We had 72 hours flat – to move 4,000 people out of office and set up secure workstations in their homes

Vijay Anand - Global IT, CorroHealth

The Challenge: When the first COVID lockdown was announced in India, CorroHealth had 72 hours to move 4,000 employees – across Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore – out of office, provide them with monitors, CPU, mouse, keyboards, dongles, headsets, and set them up to work from home. With zero disruption to company productivity.

Story:

CorroHealth was never a work-from-home organization. It could not afford to be one. We are in the business of medical coding and medical billing and revenue cycle management services. This meant our business ran on the power of data security, compliance, confidentiality, integrity, and client trust.

Since we deal with a lot of patient information and healthcare data, we typically function like a bank, following stringent compliance guidelines, including SOC, ISO27001, HIPAA, CCPA, NIST, and HITRUST.

The CorroHealth offices were like high-security fortresses. Employees could not carry mobile phones to their workstations. There was secure access to desktops. The office infrastructure and networks were regularly sanitized and secured.

Then COVID-19 happened. And we were forced to move out of our offices.

We had 72 hours flat – to move 4,000 people out of office, organize desktops, ship them to our employees’ homes, and ensure that every security protocol is followed stringently – and ensure that work continues without any blips on the radar.

Since the medical billing sector pivots on high-security protocols, BYOD doesn’t work in our industry. So we leased 1500 desktops apart from the 2500 owned by us, sanitized them, installed our security software, did repeated QA testing on the systems, and shipped them to our employees, who were now located across India – as many of them had headed to their home towns during the lockdown.

Every employee required a monitor (some even needed two), a CPU, keyboard, headset, mouse, and dongle to set up a functioning and secure workspace at home. Do the Math and that equals over 20,000 assets to be shipped in a three-day window period.

Complete chaos ensued. I mobilized every contact I could tap in my network, be it telecom companies for the dongles, IT system providers, or the police and bureaucracy to create a safe passage for our deliveries.

The deliveries happened without a glitch, and work did not stop for even a day. I learned a major lesson in those three critical days – people do step up to help each other in crisis situations.

The other big challenge we tackled was to address our client’s security concerns and leave no room for compromise and complaints. As the lockdowns trigged a global shift towards remote-working, we were inundated with calls from concerned customers.

● What’s going to happen to our data?
● How are you going to ensure there’s no security breach?
● What happens if someone downloads our data illegally?
Fielding such queries became a regular part of our job.”

It was the IT team’s primary responsibility to ensure no data breaches happened. Besides denting client trust, such a violation could cost us millions of dollars in fines.

Deploying data security protocols in 4,000 homes across India was a huge ask. We rolled up our sleeves and got cracking. We issued guidelines, installed data theft prevention tools, and incorporated security features at every level.

In the past 2 years, we have deployed an additional 5,000 desktops to new hires who are completely in a WFH mode.

We also migrated all our employees to a secure VDI environment and Zero Trust VPN . This way, users could not access anything on their workstation except client-related sites. They could not transfer any data from the system either.

When I worked from the office, I followed a comfortable 10 hour work schedule. The lockdown turned life upside down. There were times when I was clocking a 20-hour workday. There were non-stop calls as we coordinated system deliveries and set up IT safety nets in thousands of homes. I don’t recall when days rolled into nights, and weeks into months.

But the spectacular end results we posted more than made up for the stress. We achieved 100% productivity with zero time loss. This also happened because the management was supportive and gave us a free hand with the budgets, as long as we delivered everything that our clients wanted.

CorroHealth’s work-from-home experiment was such a resounding success that we have now permanently moved to a hybrid work model. Going forward, only 30% of our employees will come into the office.

We have doubled our size and are currently around 7,500 people strong in India - and still growing.

From a LAN-connectivity-based organization, we’ve transitioned to becoming a bandwidth-connectivity-based company. In the business of medical coding and billing, you can call it a revolutionary move.

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