Since the pandemic started nearly eight months ago I have come to the realization that in spite of all the doom and gloom we hear every day in the media that life goes on for most of us in a somewhat altered state. So what have I observed? For some sectors this has been been disastrous and others this has been a boom. Technology has allowed many of us to continue our business activity although now we work remotely from home offices. I know in talking with other business people some are feeling a sense of isolation from the world. My daughter who works in marketing and sales was expressing frustration in not being able to meet face-to-face with her clients and just plain burnt-out from spending 7-8 hours a day standing in front of a screen talking into a camera. I understand her frustration, but on the flip side I asked her how she would feel about having only a phone and fax machine to accomplish her daily objectives, that was our reality only 20 years ago, so technology has eased some of the communication glitches during this pandemic. The other thing I have noted is in my frequent virtual meetings with C-Level managers in their home offices is that they appeared to be more open and relaxed than in a typical office setting. I find the conversation and information flows more easily than before, perhaps because we are all going through these trying and difficult times together. One other thing that the pandemic has made me realize that there has to be a seismic shift in certain kinds of businesses going forward if they are to survive in the future. For example restaurants, bars, live entertainment, and retail have to re-imagine how they will deliver their product to consumers in post pandemic society as we are likely to change the way we live, work and interact after this virus subsides and we wait for the next one make its appearance.
This article was from coverage of the Benefits Canada 2011 Face-to-Face: Drug Plan Management Forum, held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2011.
Magna International Inc., a global vehicle part manufacturer and assembler with a workforce of 104,000, has a decentralized management structure that allows every division to run as a separate entity, said Arthur Fabbro, the organization’s director of total compensation.
Typically, drug plans in the organization’s U.S. divisions have a three-tier design comprising generic drugs, preferred brands and non-preferred brands.
In Canada, a two-tiered system—formulary and non-formulary drugs—prevails. Mail-order pharmacy, in its infancy in Canada, “plays a huge role in containing costs in U.S. plans.”
According to Fabbro, Canadian drug plan providers might also learn from these common U.S. practices:
adjudicating pharmacy claims;
conducting safety checks and drug utilization reviews;
negotiating preferred price and rebate arrangements with drug manufacturers;
negotiating preferred pricing with retail pharmacies; and
conducting regular reviews to discuss trends, explore and implement plan design strategies, and develop clinical programs.
Future plan design modifications may include out-of-pocket caps, electronic claims submission and automatic generic substitution. “If we could raise generic substitution by just 5%, we could cut major costs,” said Fabbro, who also gave the thumbs-up to clinical and utilization management programs. “These programs hone in on where the costs are hitting our plans,” he said, “and there’s no question they lead to more cost-effective outcomes.”
So for the past five months I have been forced by the pandemic to change the way I interact with the people in my life both professionally and personally. My new reality and I am certain, yours is using one of the many platforms available to meet virtually. Though not always ideal they still allow us to communicate, interact and even conduct business. In talking with some of my business colleagues some of them feel that virtual meetings allow them to be more productive and spend less time in their vehicles tied up in traffic jams trying to get from meeting to meeting. Others complain that virtual meetings don’t allow them to read body language and facial expressions that a face-to-face meeting does. Personally I find that although there are certain drawbacks like screens freezing from time to time, that for the most part I have had productive meetings using platforms like Zoom or Webex. I also noted that many people I have encountered on these virtual meetings appear to be more relaxed and open in conversation. In addition they have conveyed to me that for the most part they have been able to continue their business activities using virtual meetings. Looking back when this technology didn’t exist, business would have been in an even more difficult place than we are currently experiencing which is pretty dire. There are no perfect solutions, but virtual meetings have been for the most part been one of the better innovations of the past decade.
I am not surprised by our current circumstance of living and working in the midst of a global pandemic the warnings had been coming from scientists for years. What has been surprising to me has been the resilience, tenacity and creativity of many of the business people I have been speaking with over the past several months since COVID 19 has started. Yes the toll on business and lives has been substantial and it will take a great deal of time to recover from this, but we are learning new ways to conduct business and interact with one another. I am struck with the positive attitude and willingness of people I interact with to find ways to negotiate their way through a complex and difficult and for most of us a new reality. For me I have been working from a home office for more than two decades so there was no big adjustment for me on that front. The thing that bothers me the most in the current state of affairs is the lack of direct human contact. Platforms like Zoom meeting and Google Hangouts are a great alternative and allow one to conduct meetings and get much done without the hassle of traffic jams, but I miss the face to face contact. That being said I am adapting to doing business in the virtual and I am a grateful for the digital platforms and programs that allow us to continue to operate our businesses in spite of a serious and sometime deadly virus. I am struck by the ingenuity and creativity I am witnessing daily as I engage in stimulating conversations with business leaders and founders.
Over the years I have attended workshops and read books and articles about the complexities of doing busy in our modern and fast-paced world. Every once and a while I step back and take a deep breath and ponder. Sometimes I think we just overthink and create complex models and structures on how to achieve exceptional results. In many instances business is based on human interactions. The need to resolve client issues, to improve client interactions, or to revise product offerings can be facilitated through the simple act of regular and open communication with clients. Too many businesses don’t follow a regular course of talking with their clients on a regular basis to find out how they are faring in the clients’ eyes. They also fail to simply ask what else can we do better or provide that we aren’t doing currently. People want to be consulted and they want their input to be considered. We get caught up in the latest business models and buzzwords, but in essence at the core of every business is the human element. I am not casting aside the importance of business research, I am saying that we often overlook the human element at the core of every business no matter how big or small. The communication between one or more people in a positive and meaningful way can truly be the difference between a successful business or one that fails.