Earlier today, I addressed the attendees of the 68th Annual Workers' Compensation Educational Conference and the 25th Annual Safety and Health Conference. I challenged each individual to continue the conversation for industry advancement and shared what I believe to be the key issues at the forefront of today's claims business.
Workers' compensation professionals will help over two million injured and ill employees this year alone. The system works, but our industry and the employers we serve need us to do more by focusing on:
- Improving the use of technology
- Redefining what quality means to the industry
- Impacting government regulations to make it easier to do the right thing each and every time
- Preparing for the changes that the Affordable Care Act is expected to bring
There is more of a demand for real time, comprehensive information than ever before, and many technology advancements are being made. With the introduction of push technology in the workers' compensation arena, injured workers can choose how they want to receive communications. Technology is also providing more information to guide decision-making. It is important to remember that technology alone will not lead to success. Rather, it is the increased information and the willingness to act on it that will lead to improved outcomes.
Traditionally, the measurement of quality was centered on compliance principles and retrospective claim file reviews. Going forward, quality measurement needs to be more outcomes focused. It also needs to be performed closer to when the work was completed so that steps toward continuous improvement can be made.
Another key area is the opportunity for renewed activism on the part of industry supporters. Some examples where employers and service providers have made a positive difference are the Medicare Advocacy Recovery Coalition or the Smart Act, the 2012 California reforms, and the recent Oklahoma legislation allowing employers to establish an alternative workers' compensation benefit plan. When legislation is not working as intended or when regulators are not correctly implementing much needed bills, employers and industry groups must unite to bring about change.
Finally, I talked about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the changes expected. More specifically, I focused on how it will likely impact access to care, the consolidation of providers and facilities, and the projected use of accountable care organizations.
In summary, I believe each of us can make a positive difference in this industry. Going forward, we need to embrace technology, measure quality differently, influence legislative changes with one voice, and prepare for the impact of the ACA. I challenge you to keep the conversation going for the betterment of the industry.
Read more in the Workers' Compensation Institute's article highlighting the key points covered in my speech today and share your own thoughts in our comments forum.
David A. North, President and CEO