Most healthcare employers have been dealing with COVID-19 for a year now. With vaccines widely available for this workforce, we offer five considerations for healthcare employers as they move toward a post-pandemic environment.
- Will COVID-19 vaccinations become an annual event?
For years many healthcare providers have required employees to get a flu shot. Are we heading that way with the COVID-19 vaccine? While many providers have encouraged but not required employees to get vaccinated, will that change as data comes in regarding vaccine efficacy and side effects? If so, employers should be ready with a robust communication plan as they roll out this requirement. Incentives for being vaccinated remain a hot topic while employers wait for definitive guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding what types of incentives are lawful. If such guidance becomes available will we see widespread use of incentives in the future or will they be limited to this first round of vaccines? Employers also should be sure to incorporate lessons learned on dealing with potential vaccination-related absences.
- Telehealth appears to be here to stay. What does that mean for your employees?
Telehealth has been well-received by patients and providers alike. It appears to be here to stay. We expect changes in telehealth credentialing at some point. Employers should watch for these developments and be prepared to assist in credentialing. Another area to watch is HIPAA compliance. Many providers moved quickly to telehealth. Now is the time to conduct a risk assessment and bolster privacy and security protections. Finally, employers need a plan for how to handle provider preference. Will there be a uniform approach to how much, if any, telehealth is offered by a department or practice? What, if any exceptions will be made for provider preference?
- Are there segments of your workforce you want to permanently WFH?
Some healthcare systems have reported strong remote work performance by some of their back-office functions. Does this suggest a benefit to permanent work from home arrangements in those departments and converting their current workspace for clinical use? If so, employers need to plan for possible turnover among those employees who would prefer to come to the work site on a regular basis. In addition, for healthcare employers who decide to hire remote workers in states other than those in which the employer operates, they must be sure to comply with employer registration requirements in those states.
- We anticipate increased union organizing activity. When is the right time to assess and address employee engagement and satisfaction?
Healthcare worker unions have been very active throughout the pandemic in advocating for thing such as better access to PPE and hazard pay. Some employees may feel their employer did not do enough for them during the pandemic or simply may be more open to listening to union promises of better working conditions. While now may not be the time to conduct employee satisfaction surveys, employers should be actively assessing employee engagement and satisfaction and working proactively to address any gaps.
- Will your organization incorporate nimble decision-making structures used during the pandemic?
Many organizations formed COVID-19 Task Forces that changed the pace and process for making organizational decisions. Employers should assess whether they would benefit from moving permanently to some of these processes. This presents an excellent opportunity for greater collaboration between hospital administrators and medical staff leaders and generally across disciplines.
Reach out to your Jackson Lewis attorney who can provide additional best practices and resources as the healthcare industry navigates these developments together.