation and vast community of experts focused on this novel coronavirus continues to rapidly change and evolve our understanding. We hope you can use our thinking and start your Acute phase today. Leverage the data you have, engage your IT team and partners, and perform similar analyses to help your organization navigate the next few weeks and months.

Short-term and new normal phases?

Oh sure, there’s more to think about. Health care costs, budgeting and utilization planning for next year, the associated impacts of telemedicine and behavioral health. Come back for more insights on short-term and new normal analytic thinking over the next few weeks.

Other Related HDMS Resources

LinkedIn Article: Data tells a hopeful story of COVID-19 | Read

On-Demand Webinar: An Analytics Agenda for COVID-19 | Watch

On-Demand Webinar: A COVID-19 Cost Model – Tips and a Template | Watch

Five Tips for Optimizing your COVID-19 Cost Model | Read