Abarca Health: Principles that everyone should consider when it comes to preparedness

May 8, 2020

We’ve all been told by someone, “always be prepared.” In today’s technology-driven, fast-paced world, we’re often too busy, and our inboxes are too full to plan for something that may never happen.

Then the unexpected hits and many companies are left improvising to figure out what to do next.

Today’s workplace.
Our world and the potential crises we face are constantly evolving and adapting. Coronavirus is the most recent challenge, but it will not be the last. As many organizations are seeing, when disaster strikes, there isn’t time to build a plan–there is only time to act. That’s why preparedness needs to be a fundamental part of an organization’s culture, rather than a one-time exercise.

While each organization has its own unique identity, there are a few principles that everyone should consider when it comes to preparedness:

  • Keeping employees engaged and connected. First and foremost, ensure that your employees are safe, and implement a system that allows you to check in and provide them with ongoing support. Then, make sure your team has the tools they need to work virtually and roll out a communication platform that everyone can access. Also, create opportunities to bring people together outside of meetings. For example, a virtual coffee break can allow employees to interact like it was a typical day at the office.
  • Communicate your plan ahead of time. Day one of a crisis is not the time for your team to familiarize themselves with the crisis plan. Not only will key teams and employees have important roles to play in getting your plan in motion, but your staff needs to have the confidence that their employer will be in control in the face of uncertainty.
  • Adapt as events unfold. In many ways, a crisis is like a living thing—it can continue to grow and evolve, and you need to be able to respond accordingly at any given time. Your plan must always allow for the flexibility to change course when necessary, and your people and culture should be ready to adjust quickly.
  • Technology is key. When building your company’s infrastructure, make sure that your technology can reliably serve your employees and customers under any circumstance. This requires, among other things, redundant systems located in multiple geographies. Teams and systems should be put through at least annual crisis drills.
  • Ensure safety and privacy. Cybercriminals often view a crisis as open hunting season. For example, during some incidents, such as a pandemic or natural disaster, employees may be required to work remotely. In these cases, the risk of a data breach or cyberattack can increase significantly. Sadly, during the current pandemic, the nation is seeing a spike in phishing attempts and other fraudulent activity. Companies must have the hardware, software, infrastructure, and training in place to protect information and networks.

Weathering the storm. 
With offices in Puerto Rico and South Florida, Abarca has faced more than its fair share of natural disasters. Over the past decade, we have evolved continuously to ensure that we have the best systems in place to support our organization against any challenge.

And then Hurricanes Irma and Maria put us to the test. These were once-in-a-lifetime storms, and reminders of their impact can still be seen years later. As a pharmacy benefit manager, we needed to ensure our systems were always up and running, and our people were available to support our clients and members. We had spent years building up our infrastructure and making sure that we had redundant data managed at multiple locations across the United States. We developed Darwin, our smarter PBM platform, on the cloud so that users could access their information from wherever they were. As a result, our systems experienced zero downtime–even in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

We enacted an employee outreach plan to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. And, while some team members could not get online immediately, our plan allowed us to leverage support from employees across the United States.

Despite being without water and power, our employees were eager to help each other and our members. Some Abarcans were even deployed to hard-hit communities across the Island to help process claims and help members access their prescription benefits.

I am proud of how Abarca responded to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. And, although these events were different from COVID-19, they helped us prepare for this unprecedented crisis. This has allowed us to successfully continue to operate and serve our clients and members without disruption—and keep our team engaged.

Though we hope a disaster never comes, we often have no say in the matter. What we can control, however, is how we respond. And it’s time to start preparing for what comes next.


*This blog was written by Adriana Ramirez Esq., Chief Operating Officer at Abarca.


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