2014 Teddy Award Winner

Healing the Healers

Teddy Award winner Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation proved that even small organizations can make a huge difference in their employees’ lives. 
By: | November 3, 2014 • 7 min read

When Bob Baranello joined Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation as chief executive officer in 2011, the facility “clearly had a lot of work to do” to reduce staff injuries and workers’ compensation costs, he said.

The average claim cost was $7,500, lost-time claims averaged 26 days and with an experience mod of 1.45, and premiums were “through the roof.” The facility had a weak safety culture and a pervasive fraud and abuse problem.


Cold Spring Hills was not yet enforcing the strict safety standards its owner, National Healthcare Associates, had put in place at its 40 other nursing and rehabilitation facilities.

After Prism Consultants, a health care brokerage and risk management consultant, ran extensive analytics on a large quantity of claims data, National Healthcare discovered its employees were at even greater risk than they had realized, said Ephram Ostreicher, director of operations, National Healthcare Associates.

It brought in Prism to manage all aspects of the workers’ compensation program, and set about changing across-the-board safety, customer service, and quality of care practices.

“When you change a culture, you fix a lot of things,” Baranello said.

New Safety Culture

“We put a lot of work into a new safety awareness culture,” Ostreicher said. The existing culture wasn’t conducive to gaining traction on safety improvements. “There was cynicism and negativity. We had to prove we care.”

“When you change a culture, you fix a lot of things,” — Bob Baranello, CEO Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

Top of the list: Remediating conditions related to patient-handling injuries and slips, trips and falls, the biggest source of claims, both in number and severity. Targeting the back and shoulder injuries that plague nurses and nursing assistants from constant bending and lifting, Cold Spring Hills initiated its “Journey to Zero Lift” program.

It bought 14 new Hoyer lifts, mechanical devices that spare wear and tear on residents as well as nurses and assistants. It created Journey to Zero Lift “kit bags,” which contain non-friction sheets and gait belts for lifting and turning, depending on the residents’ medical records and care plan. The kits are stored outside resident rooms for easy access.

“By branding the kits and the program,” said Ettie Schoor, the founder and managing principal of Prism Consultants, “we helped employees understand the importance of the program.”

Cold Spring Hills also started to investigate every accident immediately to make sure it never happens again. In the past, investigation of an accident may have lagged three or four weeks, by which time the traceable conditions would have changed.

Now, supervisors immediately go to an accident scene and ask employees to re-enact it, if they’re able. They examine every environmental detail, including lighting, footwear and hardware, Schoor said. This practice identified a mechanical problem with dietary carts, which had injured a number of employees.

“We brought in the vendor to check every cart. They changed the wheels,” she said.

Bob Baranello, CEO, Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

Bob Baranello, CEO, Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

The surveillance cameras Cold Spring Hills installed also shed light on how the accidents happened and how they could be prevented.

These efforts, Baranello said, mark a sea change from the dark days just five years ago when injured employees filed 231 workers’ comp claims. That number dropped to 98 in 2013, and is still falling.

Strategic “micromanagement” extends all the way up the corporate food chain. Baranello is directly responsible for safety. He’s involved in every incident, not just the “big ones” that would merit the CEO’s attention at most facilities.

Baranello, department heads, supervisors and line staff participate in monthly meetings of the newly refashioned safety committee so they can spread the safety gospel.


“Safety of residents and staff is a huge part of every employee’s job,” said Baranello.

Revised resident care plans factor into safety as well, with highly detailed profiles and instructions. One might note, for example, that Mr. Smith prefers a male aide or that he doesn’t want to be awakened before 10 a.m. Care plans conform as closely as possible to the resident’s tastes and pre-facility life, minimizing the behavioral problems that produce a distressing number of scratches and bites to the direct care staff.

“For everybody’s safety, we hold closely to the care plan,” said Ostreicher. “It’s part of the training.”

Showing the Love

When accidents do happen despite precautions, Cold Spring Hills and Prism show employees “a lot of love and care,” said Schoor. That means frequent and regular follow-up calls with the employee and all medical providers. It might also mean providing nursing care at home, household help, child care, delivered meals and even flowers — any way possible to lift injured workers’ spirits and accelerate their return to work. This kind of attention can also forestall the litigation characteristic of disgruntled workers.

