Patient-Focused Non-Profits Emerged from COVID Cloud in 2021
As 2021 draws to a close, Real World Health Care and our sponsor, the HealthWell Foundation, are truly grateful for our subscribers and the patient communities we were able to reach throughout the current health pandemic. We hope that our coverage of COVID-19 and other important health issues provided useful insights, and perhaps a bit of optimism, during uncertain times.
As we strove to shine a spotlight on the organizations and programs that serve our patient communities, we were struck by how quickly they evolved to changing circumstances. Indeed, many never skipped a beat. Real World Health Care Managing Editor, Linda Barlow, recently spoke with HealthWell’s President, Krista Zodet, about how HealthWell and other non-profits remained unwavering in their commitment to assisting those in need during one of the most challenging years in recent history.
Linda Barlow: HealthWell and other patient-support organizations continued to evolve their operating models and services as the COVID pandemic held on. What were some of the biggest challenges non-profits faced this year?
Krista Zodet: One of the biggest challenges the non-profit sector faced was maintaining funding levels. The way in which many non-profits generate money to fund patient services is through live events like runs, walks, galas and performances. Those live events were largely absent from the fundraising landscape for over a year and have just started to come back. However, many of our alliance partners remained undaunted and applied their boundless creativity to re-imagining fundraising efforts as virtual events and initiatives.
My HealthWell team and I were particularly touched by the incredible support we received from our individual and corporate donors, and we don’t take that good fortune lightly. It allowed us to continue to make a difference in the lives of those negatively impacted by personal and public health crises.
LB: People with life-altering illnesses can’t wait for care, and they need support, especially during a pandemic. How did HealthWell and your non-profit alliance partners help ensure that patients received continuity of care and services over the past year?
KZ: In the early stages of the pandemic, many with chronic illnesses stayed home and avoided going to the doctor for tests and check-ups. This created delays in diagnoses and treatments, especially among newly diagnosed patients.
To help ensure that unaffordable treatment costs don’t create an additional barrier to care, HealthWell has remained 100 percent committed to maintaining our operations throughout the pandemic. Our contact center worked remotely, and a small core group staffed the office once stay-at-home mandates ended, primarily to manage the mail and make sure that approval letters and pharmacy cards got to patients quickly.
Like many other non-profits that serve patients, we continued to support and enhance our electronic presence to streamline processes and make communicating and working with the Foundation as easy as possible. We also hosted a series of webinars for our constituents – some with alliance partners such as NeedyMeds – on disease-specific funds, how to apply for a grant in less than five minutes, tools and enhancements to our programs.
Throughout the year, HealthWell worked to find creative solutions to problems facing patients. As an example, whether they are sick with COVID or another life-altering disease, patients need the care and attention of frontline health care workers. Many of our health care heroes became overwhelmed with anxiety and stress that resulted from endless hours of caring for patients. In response to the unmet needs of these frontline health care workers, we launched a fund to assist them with out-of-pocket costs for management of behavioral health issues.
LB: It sounds like HealthWell has risen to the challenges and stresses of a very difficult year. I’m sure the patients you serve are grateful for your support.
KZ: Yes, and it’s largely due to the dedication of my team. There’s a lot of work that goes into launching new disease funds – from setting fund parameters to educating the patient community and getting our contact center staff ready to handle an influx of applications. Everyone at HealthWell has done an amazing job, even remotely, to keep the Foundation fresh, innovative and forward-focused on patient needs.
But more than being an operationally agile and progressive service provider, HealthWell is all about the human connection. It warms my heart to see our contact center staff really connect with patients on a personal level, especially during a time when other personal connections have been lacking. We’ve received so much positive feedback from patients on the ways in which our team members engage with them as humans and not just as contact center workers who have to quickly wrap up one call to get to the next one.
The HealthWell team and I have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season – our patients, our donors, our alliance partners, and importantly, the dedicated health care providers who keep us all safe and healthy. We are all in this together, and I hope everyone has a brighter 2022!