Highmark Health closed out 2019 with a solid five-year strategic plan designed to dramatically improve the customer health experience by leveraging our blended health approach and implementing a new Living Health model. Teams were in place to execute our Higher Mark strategy, and the organization's sustained financial strength and stability in 2019 enabled us to continue to build strategic partnerships and to reinvest in the communities we serve, both through unprecedented reductions in insurance premium levels and the expansion of Allegheny Health Network (AHN).
Then, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic.
As a health industry leader, we began planning in February as the virus spread across the globe. Our financial strength and stability enabled the rapid deployment of resources needed to support our members, patients and communities. We've used our blended health approach as teams from every business unit worked together to solve problems, blending their skills, knowledge, and experience to create new solutions, and to be there when those we serve needed us the most.
We took action unheard of during "normal times," and at an incredible pace, moving employees to work from home in mid-March and expanding AHN's telehealth capabilities to accommodate up to 20,000 weekly visits. Accelerating the broad use of telehealth visits enabled us to quickly meet the needs of our customers, while protecting them, and their doctor's health and safety. Our infection prevention and clinical leaders are highly engaged in best-practice discussions around how to safely and gradually return to the new workplace, working side by side with our health plan and strategic partners.
Stepping Up and Stepping Forward
We'll continue to fight our war against this invisible enemy, but we also need to continue to shape the path forward, and as you will see in this report, 2019 was pivotal in that process. We envision a new reality as we come through the crisis, knowing that COVID-19 won't disappear anytime soon. A vaccine will be developed in the long term, but we must be prepared in the meantime.
In other words, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the terrain will continue to change in ways we can't entirely predict. So, we're gearing up to play the long game. Organizationally, our focus is on what we need to do to adapt and remain effective, both for immediate needs and the long term. Highmark Health has been ahead of the curve since day one when it comes to preparing for COVID-19, and we're going to stay ahead of it.
Employees across Highmark Health have demonstrated amazing resiliency and ability to adapt in the face of big challenges and that has been even more evident in responding to COVID-19. There are thousands of people behind the scenes who have been stepping up, volunteering to do work outside their normal jobs, and asking how they can help. We see that same spirit throughout our communities.
We will not only weather this crisis together, but emerge stronger than before and even better prepared to pursue our vision of a world where everyone embraces health.
Joseph C. Guyaux
Chairman, Board of Directors, Highmark Health
David L. Holmberg
President & Chief Executive Officer, Highmark Health
$900 million has been reinvested in the organization to build out community access and improve the customer health experience.