June 29, 2020
5 Considerations Before Implementing Covid-19 Testing in your Workplace
HR and Operations Professionals in 2020 are rapidly assuming new responsibilities as “Head Epidemiologist,” “Lead Virus-Speculator,” and “Financial Forecaster of Personal Protection Programs.”
Early adopters of Worker Protection programs like Uber have invested $50M in protection programs, and nursing homes in New York have mandated twice weekly tests be conducted for all staff. Even Checkr’s own COO, Linda Shaffer, posed questions during the initial response to the pandemic as to whether or not Checkr could offer some type of COVID-19 screening for customers and Checkr employees alike.
I was the product manager tasked to research and answer those tough questions. One thing to note: I’m not an epidemiologist, and I don’t come from a scientific background. Fortunately, I was able to partner with several leading organizations who helped us navigate a unique space and learn quickly.
In this blog post, I want to share the knowledge and resources we’ve gathered to help companies who are faced with difficult questions around opening their own offices. There are five critical findings which I believe will help HR professionals start conversations internally and develop a custom approach to testing that works for their business.
Key Finding #1: There are two different types of tests and some basic terms to understand.
As a foundation, organizations must understand basic terminology to make better sense of the types of tests that are currently available. Companies are taking extraordinary measures to get up to speed on the lingo, up to hiring their own epidemiologist consultants,
The chart below depicts the life cycle of viruses in our bodies. At minimum, you should understand that there are two phases of the virus: Active Infection and Past-Infection. There is no singular test that can detect both.
- “Active-Infection” (yellow and green in the chart) is tested via saliva or nasal swab.
- “Past-Infection” (pink and purple) is tested via finger-prick or blood-draw.
- The overlap in the middle of the chart is important to note where a person may be in more than one phase and may require more than one test.
In summary, there are two tests available that can tell the full story. Utilizing only one of these tests is insufficient to make quarantine decisions regarding employees.
Below is an operational flow chart of a sample testing program. (Grab a coffee and come back to this diagram later as a reference.)
Key Finding #2: There is no one-size-fits-all “Covid-19 testing programs”. Every company is different, you know your people, and if you’re unsure of what your staff might opt for – ask them.
There is no shortage of options to consider when creating a testing program for your organization. In fact, new companies pop up in the COVID space almost daily. When designing your program, here are four partners to consider:
Key Finding #3: COVID-19 programs are not cheap, particularly with the uncertainty of how long these programs will need to be in place. Is allocating a budget for a three month program sufficient? Six months? Is a vaccine coming? Companies must do the math to find the exact intersection of what is the maximum amount of protection they can offer their employees while still maintaining economic viability.
Sample economic breakdown:
Note: These are representative costs for the exemplary purposes of modeling what a program might look like for your company. Ranges of test pricing are representative of Checkr learned while researching many different partners in addition to those referenced here.
Key Finding #4: “National” standardization presents a large challenge.
Throughout this process, I’ve heard countless questions like, “Shouldn’t the government pay for this? Our employees, or 1099 workers, are covered by the Affordable Care Act and/or company healthcare programs —should our workers pay out of pocket? Why is Covid-19 testing free in some states and not others?”
From our research, a national standard of protocols for who gets tested and when, where, and how results are reported seems unlikely in the near term. Therefore the responsibility will be on US workers and their employers to navigate these murky waters. If you operate nationally, there is a substantial benefit to offering a Covid-19 program that is consistent for all of your employees—particularly if you are expected to review positive Covid-19 tests to determine sick leave payments. If you only operate in a handful of states you may be able to navigate local resources and compile a program that is more narrowly tailored to your business.
Key Finding #5: It’s not just a question of economics, there are deep operational procedures that must be thought through before you consider implementation.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself and your leadership team when designing your program:
- Who is considered a part of your “active employee base?”
- Who on your team do you need to actually test?
- What precautionary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are you offering to employees/contractors today? This includes things like gloves, masks, and face guards.
- How many opted into non-mandatory PPE equipment? Is there an adoption curve?
- If you extend PPE to include virus and/or antibody testing will a similar adoption curve apply?
- What PPE economics (or cost per person) make sense for your business?
- Where will you test employees/contractors? At home, at a clinic, at a hub, or at your office?
- Who on your team will be responsible for reviewing and taking action on results?
- Will you store any data in your own systems or simply log in to a partner portal? It’s important to remember that storing health data may implicate the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)..
- What types of operational processes are required when a positive result arises to ensure the employee is supported?
To sum up, every customer is different. You know your employees, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” Covid-19 Protection Program. HR and Operations teams are tasked with making difficult decisions on how to formulate a plan that suits your business and your employees. Checkr is committed to helping our customers by monitoring the space and modeling various programs. If you’re ready to start a Covid-19 testing program, we encourage you to reach out to any of the amazing partners referenced here specialize in the occupational health space.
If you made it this far, and you want to talk to me directly—I’m all ears and am eager to hear from you about how we can help! Book a time on my calendar here.