At DaisyBill, we’re filled with admiration at how practices continue to deliver quality care under challenging and changing circumstances. We interviewed one of our great California-based DaisyBillers, WorkPartners, to see how it’s adapting to new ways of working amidst and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We see this article as an opportunity for our community to learn from one another while honoring the great work of one of our users.
We spoke with Heather Manley, COO and founder of WorkPartners, a 100% occupational medicine practice based in San Diego County, California. Heather said that while she “has a lot of roles,” her primary job is to create a good team that does great work. WorkPartners sees patients from a wide range of employers, from biotech to school districts to hotels and restaurants.
In speaking with WorkPartners, we learned that Heather and her team are optimistic and excited about the future and about enhanced offerings like telehealth. The team has risen to meet the challenges presented, and changes to the practice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic position them for a strong future and continued growth.
Pre-pandemic, WorkPartners had four locations across San Diego County, two of which were just getting going, and the practice was in a state of growth and expansion. “Everything was very promising, we had a great team on board, and we had a big conference scheduled. The excitement was there,” Heather said.
Then, as with so many practices, things changed quickly. “Everything just felt like it stopped at once. We took a huge hit to our business levels,” she commented. “When people stop working, and the practice's sole focus is on occupational medicine, business dries up fast.”
“We’re trying to be a resource to our employers and employees and the leadership team had many sleepless nights, trying to figure out how to manage this and preserve everyone’s jobs and ensure our employers had what they needed,” Heather said.
Also hard hit was the overall camaraderie of the team and the loss of in-person connections. “We’re a super close organization and we have a great company culture,” Heather said. “The biggest impact was just how sudden it was and how much we had to figure out in such a short period of time.”
For the last year, WorkPartners has had a telehealth platform in place. Partly this was the result of a “value of innovation” at the practice. “We’re always trying to be in front,” Heather said. But, the platform had remained fairly stagnant in reaction to subdued demand and interest. The practice’s employers wanted to know that WorkPartners had such an option, but many were not aware of the full telehealth options or did not want to pursue it, Heather explained.
And then, when things changed, so too did the vital role of telehealth. “We flipped the switch overnight, at a time when people really needed it, and we didn’t miss a beat. My staff rose up, and the entire team figured out how to do it,” Heather remarked of both providers as well as front-desk staff and billing experts. “Employers love the telehealth option now, so employees don't have to leave the work site for a quick follow-up.”
WorkPartners has always offered an after-hours phone line as a courtesy to patients and employers, but this was an opportunity to take that accessibility further. “We thought, why can’t we do 24-hour telehealth? That is probably where we’ll go next. How can we expand the telehealth platform so that if you’re working in a hotel at midnight and you get hurt, you can get on telehealth with WorkPartners to triage it,” Heather said. In reinventing the way it serves employers, the shift could not only be a competitive differentiator, but could help WorkPartners strategically build greater resilience for an unknown future.
Another silver lining amidst the pandemic is the confirmation that WorkPartners’ focus on strictly occupational medicine (versus urgent care or other services) is exactly where the team wants to be. Heather affirmed WorkPartners’ specialty, saying, “We’re experts in occupational medicine. It’s becoming very clear that this matters, that you aren’t diluted in your services. That you can handle employer calls and requests and panicked moments, because that’s what you’re dedicated to.”
One of those understandably panicked moments arises around COVID testing. If there is a workplace exposure or an employee tests positive, it can cause immense stress and confusion. “Employers now know they can call us for help,” Heather said.
In fact, shortly before our conversation with Heather, she received a call from an employer with an exposure who needed to have six workers tested. “I facilitated that with our provider, and I don’t know that those employers have an opportunity to do that with other providers. It’s a silver lining that people now have seen our ability to respond and respond well. It opened up dialogue with new clients, which is wonderful,” Heather said. “I’ve become the non-clinical COVID expert for employer inquiries and with my doctors.”
One unique aspect of WorkPartners is its focus on community education. “We’re affiliated with a lot of professional organizations and our doctors will engage the local community with monthly presentations,” Heather said. Presentations might be geared specifically toward the insurance, employer, or case manager communities, or they might be cross-cutting workshops that engage all audiences. The effort bolsters the practice’s local reputation and helps build long-standing relationships.
In speaking about WorkPartners’ community education efforts, Heather said, “We don’t like to say no. We have expertise that we can share with you.”
Not saying “no” seems to be not only a value and strength of the practice but also a compass to navigate the pandemic and chart a promising future going forward. DaisyBill wishes WorkPartners the best and we’re eager to see where Heather and her team take the practice in the future.
DaisyBill provides content as an insightful service to its readers and clients. It does not offer legal advice and cannot guarantee the accuracy or suitability of its content for a particular purpose.