When a dietary worker suffered third-degree burns, the insurance company anticipated initial exposure of $480,000 and potential exposure of over a million dollars in medical treatment and lost time. It predicted a long, grim life of disability for the worker and subsequent lifetime indemnity payments.

Prism assisted Cold Spring Hills in pulling out all the stops to aid the injured worker’s recovery and boost her morale. Employees from both organizations, including Baranello, visited her in the hospital.

They sent cards to her and food to her family. When she started to fret over the depleted minutes on her mobile phone plan, they funded her cell phone so she could concentrate on the important job of getting better.

Nine months, multiple surgeries and $80,000 in medical bills later, the worker declined a $150,000 insurance settlement, choosing instead to return to work — this time at a desk job instead of in the kitchen where she was burned and traumatized.

“She said, ‘Because of the way I was treated, I will never leave this facility,’ ” Schoor said.

Return to Work

That worker’s modified assignment is a key part of National Healthcare’s claims management strategy.

“We try to get all employees back to work no matter what their restrictions are,” said Ostreicher. “We find a meaningful job they can do within their restrictions,” while monitoring progress on the path to full duty.

Prism works with National Healthcare and doctors to identify temporary restricted duty (TRD).

Ettie Schoor, founder and managing principal, Prism Consultants

Ettie Schoor, founder and managing principal, Prism Consultants

A nursing assistant who underwent spinal fusion was still in a wheelchair when she was released to return to work. “We worked with her to identify tasks she felt were important to the operation: folding residents’ clothes, polishing handrails/walls and reading to and feeding residents,” Schoor said.

Cold Spring Hills paid her previous salary, so she experienced no loss in compensation, and she felt her contribution, although different, was still important.

When injured employees return to TRD, they report their progress regularly to supervisors, who are “hands-on involved” in returning workers to full duty as soon as medically appropriate. “They know we’re on top of it,” Schoor said.

The team also ensures that as workers’ restrictions ease, their jobs change also. This minimizes exposure while earning the worker’s loyalty.

Smoking Out Fraud

As much as Cold Spring Hills, its parent company and Prism show the love to genuinely injured workers, they turn an equal fury on fraudsters.

“If you mess with us, we’ll catch you and be all over you,” Schoor said.

“Tender and tough — that’s our policy,” — Ettie Schoor, founder and managing principal, Prism Consultants

“When an accident happens, we work with our staff to make sure the same one won’t happen again, and when we do have an accident, we help the employee return to work,” Schoor said. This keeps exposure down, and so does meticulous follow-up on claims.

“If we smell something — not necessarily fraud — we follow up. If the doctor says the employee is disabled but she’s able to lift her kids, we’ll use that information to get a release to work. That also keeps exposure down.

“Tender and tough — that’s our policy,” said Schoor.

In one spectacular case of gumshoe insurance investigation, a worker “disabled” by a shoulder injury called Prism about her workers’ comp check. The caller ID showed the name of a beauty supply store.

Prism sent an investigator equipped with a wrist-watch camera to the store and asked the worker to reach up for several items. The movement engaged the putatively injured shoulder, which he filmed surreptitiously.

When he paid for the items, he captured her name on the sales slip. Between the two pieces of documentation, the fraudulent injury claim collapsed.


An overwhelmingly honest workforce isn’t spooked by these aggressive tactics, said Baranello, but rather welcomes them.

“Good people don’t want to see fraud, and most are hard-working and responsible,” he said. “They want us to prosecute the few bad apples who try to game the system.”


Read more about all of the 2014 Teddy Award winners:

11012014_02_cs_honda_150x150Building Value with Trust: Honda of South Carolina boosted its involvement with injured worker cases, making a positive first impression on employees and health care providers.


11012014_03_cs_harley_150x150The TLC Behind the Roar: A proactive and holistic approach to employees’ well-being has resulted in huge reductions in work-related injury claims for Harley-Davidson.


11012014_04_cs_compass150x150Quick to Act: Compass Group is lauded for its safety initiatives and for a return-to-work program that incorporates all of its business lines.



11012014_05_cs_coldspring_150x150Healing the Healers: Teddy Award winner Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation proved that even small organizations can make a huge difference in their employees’ lives.


Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.


For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.


This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]