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The “new normal” in healthcare

At the height of the pandemic, healthcare resources approached capacity and the industry was under pressure to adapt quickly to changing conditions. As companies consider business strategies for 2022, many conversations center on some of the ways organizations have evolved throughout the last couple years. Here's what you can expect as we continue to adapt to the “new normal” in healthcare:

Telehealth

The use of telehealth in workers’ compensation has been discussed for several years, but after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became viewed as a necessity. Many medical professionals and injured workers turned to telehealth as a healthcare delivery alternative. Its popularity quickly rose within the workers’ compensation world for the level of convenience it provided in treating injured workers. Employers saw firsthand the benefits of telehealth in injury assessment, treatment and follow-up, as well as specialty services such as physical therapy. Although, injured workers offered a more mixed response to the telehealth alternative. Those who were comfortable with the technology generally embraced the new initiative, while those who lacked access or familiarity tended to respond less favorably. Looking ahead, you can expect that more people will adopt the technology and telehealth will become more common. Some stakeholders may even demand its availability and use.

Employee engagement

The pandemic encouraged self-reflection, as many took stock of their lives to understand what was most important to them. This led to an emphasis on flexibility and purposeful work. Work from home or remote work arrangements are also near the top of the list as many people reclaimed countless hours previously consumed by daily commutes. Notably, many employees have simply chosen to exit the workforce — leading to high labor demand and increasing costs as many employers increase wages to entice people to work. Organizations are prioritizing employee surveys to identify the benefits most meaningful to their employee population and finding creative ways to address employee needs. This may include offering creative bonus structures, designing more flexible scheduling options or allowing employees to bring pets to work.

Resiliency

The COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight on mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — quickly becoming the focus of many work-related discussions. Industries such as healthcare, transportation and retail experienced conditions that these workers had never seen before. Working conditions were often stressful from long hours with little relief and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) became taxing in many situations. With the unique circumstances came a renewed interest among employers in the value of wellness programs and ways to develop employee resiliency. Where mistrust may have previously existed, employees became more open to asking and receiving assistance as the stigma around mental health changed. Technology enabled additional means of support, including wellness apps and increased access to health information.

Safety and injury prevention

In addition to addressing traditional workplace risks, current safety and injury prevention have evolved to address some of today’s newly emerging risks. For example, employers have learned that it can be challenging to provide a safe work environment in a virtual setting. There is a heightened interest in ergonomic principles and how work from home arrangements can be set up to facilitate good posture, body support and injury prevention. Additional materials are being developed that focus on how to make the home a safer workspace and what steps employees can take to eliminate or minimize common hazards. Similar discussions are also taking place for those that return to an office or other commercial environment. Topics include the use of PPE, the maintenance or update of air filtration and ventilation systems, and the safety of outdoor premises around a building or facility that may have been vacant for an extended time.

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged us in ways never seen before. But with these challenges came innovation and growth opportunities. Many employers and employees are emerging stronger than ever with a renewed sense of purpose. While the new year will come with new obstacles, it will also provide opportunities to reaffirm strength, innovation and compassion for the workers who provide the products and services that we rely on every day.

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