GC Fireside

Responding to COVID-19

Matt Gipple
August 17, 2020

Can you briefly describe Forward’s response to COVID-19?

This is hard to be brief; Forward has done a ton in response to the virus. Early in March we built a self-assessment tool to help our members understand their risk and where they may stand regarding the infection. We opened that tool up to the public in mid-March. We were one of the earliest clinics to have COVID-19 testing, we launched drive through testing at several clinics on March 19, and we’re hoping to expand our capacity significantly, thanks to new testing suppliers coming online, in the next week. We’ve ramped up our mental health support for our members, built out a website of helpful information, posted COVID-19 blog, video, and email updates from our Head of Medicine, and performed thousands of check-ins with our members. Finally, we’re about to launch an updated, even more at-home-friendly, version of Forward.

Separately, we’re working hard to protect the heroes that are our medical staff. Before beginning COVID-19 testing we retrofitted our clinics to have better air filtration, we created an entire COVID protocol, covering member directions, staff responsibilities, cleaning, PPE, and strategic scheduling to limit exposure. We’re constantly updating protocols based on new information, and have also now built out strategies for workforce sickness contingencies and how to still get care to our members who need it. None of this touches on what we’ve done from a corporate perspective regarding governance, spending, non-medical staff, etc.. We’ve also spent a lot of time on those matters, but we are likely not all that unique in that regard. What this company has done in the last month has been amazing!

How do you mitigate risk in COVID-19?

This is really hard. We’re in a crisis and there is risk everywhere. What to do with staff? What medicines to buy or not buy? How to act in the grey area of unclear FDA guidance? How to build – based on waivers of laws from short-term emergency declarations, or based on what we know (/hope) the laws will revert to in a few months when the world gets this thing under control? Mitigating risk is my job, but it is also my job to help this company help as many people as possible. What we’re thinking about is how to help people, how to keep people safe, how to meet regulatory requirements, and how to use capital and resources wisely to build a business that can survive and thrive now and going forward. Perhaps this actually isn’t all that different from normal times.

How has the transition been to a WFH policy?

Ok, but difficult! I had a new hire start for me last week, and onboarding is a challenge. We have yet to find a great way to have her get a feel for the organization, quickly know who’s who, and “tap someone on the shoulder” for a quick/embarrassing/easy question. Our leadership team is also focusing on (1) creating meaningful company and team social activities and (2) establishing norms around a “normal work day” and when work starts and stops.

What advice do you have for in house counsel?

Talk to other GCs. Lead on your exec team by being level headed and a driver of progress – everything is crazy, but you can help them get through it! Get in front of your board: don’t leave them in the dark, let them know what you’re doing, seek (appropriate) advice/help from them. Try to talk to people across the organization high and low so you have a read on what’s going on. Read TechGC!

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