2020 Risk All Star: Joe Molloy and Cris Balamaci

The COVID Crisis Demanded Top-Notch Risk Management from These Hospital Risk Professionals — and the Team Delivered

Cristine Balamaci, assistant vice president, workers’ compensation, Northwell Health

Joseph Molloy, vice president of workerforce safety, Northwell Health

To date, New York’s Northwell Health system has treated around 15,000 COVID-19 patients. Roughly 5,000 of them were Northwell employees.

In a matter of weeks, the health care system’s hospitals were inundated with positive cases and plagued by potential PPE and equipment shortages, all while leaders struggled to interpret and apply CDC guidelines and shift non-clinical roles to remote work.

Fortunately, the organization expected to be hit hard. Though no one can completely prepare for the impact of a novel disease, Northwell had plans in place that would allow it to be nimble and responsive as the situation evolved.

Its proactive approach centered on clear and quick communication.

“We opened up a command center in January, which gathers around 200 of our senior leaders across the organization each morning to discuss what’s going on and what needs to be done,” said Joseph Molloy, vice president of workerforce safety.

“Every department was represented — HR, legal, risk, operations, workers safety, procurement, etc. That way issues could be handled immediately.”

“The common theme was communication among all parties. We all had to step up to the plate,” added Cristine Balamaci, assistant vice president, workers’ compensation.

For Molloy and Balamaci, improving communication also meant fixing the disconnect between multiple data sources that threatened to trip up efficient management of workers’ comp claims.

“We knew we’d have thousands of cases coming in from different sources. Some would be filed through our normal workers’ comp reporting process, but others would come from HR or employee health services. We worked with Broadspire to get that data integrated so we could start adjudicating and processing these claims,” Molloy said.

“We conducted root cause analysis on those areas that were highly affected to try and determine whether infections were contracted through community spread, in which case the claim would impact employee health instead of workers’ comp,” Balamaci said.

“We then built a database with employee health, so all the information was in one place. This let us keep track of claims that were incident-only versus medical or indemnity. And it ensures that any sick employee was connected to the right resources and getting the best care promptly.”

Advance planning and investment in technology also made the transition to remote work a speedy and safe one for non-clinical employees.

After a particularly nasty winter three years ago, senior leadership realized the need to create a system that would be fully operational from employees’ homes if commuting was impossible. Because the plan for a virtual shift was already in place, all non-clinical staff were moved to remote work in the first week of March.

“Joe and Cris are both very dedicated to the well-being of Northwell’s employees. They’ve given me a new perspective on employer advocacy. They both go above and beyond to ensure that injured or sick workers are getting the best care possible and the best chance at recovery,” said John Lastella, Broadspire’s vice president of claims, who worked closely with the Northwell team on data integration. &

Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, clarity of vision and passion.

See the complete list of 2020 Risk All Stars.

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