How One Employer Assessed COVID-19 Risk and Planned for Reopening Offices

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses around the world, and employee benefits experts are uniquely positioned to help determine how their organizations cope with it. In this story, we’ll share how one employer:

  • Monitored public health and employee benefits data to assess risk 
  • Track key metrics and risk factors for COVID-19 by geography 
  • Planned for a cautious reopening of office locations
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When the COVID-19 pandemic became national news in March, this employer prioritized the health and safety of employees and their families. They moved quickly to enable remote work, providing computers and monitors, office equipment, and IT support. Their goals in the transition were to maintain employee productivity and to support employee wellness.

The Artemis client is a benefits manager for a large, U.S.-based company with over 30,000 employees (52,000 members on the plan), mostly based in office roles. They regularly keep track of population health measures using Artemis, including top diagnoses, high cost conditions, and trends in claims.

As the spread of COVID-19 has changed over time, the leadership team wanted to know when, if, and how it was safe to reopen offices in specific geographic areas. Benefits managers know that employee health and risk are measurable, and there are a number of metrics and assessments they use to communicate data like this to a larger leadership team. However, these common industry health measures are just the “measurable” part of the puzzle. They also realize that there are many other factors affecting whether or not employees are ready to return to the office, including:

  • Childcare challenges: Many schools are online only, and many daycare centers have not reopened.
  • At-risk populations: Employees may be at high risk of experiencing dangerous symptoms if infected with COVID-19, or live with someone who is at high risk.
  • Stress and mental health: The pandemic has increased feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and despair and these feelings can exacerbate mental illness.

These are just a few factors that our client is considering as they move to reopen the workplace. Spacing employees for physical distancing, requiring protective equipment, and deciding on key workers is a big part of the puzzle. Let’s look more closely at the data side of the equation by examining the Artemis Health Risk Assessment story for this client.

Graphical charts from within the Artemis platform.

This “story” or dashboard from the Artemis Platform shows the age bands of the client’s member population side-by-side with COVID-19 mortality rates by age.

While this employer doesn’t have very many members in the 70-89 group, there is still the potential for approximately 500 deaths within the member population. This sobering thought grounds the client’s thinking on how to protect the most vulnerable among them.

Age isn’t the only risk factor for mortality or severe COVID-19 symptoms. Underlying conditions also affect how a patient experiences this disease.

Artemis worked with the client’s benefits data to determine the potential risk for those with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and others.

Graphical charts from within the Artemis platform.

When we consider the number of employees or family members with these high-risk conditions, it becomes clear that a sizable portion of the client’s employee population may not feel ready to return to work. The next step in the client’s decision making process was to overlay public health data from USA Facts. They looked closely at county-level COVID-19 growth rates, sorted by state, to create a clear view of the situation in each community where their offices are located. They examined two weeks of data from the Artemis Platform and from USA Facts to look both at risk factors and disease growth rates. Here’s what the data showed about this client’s various office locations:

Graphical charts from within the Artemis platform.

Some interesting things to highlight in this table:

  • First, the employer is using five key data points to assess the safety of opening each office location.
  • The biggest locations were not necessarily the most at risk; you can see Location 12, with the most employees, actually ranked as one of the lowest risk offices.
  • The benefits team is using averages for their entire organization as a “benchmark” for which locations are better equipped to reopen.
  • The last column shows the number of categories in which each location is above average.

This employer is looking carefully at the percentage of members with chronic conditions, those over age 50, those who are high cost claimants, and other measures that may indicate higher mortality if they contract COVID-19. Alongside the USA Facts COVID-19 growth rates by county, they are able to assess if and when an office can be partially reopened.

The leadership team decided to reopen five office locations as a pilot, allowing employees to opt in or out depending on their comfort level. The analysis helped the client gain visibility into how these decisions may affect employees and their families. They will continue to monitor both population health data in Artemis and COVID-19 growth rates in their communities as more reopenings are considered.

For their benefits and leadership team, the health and safety of employees and their families is the most important thing. They are working with advisors and partners to explore key data points, better assess employee health, and do the right thing for their members.

Artemis Health helped this employer plan for and cope with COVID-19, and that’s just the beginning of what we can do.

Get in touch to learn more.