September 4, 2020
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kelly Jones, CVS Health

As we head into the Labor Day holiday weekend, many companies are focused on having their employees return to the workplace to accelerate efforts to get business back on track.   To help companies safely bring employees back, Salesforce and CVS Health are teaming up to integrate Salesforce’s workplace management platform, which allows for wellness monitoring and manual contract tracing, with CVS’ Return Ready offering, which offers tracking and insights on COVID-19 testing.

To learn more about the partnership and how it can make it easier for companies to bring employees back in ways that keep them safe while still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I recently spoke with Bill Patterson – Salesforce EVP/GM of CRM Applications, and Kelly Jones – Division Head, National Accounts Business Unit at CVS Health.

Interview with Bill Patterson – Salesforce and Kelly Jones – CVS Health on How to Bring Employees Back Safely

Below is an edited transcript from a portion of our conversation.  Click on the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full conversation.

Small Business Trends:  Before we get into the partnership, maybe each of you can talk about what each of your companies were working on to help get people and companies safely back to work.  Bill, maybe you can tell us about

Bill Patterson: It’s a solution that we built on the Salesforce CRM platform infrastructure to really help organizations come back to work. Plan coming back to work, plan their safety for their employees, and to operationalize new policies, new procedures, new focus around things like wellness that I think are really just such a critical function for businesses today to kind of reopen their operations.

But the other thing that did was it really inspired us to lean in with the health and medical expert community. We have great partnerships with the UCSF Medical Center, working with great data sets like the New York Times around just the rate of testing and progression of the COVID-19 virus as we think about around the world. And we wanted to also lean in with our partners. I could not be more excited to have our partner in CVS here today really to kind of talk about how the power of applications, and data, and ecosystems come together really to manifest this new era of safety. I think that’s really just kind of the inspiration that we had in creating this new product line.

Small Business Trends: Hey, Kelly. Maybe you could tell us about Return Ready.

Kelly Jones: Kind of similar to Bill, when the pandemic initially started, we realized we’ve got some amazing assets that we can leverage nationwide to really help the nation, our citizens, our employers out there in the economy. From the beginning just about, we’ve had our focus on increasing access and accessibility to testing for COVID-19. It’s evolved from community testing … just open to the public at our CVS drive-throughs… to now what we call Return Ready, which is really an offering intended initially for employers.

And then we realized there’s a need as well for universities to be able to offer COVID testing on their own outside of just the public option, so that they can really get either back to work or to help with business continuity as well. We offer testing now as well through our CVS drive-through sites. But additionally, we can essentially stand up a laboratory onsite at an employer or campus to be able to increase that local access to testing, and basically give folks an easy button to be able to get testing.

Small Business Trends: What brought you guys together? What brought the combination of what Salesforce is doing with, with CVS and what you’re doing with Return Ready?

Bill Patterson: I think both of us really are cultures of action. As you talk about and hear Kelly’s words, there was a lot of great innovation that CVS has in its arsenal to be able to help at this time. What we know is that the focus around testing, tracing, quarantine … these are kind of key primitives that we’ve proven to be successful to help economies get into a better position to be able to reopen. As we went forth with the announcement, I think it was May 6th, it was not long after that we had a great partner in CVS wanting to stand alongside us to really come in and make this ecosystem really something powerful.

Kelly Jones: Just as we think about testing, it obviously plays a really important role in COVID management, workplace management, campus management. But that’s not the only thing that needs to happen really to have a comprehensive view of what’s going on in a community. You need to be able to take action off of those test results as well. That’s really where we saw a partner, or an alliance, possible with Salesforce where we could complete that circle. Looking at wellness checking, as well as the contact tracing. And with testing kind of sandwiched in between, and being able to inform both of those or be informed by those tools in those solutions as well.

Bill Patterson: Yeah. Brent, just one other thing that kind of led to the orientation of this. In this time, given the state of the pandemic, the opportunity for the private sector and the public sector to work with one another … We leaned in very early with the state of Rhode Island and Governor Gina Raimondo to use the Salesforce platform to stand up rapid contact tracing for citizens of that state.

Rhode Island today is one of the most densely populated states in the nation, and has done an amazing job with their contact tracing experiences. Also, Governor Raimondo was very instrumental in making the initial connections between our organizations. It’s not often that a software company and a health company have worked together closely, but she was very instrumental in it, and also made those initial.

Walking through an Example of How to Bring Employees Back to the Workplace

Small Business Trends: Could you walk us through how a potential use case, or maybe a typical use case, would be for this partnership?

Bill Patterson: Yeah. I’m happy to start. And Kelly, maybe you can kind of add in … especially the employer-led testing scenario I think would be great here. But Brent, you’re totally right. Man, there is nothing typical here. I think we’re all experiencing a relative degree of newness around the comfort of coming back to the office. The one thing that we do know is that data, and access to data, and clear access to data is super paramount in terms of planning the operations about coming back to work. We leaned in very heavily with and our Tableau data hub around public and private data sets coming together giving that information to decision makers, whether that be HR directors, facility managers, operations managers who have to plan the opening of their facilities.


The first scenario is just clearly access to data to make those decisions more harmonized. The second thing we did was we built out a wellness surveying application. And this example would be in the event that you were going to plan, say, a reopening of a building let’s say in San Francisco like where I work here in Salesforce Tower, you would want to notify everyone that the building is open. But prior to coming into the building, let’s have you go through a wellness test in a wellness check at-home before you get in your car or hop on public transportation.

