RIMS 2016: Star Trek Tools, Workers Comp’s Future Help Draw Biggest Crowd in 13 Years

By | April 15, 2016

Workers’ compensation, geopolitical risks, recalls, disaster response, the captive industry and cyber security were among the topics of sessions held throughout the final day of the annual RIMS conference for risk management and insurance professionals in San Diego, Calif.

The conference, which began Sunday, drew some 10,500 people, with 75 countries represented, according to organizers, who say it was the biggest conference in the last 13 years.

The next annual conference, RIMS 2017, is set for the Philadelphia Convention Center from April 23-26.

Mark Walls, vice president of communications and strategic analysis for Safety National, and William Zachry, vice president of risk management for Safeway Inc., reviewed worker’s compensation cases and current affairs around the nation in a session titled “The Back-Up Plan: Workers’ Compensation and Employers Liability.”

The panelists talked about conditions excluded under workers’ comp, and the erosion of the exclusive remedy in some states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, California and Wyoming.

RIMS16_conference logoIn California a new utilization review (UR) procedure that was ushered in under the state’s 2012 workers’ comp reform law, SB 863, has generated numerous lawsuits from injured workers being denied care because reviewing physicians have deemed procedures or drugs unnecessary, the speakers said.

The Legislature’s intent in creating UR was to lower costs in the worker’s comp system. A recent examination of California workers’ comp independent medical review decisions, another piece of the reform legislation, showed roughly nine-in-10 disputed medical service requests reviewed by an IMR physician agree with the UR determination that the service is not medically necessary.

The examination conducted by the California Workers’ Compensation Institute seems to indicate the process is working as advertised, according to the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB)

Walls said courts are split on UR.

“The lower courts in California have allowed those cases to proceed,” Walls said. “In most cases the higher courts have been shutting them down.”

Workers’ compensation was also a topic at other sessions, including one on the promise of wearable technology for improving worker safety and health. Attendees learned how not just Fitbit and Jawbone but also wearable technology in fabrics, GPS, exoskeletons can improve ergonomics and monitor people and locations.

Star Trek

Technology promises a lot more than wearables. RIMS attendees also learned how new inventions predicted by the science fiction television show Star Trek will soon be of use to the insurance industry

James Benham, chief executive officer of tech firm JBK Knowledge Inc., talked about next generation technologies including sensors, drones and wearable devices, and how they will redefine insurance operations.

Behnam hosted a panel titled “Future Forecast: How Drones, Sensors and Integrated Apps are Rewriting all the Rules.”

He believes risk management is currently being transformed.

Google, for example, uses multiple video cameras at the firm’s numerous construction where its buildings are going up, Behnam said. The cameras feed into computers, where software can determine if something unsafe is happening on the construction site. If so, the computer notifies a supervisor who can call the job site within five minutes to initiate corrective action, he said.

Tablets can be now used to take pictures and videos, as well as create 3-D images of an accident scene so a claims professional can better assess the damages and what occurred, while drones are being used to 3-D map buildings inside and out to give insurers a picture of the buildings and their contents, he said.

Wearables are another “game changer” for the insurance industry, according to Behnam.

Tactile sensors in gloves can warn a wearer via a haptic motor if their hand is getting close to a flame or sawblade, and visual wearables can provide crucial virtual reality training.

“I actually went through a virtual reality CPR course,” he said, adding that he was able to practice resuscitation on a 3-D figure projected into goggles he was wearing. He said the course was better than a live CPR course he had previously taken.


Another difference maker for all industries is Google Translate, which enables users to type words in one language and receive a translation. The company has recently produced a smartphone app that lets users take a picture of a word or words and get a translation, according to Behnam.

In the Star Trek universe crew members on the starship Enterprise were able to speak to alien beings though the use of an unseen, and unexplained, universal translator.

“Google Translate is a ground-breaking technology,” Behnam said. “If you’re a Star Trek fan, then the universal translator is here.”

Magic Leap, a retinal projection device, projects holograms onto a wearer’s vision through glasses. Such technology could be used to put danger signs in front of someone walking into a hard hat area, or give them to-do reminders, Behnam said.

He said the developers have already raised $1.2 billion in funding, and Behnam sees that as the tip of the visual wearable technology iceberg.

“There’s a whole slew of companies that next year are dedicated to getting rid of computer monitors,” he said.


The threat of wildfire in California was tackled in a session titled “Catastrophic Risk Mitigation Through Analytics: Wildfire Threat Index,” hosted by Brian D’Agostino, meteorology program manager for emergency management at San Diego Gas and Electric, and Katherine Carbon, director-risk analysis and management at Sempra Energy.

They pointed out the dangers of Southern California’s unique weather risks – the fierce Santa Ana winds combined with a lack of moisture – are a perfect storm for catastrophic wildfires.

D’Agostino and Carbon discussed analytics, mitigating wildfire risks and gathering data.


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