As countries around the world continue to contend with COVID-19, many organizations in the healthcare space are directing their efforts toward making it easier for us all to seek care.
The healthcare industry has faced enormous challenges in recent months. It has reported not having enough protective personal equipment, hospital beds, or COVID-19 testing kits. Healthcare professionals have been working tirelessly to tend to patients who are sick, and to keep many others, including the elderly, healthy.
Whether shining a light on underrecognized frontline workers or revolutionizing the diagnostic process, WeWork members worldwide are working to shift the tide in the healthcare industry toward a more hopeful future.
Applauding underappreciated caregivers
Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Ceca Foundation has been advocating for caregivers since 2013—and its work has become even more vital as these professionals have come into the spotlight during this pandemic.
Ceca (an abbreviation of “celebrating caregivers”) coordinates with healthcare facilities and families of patients across the Northeast to recognize outstanding caregivers, awarding honorees with a public award presentation and monetary prizes throughout the year. The organization is a member at WeWork Universal North in D.C. and has space through WeWork for Good, an initiative that contributes office space to eligible organizations working to fight the coronavirus.
“Nurses and doctors are always admired professions—and deservedly so—but a [wider] team of people in a healthcare environment is really critical as well,” says Ceca president Nate Hamme.
He cites certified nursing home assistants, or CNAs, as a key example of the caregivers Ceca works to reward. “They’re paid $13, $14, $15 an hour to do backbreaking work,” he says. Other employees, such as housekeepers, are also ones to be highlighted. “[They are] very unrecognized support who are so essential to having a safe environment,” says Hamme of housekeepers.
Ceca says recipients of these awards report higher overall satisfaction with their employers, and are less likely to leave their jobs. During this time, Ceca has awarded an IT worker who trained elderly patients to use videoconferencing software and a CNA who assembled a gift basket for a patient whose daughter was no longer able to provide care items because of social distancing. The extraordinary and timely efforts of several caregivers have inspired Ceca to launch a special awards series specifically focused on COVID-19 responders.
“You have people clapping outside their windows, and that’s great—every type of recognition is worthwhile,” says Hamme, referring to the public clapping that takes place daily in several cities to honor essential workers.
“But I hope when we come out of this thing—and I know we will—that people will be saying, ‘How can we be doing this consistently?’ How can we have that ‘never forget’ mentality, and look for every opportunity, every avenue, to show appreciation and give back?”
While European countries like France, Spain, Italy, and the UK have been hit hard by COVID-19, Germany has stood apart with a death rate that has been much less severe, though still significant, than that of its neighbors. The relative mildness of Germany’s situation has been attributed to a number of factors, mainly aggressive testing early on and widespread lockdown measures.
MeinRezept, a startup that operates out of Hamburg’s WeWork Hanse Forum, is doing its part to contribute to the country’s comprehensive pandemic response. Its telemedicine platform streamlines the process of being diagnosed and receiving testing.
After filling out a simple questionnaire, patients who match COVID-19 symptoms receive a swab-based testing kit in the mail, return the completed test via prepaid return packaging, and wait for results from doctors at affiliated laboratories (which are usually sent within about three days). If the test is positive, the patient receives a prescription for treatment along with their results.
In addition to improving the efficiency of the diagnostic process, meinRezept has used technology to innovate a safe means of testing.
In a webinar hosted by WeWork that highlighted companies working to keep communities safe and healthy, meinRezept CEO and cofounder Hanno Behrens said, “In Germany, like other countries, patients must submit a physical paper prescription to receive their medication. [We] transform the whole process into digital interactions, reducing human contact and the spread of COVID-19.”
The platform is also demonstrating the potential of digitized medicine—crucial during a pandemic, and perhaps a viable option in a more stable future as well.
“Doctors weren’t fond of telemedicine before COVID-19 because they got less revenue,” said Behrens. “Now it’s picking up rapidly. Will it last? I think it will.”
Making it easier to access healthcare
Navigating the labyrinthine healthcare system can be a demoralizing task in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. The two-person team behind RelayCare, based at WeWork 80 M St SE in Washington, D.C., is committed to simplifying this process.
The RelayCare platform and app feature recommendations and feedback from people who have been patients at hospitals, doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, and other healthcare facilities in the D.C. metro area—much as Yelp does for restaurants and retailers.
Users can also get insight into whether their insurance is accepted by each healthcare provider, what their plan will cover, and how previous patients have been billed.
“Healthcare is messy,” said founder Ben Pugh during a webinar hosted by WeWork. “We discovered that health insurance websites only offer about 50 percent correct information. We’ve built our own database and used real-time information to update instantly, bringing a modern approach to how this information gets captured and mak[ing] it digestible for patients.”
As a response to COVID-19, RelayCare has added information on user testing sites to the platform. In this moment, when there is so much contradictory information on the best course of medical action, the platform provides the comfort of digestible, relatable testimonials from others who have been through the process.
“People talk to their friends and neighbors for advice. That’s why we added a social feature to share tips,” says Pugh. The act of finding healthcare has “become a social experience.”
Rachel Mosely is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Town & Country, Elle, and more.