By Poovenraj Kanagaraj
In a recent survey taken out by startup HealthMetrics, 48 percent of their corporate clients have been practicing flexible working arrangements even prior to the ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO).
According to Alvin Yuan, chief executive officer of HealthMetrics, while the numbers are encouraging, 40 percent of the respondents had also pointed out that they were not prepared for remote working.
“There are companies that work remotely, but certain operational matters would still need to be done in the workplace,” says Yuan.
The MCO that was announced on March 18 came about a moment’s notice as the numbers were picking up in Malaysia. In matter of days, many faced the possibility of closing down as operations were affected.
“Many companies were caught off-guard by both the pandemic and the MCO,” he adds.
Yuan points out that companies that do not already have online processes and online sales channels in place were less prepared and would likely to be more affected from the partial lockdown, signifying a need for digitalisation among businesses in the country.
The survey also found 95 percent of the respondents are already utilising digital tools or platforms for work and communication purposes prior the partial lockdown. These digital tools range from messaging apps such as Whatsapp to video chat platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
“Post-MCO, we will see more companies rethink their communication tools and digitalise their operational processes as well.”
But only 60 percent who took part in the survey mentioned that their company was well-prepared and equipped for remote working during the MCO.
Yuan tells Business Today that while companies have already adopted digital tools at workplaces, not all operational processes have been fully digitalised. The MCO served as a catalyst for companies to reflect their current work processes and to think about digitalisation, he says.
While companies are bound to be on a tighter budget throughout the period, Yuan opines that days where companies would have to invest in expensive digital solutions are long gone. “Companies instead only need to subscribe to cloud software-as-a-service (SAAS) which is akin to rental payments,” he points out.
According to HealthMetrics, companies with a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place would also need to test out their risk mitigation plans periodically in order to prove those strategies are practical and robust enough to withstand crisis such as the Covid-19.
The Malaysian government in collaboration with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) had introduced the SME Business Digitalisation Grant which aims to help businesses in digitalising their businesses.
HealthMetrics, which is one of MDEC’s approved Technology Service Provider (TSP) foresees that the initiative will aid more companies in crossing over into the digitalisation space despite the uncertainty of the current times.
Digitalising corporate healthcare
Digitalisation issues are not only affecting daily operations but they are also creeping into corporate healthcare matters.
“Companies that are managing their claims manually through claim reimbursements may find it difficult to manage the claims due to the lockdown,” Yuan says, as he points out that the practice typically involves dealing with hardcopy claims receipts.
On the other hand, during the MCO, data by HealthMetrics shows there have been a significant reduction in visitations to the healthcare providers by about 30 percent.
Yuan believes that the lockdown could have prevented or discouraged patients from visiting healthcare providers, further cementing suspicions that increase in fear among patients who are afraid to seek treatment due to potential contact risk have increased.
Yuan attributes the decrease in numbers to a lack of understanding of the virus and with fake information spreading across social networks.
Prior to the MCO, data points out that there were higher volume in visitations among HealthMetrics’ corporate users to healthcare providers.
The platform saw an increased amount of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) cases prior to the MCO as it coincided with the seasonal influenza outbreak, which led to clinics running out of influenza vaccinations.
URTI made up 47 percent of overall employee visits to clinics both before and during MCO. The seasonal influenza outbreak which had coincided with the arrival of Covid-19 made it trickier to identify the exact virus as both exhibited similar flu-like symptoms.
In a response to the growing fear among corporate employees over the outbreak, HealthMetrics had developed the Covid-19 DocBot which enables their corporate clients as well as the general public to get free self-assessment.
Yuan urges companies to have annual influenza vaccinations as vaccinated employees are less likely to be infected with influenza, making it easier to identify a potential Covid-19 infection.
“Some of our general practitioners have informed us of the temporary closure of clinics is due to the MCO, despite being an essential service,” Yuan says. The closure he says could be due to the healthcare personnel themselves not having proper equipment such as PPE, sanitisation, or Covid-19 Sampling Kits.
On the other hand, government hospitals have experienced high traffic due to the increased number of testing. As the Ministry of Health (MoH) Malaysia announced the importing of Rapid Test Kits from South Korea, higher testing rate that will allow shorter time of results is expected.
Despite the downward trend in recent positive cases, Yuan believes celebrations at this point may be too early. “The thing about a pandemic is that it only takes a spark to get a fire going,” Yuan says.
“As testing intensifies in the KL area, there is a possibility that the number of cases might spike in the coming weeks,” he added.
At the point of writing, Malaysia saw double digit number of positive cases while Singapore faced the impact of a second wave which saw the numbers in thousands being recorded on a daily basis.
While the number of positive cases in the country has been seeing a downward trend, Putrajaya has imposed another two-week extension until May 12, while Singapore had extended its “circuit breaker” until June 1.
Yuan points out that while efforts by the authority and frontliners are highly commendable, the community must adhere to the guidelines instructed by the related ministries.
“As such, organisations must also prepare themselves for the post-MCO period as the long-overdue recession is looming around the corner. We must embrace this ‘new normal’ moving forward,” Yuan says.