Employers look for direction in the COVID prevailing winds
One of the not so subtle ways movie makers signal an upcoming and often unwelcome plot twist is with a shot of a weather vane changing direction as the winds shift. The visual is often accompanied by an ominous squeaking sound as the rusted rooftop rooster spins and the storm clouds roll in.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, the weather vane tracking this virus is constantly revolving, making it difficult for employers to provide consistent workforce guidance. Occupational health professionals managing frontline response for their organizations have been forced to pivot repeatedly as conditions evolve rapidly.
Unfortunately, 100 year pandemics do not come with an established playbook, and a determined virus that mutates rapidly and spawns variants designed to accelerate spread and increase virulence means the rules of engagement are out of date before they are published.
Over the two years, Enterprise Health has worked with its employer clients to provide the health information technology they need to monitor symptoms, manage testing, perform contact tracing, document encounters and cases, conduct telehealth visits and administer COVID vaccinations. We, like our clients, have maintained an agile footing, condensing normal development and configuration cycles from months to weeks to days to sometimes hours.
To require vaccinations, or not? That is the question on employers' minds.
One of our health system clients was among the first to require employees to get vaccinated as a condition of employment, and their leading edge stance generated a significant amount of news coverage and scrutiny as they adopted and then enforced this approach.
Other employers took notice, and made plans to begin capturing vaccination status. Over the last sixty days, we have been working with large global corporations and health systems to enable their employees to upload proof of vaccination or declination via an employee portal. This is not a trivial effort, especially for global organizations who must navigate diverse legal, regulatory and privacy requirements (and Enterprise Health then has to support the resulting configuration changes that vary by geography).
Some clients are not planning to require vaccinations, but they will require unvaccinated employees to submit to frequent COVID testing as a condition of employment, expecting that some portion of their employee population will opt for a vaccine over the need to get swabbed on a weekly basis. Our software helps them track and manage this effort, automating what would otherwise be a monumental set of tasks.
The availability of vaccines coupled with other health measures signaled the beginning of the end of this pandemic, and for a time our employer clients could see an increasingly brighter light at the end of the tunnel. However, vaccine hesitancy (not to mention staunch anti-vaccine sentiment) coupled with dangerous variants and the relaxation of other measures has the rooster on the roof twirling again.
The prevailing winds today indicate that more and more employers will require COVID vaccination in order to work (or at least work onsite). Numerous health systems have followed the lead of our early adopter client in the last few weeks, and those responsible for the health of frontline healthcare workers have made it clear that their employees are sick and tired of being sick and tired. This sentiment is no longer isolated to hospitals, as a number of notable corporations have recently announced employee vaccination requirements. It appears that the dominos are falling, and businesses eager to get back to work and full output expect their employee populations to roll up their sleeves and get the jab. Those organizations are being aided by a growing population of vaccinated individuals who are losing patience with those who are not supportive of this shot in the arm, and “the great unvaxed” may soon replace “the great unwashed” as a less than charitable way to characterize a population segment. Nobody is eager to mask back up, most people want to get back to work and some sense of normalcy, and just about everyone wants to put COVID firmly in the rearview mirror.
Enterprise Health points employers the right way through deployment and application support
Based on the significant work of the Enterprise Health deployment and application support teams over the last 60 days and the recent influx of new requests, much of our focus for the foreseeable future will be on helping existing and new clients with:
- Tracking vaccination status, including management of proof of vaccinations, declinations and exemptions
- Administering COVID vaccinations to employees (and in some cases their family members) who decide the time has come to get a jab
- COVID test ordering and results management for employers who opt to frequently test employees who are not vaccinated
- Generating reports to understand and track vaccination status, testing status and employee compliance with guidance and requirements
- Configuration adjustments to support geographic variations
- Whatever comes next, as this list is no doubt out of date as I type it
Like our clients, the Enterprise Health team is eager for the winds to subside and the dust to settle. In the meantime, we will remain flexible, agile and ready to turn on a dime.