My Pandemic Story: Independence Health Group’s Daniel Hilferty on the Switch to Working Virtually
The CEO talks about the need for 100 percent testing and the rise of telemedicine.
It was in December or early January that we began to see the articles about what was happening in China. We would have informal conversations: Hey, are we tracking this? Where’s it headed? It was early February when we said, okay, what would this mean for this region?
We developed what’s called the President’s Council. These are the folks who report directly to me. We meet every single day, 11 of us, at three o’clock. We make decisions, then we cascade communications out to all the relevant areas of the company.
We really made a strategic decision several years ago to invest in the whole idea of innovating the way health care is delivered. We also started using temporary work-from-home models, where certain parts of the company would go home and we’d see how it worked. We felt that if there ever was a disaster of this nature, we would be well-positioned. When we flipped the switch in March, I would say we were true to that.
I do two videos a week from home that bring associates up to date. My wife, Joan, has helped me. We build a little humor into it. Like at the end of my first one, I said, “You’re all doing a great job,” then Joan yells in from the other room: “Hurry up, honey, it’s time for yoga!”
In terms of how it impacts our business, I wish I could give you a hard-and-fast answer. We’ve seen a significant uptick in the amount of telemedicine visits that members are having. On the other side, we’ve seen a significant reduction, for obvious reasons, in elective procedures. They’ve basically shut down those areas that were not only busy but very profitable for the health systems. So we’ve been working with them on how they see their way through that.
The individual that I look for every day on the news is Dr. Fauci. I just think in all of government, he is the most knowledgeable. But I firmly believe that unless we get 100 percent testing in place, we’re going to see spikes in the virus. And so I believe business will return in a way that is staged and where companies ease back into what I would call the new business normal.
For me, this has been, in a crazy kind of way, a rebirth. I’m reading books that have been sitting on my side table for months. Joan and I are walking together almost every day. I’m watching the positive impact the downturn has had on the environment. I’m not saying the crisis is good, but it’s enabled me to push the reset button. Whether it’s quiet reflection or prayer or just interacting with those I love, the edge has been taken away a little. Whenever it is we reignite this economy, I hope we remember some of the things that brought us back to a more sane and peaceful existence.
Published as part of the “This Is My Pandemic Story” feature in the May 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.