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The new “normal” – how disability practice can help manage it

COVID-19 has turned us all topsy-turvy. We’ve been staying close to home and minimizing contact with others. Some have had to shutter their businesses, or reduce staffing levels. Others have lost their jobs altogether.

COVID-19 has turned us all topsy-turvy. We’ve been staying close to home and minimizing contact with others. Some have had to shutter their businesses, or reduce staffing levels. Others have lost their jobs altogether. 

Those who are fortunate enough to work are either taking on additional public health risks or are trying to figure out new routines as they do it from home, maybe juggling kids, elderly family members or additional stresses.

And no one has any idea how long we’re going to have to live like this or what the post-pandemic world is going to look like.

A mental health crisis is on the horizon

The United Nations recently warned that the world is headed for a significant mental health crisis. An Angus Reid poll reports half of Canadians feel their mental health has worsened since the pandemic hit, and over 40% are either worried or anxious.

The Conference Board of Canada noted the looming issue in a recent blog post, strongly recommending that organizations take mental health into consideration as they develop return-to-work/return-to-office plans.

We’ve all heard that transparency in information and some sense of safety and control can help alleviate stress. Pacific Blue Cross, our largest local health benefits provider, is taking action. 

“We recognize the difficulties in dealing with paper or physically seeing a health practitioner right now,” says Heidi Worthington, COO, Work and Wellness. “We’ve been augmenting our services and tools to better support plan sponsors and members in this new business landscape—particularly in the digital space with contactless access to health care.”

And they’ve been transforming their Work and Wellness disability practice, focusing on prevention, empathy, positive outcomes, and a first-rate case management approach that an industry study says will bring employees back to work 20% faster—not insignificant given that the cost of an average disability claim is $80,000. 

Disability claims are costly

Work is a key part of living a meaningful and productive life. Going off on a disability claim often erodes a person’s sense of self and purpose—at the very moment they need all the confidence they can muster to navigate the recovery process. 

In the past two years, Pacific Blue Cross has shifted from “disability management” to a Work and Wellness approach that supports members in all stages of their health journey—healthy at work, early intervention for at-risk at work, traditional disability support while off work, and successful return to work. 

“In 2019 we redesigned our case management practice to focus on continuity of care and shared return-to-work action plans,” says Brooke Moss, Associate VP, Work and Wellness. “We also bolstered our team of in-house rehabilitation specialists, which leverages our local BC expertise to ensure employees get access to the right tools and health care providers.”

The latest phase of this transformation—the launch of their fully digitized claims management system—sets them up to have industry best practice case management workflows and the most comprehensive communications in the marketplace by the end of 2020.

Enhanced digital services

This digital transformation is not just on the back end. Pacific Blue Cross has integrated a number of virtual tools for onboarding and treating disability claimants.

  • Online claims process. Faster, more efficient processing of disability benefit applications
  • Connection to a virtual doctor through EQ Care. For assistance with the Attending Physician Statement—a first for a Canadian benefits provider
  • Virtual sessions. independent medical evaluations and visits with rehabilitation specialists
  • Virtual CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy for depression and anxiety
  • Reporting. A customized, transparent, easy-to-understand record of each claim as it progresses.

Being on disability can be tough; it’s isolating and mentally challenging. The new Pacific Blue Cross case management practice is designed to create shared commitment to appropriate treatment plans and help employees embark on a new health care journey, fully supported for the best outcome possible.

As BC’s Health Benefits Society, Pacific Blue Cross has provided plan sponsors and members with information and support services on their COVID-19 Resource Centre. Now that BC has eased into Phase 3 of its restart plan, they encourage you to check in on how you’re feeling with your new normal.