The wellness application for, we built in partnership with the CDC. We modeled all of the initial questions for CDC guidelines for just overall screening. Those questions also can be modified or tailored to the needs of any state, any geography, any sovereignty that has maybe different data requirements to capture in the moment. All that data is stored privately, and with high degrees of discretion in the Salesforce platform. It’s not shared. It’s encrypted. It’s something that won’t be used for marketing or sales reasons. But the wellness application basically says I’m eligible to come in, but that’s where that platform kind of stops. This is where really getting into testing as someone gets into the workplace is really paramount, and I think a great opportunity for Kelly to share how the CVS solution comes in.

Kelly Jones: That’s exactly right. If you’ve got the wellness monitoring upfront, somebody raises their hand through that monitoring application that says, “Hey, you know what? I’ve got a fever. I’m not feeling well.” What do you do at that point? That’s where an employer could direct them to Return Ready depending on which mode of testing that they chose to have available to their employee population, and give them that access and direction on where they could go get a test.

And then conversely if they’re already at the worksite, they’re feeling well, we have a lot of employers that are using testing more as a proactive surveillance tool to make sure that folks are remaining negative, that they’re not there potentially asymptomatic working onsite as well. It gives them that option … just one more risk reduction tool in their arsenal of workforce strategy and business continuity.

And then conversely if somebody does test positive, whether it’s because they were feeling ill and they got a confirmation, or just through that proactive surveillance testing, then that’s where our solution has really robust comprehensive reporting that the employer can access down to individual-level results. We get consent to be able to share that information back with their employer, but then what does the employer do with that information?

They need to do contact tracing. Especially if that individual had been in the workplace, we need to be able to be sure that if they are in a type of job function where they were interacting with other employees or might’ve passed through an area. That’s where that contact tracing and the tools offers can really fill in that gap, and give the resources, and the technological aspect to be able to do that contact tracing in a less manual way than what a lot of employers started out with, which was truly just an Excel spreadsheet trying to keep track of it. That got old pretty quickly. So, being able to really do that full continuum from symptoms all the way to contact tracing, and then that testing is so critical in the middle.

Small Business Trends: What do companies need to do to be able to take the most advantage of this partnership? Are there things that they have to make sure they’re organizationally ready to handle before they jump full into this?

Kelly Jones: I think from the Return Ready perspective, we’ve designed an offering intentionally that’s meant to be very personalized and configurable by employers. We have multiple different types of testing that they can make available to their employees. Really, it’s sitting down, having a conversation, and allowing us to be consulted with them to help them design a testing offering that really meets their specific needs. Whether that’s rapid testing that’s right there on site, if you’re taking advantage of the 1,800 and growing CVS testing sites around the nation, or doing an onsite collection event. A large scale collection event where we can get everybody at one of their facilities. We have samples collected all in one day.

Having just that consultation, and talking to somebody who understands what a lot of different employers are doing and trying to manage is how to really start the process at least from a testing perspective. And then once they’re up and running with us, that’s where that tie in to happens where they can allow the testing results to be available within It’s an easy action on their part, but that’s certainly something that … we recommend taking action off of the data, and is a great place to do that.

Bill Patterson: Kelly just said the perfect word, which is action. What employers need to do is act. And what employers need to do is act in the spirit of what is right for their employees, what is right for their customers, what’s right for their communities around them. It’s more than just kind of investing in technologies. It’s really being willing to step into boundaries that maybe once were not clear. As you mentioned, Brent, companies now need to be respectful with data around the health of their employees. They need to help all employees understand the new policies and procedures that will come back into the workplace, meaning maybe I’m not allowed to have personal items on my desk anymore. That might be a new policy that you really see as a result of kind of this crisis coming full suit.

But at the end of the day, it’s really action. I think that what we need right now are not really those just to sit on the sidelines and watch as this game is unfolding, but really get in there. Take care of your employees. Take care of your customers. Know the role that we have to reopen business to get our communities back and thriving again. This is truly something I think we need to make sure that we have a culture of action hitting our business landscape around us.

Small Business Trends: Is this aimed at any particular kind of businesses, or sizes of businesses? Who is this for?

Bill Patterson: The virus doesn’t discriminate if you’re a big business or a small business, nor do our technologies. This solution really for can be used by the smallest of businesses and the largest organizations around the world. I think that our partner in CVS is also really excited at making sure that everyone has a chance to participate here as well.

Kelly Jones: Yeah, and I’ll echo what Bill said. Yeah. We’ve designed the solution in such a way that it’s really about what the employer needs to address their specific type of work that they do, the type of job functions that they do. And if they have enough need for testing given their business, we are happy to be a partner with them to be able to provide that for them.

Small Business Trends: There’s a lot of … each state could have different regulations or different rules. How do you help with that part of the process?

Kelly Jones: From a Return Ready perspective, we actually handle all of the regulatory reporting. When you see all those statistics out there on how many positive cases there are, if that test was performed by CVS Health staff, we are handling the reporting to those agencies that then report it out publicly. We make that easy on the employers and then take care of that for them.

Bill Patterson: Yeah. Same on our side. We have built it … is a really an open platform so that if there are different regulations. I just saw last weekend that maybe six feet is not the required distance that we need to now be spending, so maybe it’s now 10 feet. Well, those are variables that can be easily modified quickly inside the platform, and things like your shift scheduling, or your distance spacing for Qs can be accommodated appropriately. We find out new things about this virus every day. I think sometimes it’s a little confusing for businesses about what are the actions that need to be taken, or should we wait for more clarity here? But technology can facilitate so much good. Again, working in this open platform way is something that we definitely want businesses to have the tools they need to mobilize.


This article, “Kelly Jones of CVS Health: We’ve teamed up with Salesforce to Make Going Back to Work Safer, Easier” was first published on Small Business Trends