Navigating your Virtual Workplace: Expert Insights from Dr. Dani Kimlinger

As HCAA Members navigate healthcare’s new normal, HCAA (@HCAAinfo) interviewed a few experts on how they’ve overcome business challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. This feature highlights Dr. Dani Kimlinger, CEO of MINES and Associates, where she shares a few best practices on improving the virtual workplace.

Dr. Kimlinger, what were some of your challenges leading your organization? How did you and your team overcome those challenges?

We are in the behavioral health space and anticipated a high level of need ahead. When the pandemic began, only about 50 percent of our staff were equipped to work remotely. We knew that we had a responsibility to our employees and to our clients to ensure that our employees could work from home for their health and well-being. Within two days, our CIO identified the phone system that we wanted to move forward with, and in less than a week, it was up running and 100 percent of our staff could work from home with no disruption in client care.

We made strong moves throughout the last few years to offer mental health services in the EAP and managed care areas through various modalities including telephonic, video and message-based. We were equipped to offer not only counseling services through these modalities, but also psychiatry, therapeutic groups, organizational development services, financial, legal, wellness and critical incident support debriefings.

What are you most proud of as the CEO over the last 10 days? How did that happen?

I am MOST proud of our team at MINES! Everyone had a contribution that has made a significant impact inside the organization as well as on our clients and communities. They have jumped in and supported our individual and organizational clients in the most creative ways. We have client organizations going through significant difficulties from trying financial times, to workforce reductions and uncertainties, to their employees being on the front lines in the face of the pandemic.

What are some of the self-care activities you are doing while being locked down even though you run an essential business in healthcare?

Self-care is important no matter how little control you have of your environment. Self-care is pretty holistic for me and that includes working out, getting a good night’s sleep, and eating well. Keeping that routine alive and well is important now to combat daily stress, keep my immune system up, and overall feel as good as I can. Running, taking my dogs for walks, lifting weights, virtual connections (trivia, games, happy hours, meals, etc). Just my two cents – it’s important to assess what you need to energize yourself and experiment with some ways to do just that.

What challenges do you see coming up for employees over the next eight weeks? What do you recommend to the members of HCAA as ideas for helping their employees?

I think that one of the greatest challenges is that there is so much unknown. Unknowns on a larger societal scale as well as at the individual level. These multi-dimensional and complex challenges will no doubt have an impact on our employees. My biggest recommendation for helping your employee is to connect and communicate.

During this time especially, you cannot communicate too often. Communicate what you know to be true to your employees. We’re in healthcare! Make sure to share your stories! Last, on communication, be sure to keep the one-on-one communication high with your direct reports and encourage your leaders below you to do the same! Check-in! How are your staff doing personally? With work? What resources do your employees have available to them? Make sure to share as much as you can and emphasize the support that they have available to them.

What is the flip side of the challenges? Specifically, what are the opportunities you see as an outcome of the pandemic for how the members of HCAA do business, address culture in their organizations, support employees going forward?

I think that there will be several silver linings coming out of this pandemic. We have all had to adapt and be more flexible in how we live life, how we work, and overall, how we exist. This is a time to reevaluate all our assumptions about how we do business. Telehealth is one good example. How can virtual service delivery be used in claims processing, benefit design, underwriting, creative risk management decisions and instruments among a few important areas of HCAA.

Read more Navigating Your Virtual Workplace from other HCAA members.

About HCAA
The Health Care Administrators Association is the nation’s most prominent nonprofit trade association supporting the education, networking, resource and advocacy needs of health benefit administrators (TPAs), stop loss insurance carriers, managing general underwriters, audit firms, medical managers, technology organizations, pharmacy benefit managers, brokers/agents, human resource managers and health care consultants. For over 40 years, HCAA has taken a leadership role in transforming the self-funding industry, and increasing the importance of self-funding as an important alternative in the health care delivery systems of our country.