Can any company do this?

Above: Activision Blizzard used Heal to make house calls.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

It sounds like a luxurious service. But those doctors don’t need expensive offices or other personnel, so it actually ends up being efficient and cost-effective, Kotick said. The cost of an in-person Heal visit is $99, while the cost for a telemedicine online call is $59. For COVID-19 visits, Activision Blizzard pays 100% of those costs, which are less than what it would have paid for sending employees to doctors’ offices or hospitals.

In that way, Kotick believes that services like Heal, Doctors Direct, Grand Rounds, and Collective Health are affordable for a wide variety of companies. Each one of those companies tackles a piece of the health care puzzle. Grand Rounds, for instance, provides a second opinion for your diagnosis.

“We don’t just do this for the employee, their family, their immediate family. So we’re managing the care right now of probably half a dozen parents,” Kotick said. “Even if they’re outside of the scope of the employee’s coverage, if an employee sends us an email saying we have a family member’s health care bill, we’ll pay for that first medical visit from the Heal doctors.”

Activision Blizzard offers a health maintenance organization plan as well, which 20% of its workforce uses, largely for non-COVID-19 matters.

It seems like something that Kotick could have delegated to his human resources team. But Kotick also wanted to send a message that there was nothing more important than taking care of the employees. He didn’t want anyone to drop the ball when it came to health care.

“We are helping people with routine medications and refills so that they don’t get sick or so they don’t have to go to the doctor’s office during this crazy time,” Desai said. “This is exactly consistent with lowering health care costs by doing things this way. We are helping diagnose early, and make sure they don’t have to end up in the hospital. We can help Activision Blizzard permanently lower health care costs and improve outcomes by delivering great care to their employees in a highly flexible manner.”

And with employees in places like Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Spain, the different health care services were quite complicated.

Mental health challenges

Heal provides doctors who make online telemedicine appointments or house calls.

Above: Heal provides doctors who make online telemedicine appointments or house calls.

Image Credit: Heal

Some employees have taken advantage not only of the coronavirus testing services but also the mental health help. One employee, who asked not to be identified, said he had a mental breakdown for a short but critical time. He reached out to the company and was able to get almost-immediate care and mental health therapy. He had been under stress because of a tough family situation, and the company provided the care that he needed and he was able to get back to work, the employee said in an interview.

“My situation was added to the stress and strain of lockdown,” he said. “I was in a very bad, dangerous state. I reached out over the weekend, and I immediately heard back from one of our leaders, and they immediately helped me get help with my mental health issues. Through Heal, I found a psychologist and was able to set up an appointment very quickly.”

It didn’t cost anything extra. Activision Blizzard didn’t necessarily pay the most competitive wage in the case of this employee, but the fact that the emergency help didn’t cost anything was very important for this employee, who didn’t have money to pay massive hospital bills.

Notably, the employee made the decision to go directly through HR, rather than bother Kotick directly with his issues. He didn’t want raise alarms as long as he was getting what he needed.

Returning to work

Above: Activision Blizzard is reopening in the late summer with the help of Heal.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

In China, employees faced the coronavirus first. And that helped give Kotick ideas about what had to happen before sending employees back to work. “We’ve already been able to put a lot of things in practice,” Kotick said.

While the situation is fluid, Kotick said that essential workers would go back first. That’s a relatively small number of staffers, he said. Most of the employees may have the option to go back to work in the coming months. (Kotick said that before the latest wave of infections in California).

“Now we are working with them to design specific back-to-work solutions to help them plan return to the workplace for essential workers and then all workers,” Desai said. “They continue to work with us to deliver highly flexible care models in the home, via telemedicine.”

The first thing employees will have to do is fill out a questionnaire. The Heal doctors can clear anyone who has been sick already. Then they will need to get tested in places like Santa Monica and Irvine, using PCR testing (polymerase chain reaction). It’s a costly test requiring a nasal swab, but it can check for a variety of coronaviruses, not just COVID-19, as well as the flu and other bacterial infections. Those tests deliver results instantly, Kotick said.

The unnamed employee I interviewed said, “I’m looking forward to going back to the office because I am a little stir-crazy at home. Just having the flexibility to work from home — I really prefer that kind of approach. People have many different situations, and having a flexible work situation is important.”

Employees can also opt for saliva tests that they can send back via the mail. If the employees pass two different kinds of tests, they can go into the office. They’ll find that the company has installed machines with big chambers where you put your outerwear to sterilize with ultraviolet light.

The doors in places like bathrooms are being automated to eliminate the need to touch them. People will wander through the building doing thermometer tests on employees. Teams will work in shifts so they can work in a team environment, but in a socially distanced way, with masks and gloves. The company will post hand sanitizer.