New technologies are improving workers’ compensation programs in everything including communications and training, healthcare delivery, and claims, according to experts.
Tom Ryan, market research leader for Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence, says there are several areas of workers’ compensation that can benefit from technology:
- In communications with employees. Information critical to prevent injuries and claim updates can be provided to employees via smartphone mobile applications.
- In sharing workforce training via an employer’s intranet or through smartphone applications.
- In delivering care to injured workers. Through tele-medicine and via mobile apps that can direct injured workers to preferred medical providers.
- In managing claims by providing customizable email alerts, such as notifications when prescriptions are ready.
Wearable technology is also having an impact. Wearables can monitor employee movements and alert coworkers of danger, as well as monitor fatigue, body temperature and repetitive motion. The information can be used in training, fraud prevention and wellness programs, Ryan said.
Construction industry wearables include high-tech vests and helmets that have lights or vibrate to alert employees of potentially dangerous changes in surroundings.
Some firms are equipping forklifts to sound an alarm or flash lights to warn employees and the public. Many pieces of equipment require both hands to operate and can be fitted with vibrating sensors to alert the operators to changes in their surroundings.
Joseph Molloy, vice president of workforce safety at Northwell Health, offered an example of the improvements made at Northwell after the company created a centralized workforce safety department and revamped its employee injury reporting system.
Previously, injuries were reported to different parts of the company. He said employees were confused throughout the life of an injury on whom to report to and what to report. Completion of forms by employees was inconsistent, and penmanship was an issue. For example, asking where an accident occurred resulted in answers from an address to a building floor to a hospital.
Molloy said Northwell used technology to improve its incident reporting rate. The company added automated forms and connected employee data so that the forms could be partially prefilled. It also added multiple ways to report an incident, including a mobile app and a 1-800-number. Completed employee injury reports were then sent to the supervisor, safety officer, human resources, Broadspire (its third-party claims administrator) and workforce safety department that triages cases to determine potential nurse case management opportunities.
According to Molloy, the benefits of the new system include more employees being placed in transitional return-to-work assignments and a positive response from employees.
Molloy said the keys to success when implementing these types of changes include engaging senior leadership and sharing the mission’s method and rationale for the change.
Donna Sides, senior insurance manager and workers’ compensation supervisor with Bank of America, said her company implemented a telenursing program for insured employees. This included a dedicated 24/7 reporting line that allowed injured workers to speak to a registered nurse and directly report a claim.
She explained that the nurse will assess the medical history, injury, pain level, obtain an accident description and offer a first aid type of treatment recommendation. If additional treatment is warranted, the nurse will direct employees to an in-network provider where allowed and then schedule the appointment. Call notes are uploaded to the Bank of America claims system and are viewable by adjusters.
Sides said the use of telemedicine at Bank of America has resulted in higher network penetration, lower claims severity and lower claims costs.
David Lupinsky, vice president at CorVel Corp., said telehealth allows employers to create virtual clinics, which drive greater productivity.
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