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How could current and future technology shape workers’ compensation?


New technology is reshaping the world in which we live. It takes the form of self-driving cars, virtual reality and 3-dimensional (3D) printers. Once thought to be cold and impersonal, technology is redefining our expectations and how we view a quality customer experience. It is no surprise that new technologies are also reshaping workers’ compensation as we know it. Soon, it will be difficult to remember a time when mobile apps, telemedicine and artificial intelligence were not part of the workers’ compensation claims process. And, it’s not hard to imagine there are many more advancements to come.

The technology currently being used and the prototypes soon to hit the market are remarkable. As an example, technology is a dominant component underlying the advocacy movement in the claims world. As service providers work diligently to improve an injured worker’s experience and alleviate much of the accompanying uncertainty, technology is being used to provide information to injured workers more quickly and conveniently.

What technologies are making an impact on workers’ compensation – today and tomorrow?

Smart technology
: Smartphones, tablets and mobile devices allow injured workers to be more empowered in the claims process than ever, capable of checking claim status and payment information in real time, corresponding and meeting virtually with examiners and nurse case managers, submitting important documents and photos, even reporting their own claims – all according to their own preferences using tools like mobile applications, messaging and chat platforms.
Tomorrow: Gamification of the claims experience through self-service applications will encourage and empower employees to take a more active role in their recovery and return to work. With the rise in wearable devices and connected health initiatives, application programming interfaces (APIs) will begin to be integrated into mobile self-service tools to support injured workers within the workers’ compensation system. First fill pharmacy cards will become part of a person’s digital wallet, thereby increasing convenience and satisfaction for workers’ compensation patients needing prescription drugs.

Automated correspondence
: Automated correspondence and rules engines can be engaged by employers and claims administrators to direct workflow and send real-time notifications via text or email when triggered by specific claim events. The efficiencies achieved allow organizations to direct additional resources where they will have the most impact – supporting the injured worker – while having the added benefit of potentially lowering costs, improving productivity and achieving higher levels of employee satisfaction.
Tomorrow: Techniques such as automated empathy have the opportunity to automate the experience by motivating the employee through familiar, text-like interaction. These technologies will be driven by artificial intelligence rooted in behavioral patterns and can also reduce the workload of busy claims professionals.

Paperless solutions
: Electronic signatures eliminate stacks of paper forms and support faster settlements and claim acknowledgements. Injured workers can sign up for direct deposit through mobile applications. Biometric authentication that simplifies the way employees sign up for and interact with self-service tools is becoming more refined; consider, for example, secure thumbprint recognition features integrated with the latest smartphones. These technologies foster more customized and immediate access for injured workers during what can be an unsettling and stressful time.
Tomorrow: Paper and electronic correspondence containing lengthy, written explanations will be replaced by online video platforms where claim concepts can be clearly demonstrated and explained. Personal avatars, virtual assistants and chat capabilities will also increase in popularity and support more holistically the advocacy of the person.

Telepresence and videoconferencing
Today: For claim reviews, meetings and discussions among employers, claims professionals, case nurses, attorneys and others in remote office locations, today’s technologies are making communication easier. With the explosion of social media, similar newsfeed-style interactions are being developed in the claim process allowing real-time and interactive exchange between all involved parties.
Tomorrow: Telephonic advocacy outreach will be replaced with video telepresence and allow for more personable and empathetic interactions. Telehealth solutions will more comprehensively support nurse case management and clinical triage, adding more efficiency to the system.

: In recent years, the industry has progressed from the application of descriptive to predictive and now to prescriptive analytics. In addition to common claim variables, predictive analysis can leverage text-mining techniques in examiner notes and loss descriptions. This enables claims professionals to identify higher-cost claims by surfacing details such as comorbidities, opioid usage or other significant elements not readily documented in a field.
Tomorrow: Prescriptive analytics allow companies to further harness the power of big data, providing greater insight into actions needed to produce the best result for an injured worker, and then actually prescribing the intervention required. For example, new technologies allow the use of machine or deep learning techniques to prescribe actionable measures in response to the data analyzed, as we can see illustrated by the example of self-driving cars.

As we look toward the future, emerging technology advancements could create even more dramatic shifts in the workers’ compensation landscape. Imagine widespread use of wearable tech, with sensors embedded into everyday items such as clothing, shoes and hats, designed to support and track injury recovery. For injured employees requiring surgery for knee, hip or possibly even skin replacement, 3D scanners and printers could provide a more personalized approach and a faster recovery process than current practices. Safety programs could captivate the attention of workers as they are delivered using virtual, augmented or mixed reality techniques.

Now is an exciting time for the industry. Both employers and employees are capitalizing on the wave of technological change with an eye toward improving the efficiency of the entire system. However, at the center of these tech advancements remains one constant – the injured employee. Those technologies making a lasting impact will be those designed to improve and enhance the overall employee experience associated with the unanticipated and unfortunate workplace event.

Jarrod Magan, VP Client Technology Services

For an expanded look at the impact of technology on workers' compensation today and tomorrow, read these additional articles from Jarrod Magan, originally published in WorkCompWire's Leaders Speak series:

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