A letter from Janet Young, M.D., Lead Clinical Scientist, Springbuk

Guidance for Employers: High-Risk Individuals

In addition to widely-shared practical guidelines, employers can also consider specific strategies to address individuals who may be at a higher risk of complications. Some potential strategies include:

  • Ensure that employees are aware that those with chronic conditions and who are older (age over 60 years of age) are at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19.
  • Particular attention directed toward protecting individuals who are most vulnerable for serious complications of COVID-19 – groups identified with high risk include those with serious chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.1,2
  • Encourage those with chronic conditions to have a sufficient supply of any maintenance medications that they or family members might need during a period of home isolation. Allowing early refills and creating incentives to obtain 90-day rather than 30-day supplies for maintenance medications are steps that can be beneficial.
  • Be sure that individuals also have over-the-counter medications used for symptom relief, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and a working thermometer.

Given the dynamic nature of this emerging situation, some employees and their families may have financial and safety concerns. To alleviate this pressure, employers can:

  • Provide information regarding coverage for COVID-19 related services.
  • Consider waiving copays, deductibles, and/or coinsurance related to services for initial screening or diagnosis.
  • Reduce the risk of exposure to other individuals by providing incentives for telehealth and telephonic consultations as a means for individuals to determine whether further testing is required.

Sick or exposed employees may fear that absenteeism will result in loss of wages or job performance. To help address this concern, employers can:

  • Provide clear guidelines on when an employee may return to work that are consistent with public health guidelines.
  • Consider providing additional sick time for those who contract the condition or who are having acute respiratory symptoms.
  • Offer or expand remote and work-from-home options for those with known or possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Consider implementing a restriction on non-essential travel for employees to mitigate exposure.

Our team of clinicians, data scientists, and health strategists continue to monitor this situation closely. Further updates may be provided as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its risk factors as well as who is at highest risk for complications.

If you have further questions about how you and your organization should be thinking about and preventing this disease, please know that our team is here as a resource for you.

1Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. February 28, 2020. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2002032.

2Wu Z, McGoogan JM. Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72 314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. JAMA. Published online: February 24, 2020. DOI:10.1001/jama.2020.2648.

Meet the Author: Janet Young, M.D.
With more than 30 years of experience, Janet Young has provided clinical expertise to the development of healthcare analytics used in provider, payer, employer, and government sectors. Previously, Janet served as a Lead Clinical Scientist at IBM Watson Health, guiding clinical content development related to new models, methods, and analytics using claims, EMR, Health Risk Assessment, and socio-demographic data. 

Janet joined the Data Science and Methods team at Springbuk in Dec. 2019, and has been responsible for clinical oversight of methods and models. Janet received her M.D. from Yale University School of Medicine.