2017 NWCDC

2017 NWCDC: Embracing Technology

NWCDC 2017 offers an array of diverse solutions to the challenges facing the workers’ compensation and disability realm.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 5 min read

While the workers’ comp industry has been slow to embrace technology, the tides are turning and bringing along new challenges.

That’s why this year’s National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Conference & Expo added a technology track to the mix for 2017.

“Claims payers can really benefit from education on technology,” said Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor for Risk & Insurance® and NWCDC conference chair.


From wearables to Insurtech, telemedicine and more, employers face budding challenges as technology advances. Adapting tech into day-to-day workers’ comp operations can help reduce claims and provide positive results.

In some cases, though, it can also create strife.

“We’re all challenged by technology and how to utilize it,” said William Wainscott, manager of occupational health & workers’ compensation at International Paper. “The new technology track at NWCDC will give us an opportunity to see how other employers are using technology to advance their programs.”

Wainscott acts as program co-chair and, together with Ceniceros and co-chair Denise Algire, has worked to provide a diverse group of topics in the technology track. Algire added that when they were designing the program this year, they wanted to identify content relevant to employers.

“So much of the industry is surrounded by technology,” she said.

William Wainscott, manager, workers’ comp and occupational health, International Paper

Algire, the director of risk initiatives and the national medical director of risk management at Albertsons Companies, will be addressing “How High-Performance Claims Organizations Use Technology to Differentiate Their Operations” during the conference.

In this session, Algire and her colleagues will discuss technology’s impact on successful high-performing claims-management organizations and share concrete examples of how technology can be used to drive claim outcomes.

Other tech topics of interest include a session on Insurtech — the use of technology to create savings and build efficiency from the current insurance industry model — and its effects on claims; a session on telemedicine’s current capabilities and how to utilize them; and a session addressing wearables in the workers’ comp world.

“Claims payers can really benefit from education on technology.” — Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor, Risk & Insurance, and NWCDC conference chair

“Wearables are an up-and-coming-issue,” said Ceniceros. “They’ve been talked about more in safety, but I anticipate hearing how they’re used in claims management.”

Ceniceros is encouraging conference speakers to not only talk about positive outcomes, but to also dive into measures that failed. As more and more workers’ comp professionals adopt technology into their practices, knowing what not to do can teach others how to best utilize tech and avoid the same mistakes.

Beyond Technology

Technology isn’t the only topic of interest this year. The NWCDC educational agenda is packed with diverse sessions employers and service providers will want to make time for.

With discussions on complex claims, pharmacy management strategies, predictive analytics, managed care and more, NWCDC has a little bit of everything in store.


“This conference has a wide range of topics that will appeal to workers’ compensation professionals in all different parts of the industry,” said Ceniceros.

In total, the conference features 34 breakout sessions, two mega sessions and one general session. There are six tracks: technology, claims management, program management, medical management, legal/regulatory and disability management.

Claims Management:  Barry Bloom, a principal consultant with the bdb Group, will discuss high-exposure litigated claims, practicing claim-process quality control and adopting the double-play process into managing claims.

Don’t fret if you miss it the first time around, either!

“To ensure attendees have a chance to participate in popular sessions, this year has a few key repeating sessions,” explained Algire. Bloom’s “The Double-Play Process: A Blueprint for Closing Complex, High-Value Claims,” will repeat Thursday, Dec. 7, at 10:45 am and 4:15 pm.

Denise Gillen-Algire, director of managed care and disability for corporate risk management, Albertsons Safeway

Program Management:  Three speakers will address vendor management within the program management track.

Carrie Struzynski, senior manager of claims, safety and risk, Randstad North America Inc.; Jodie Massingill, senior manager of casualty claims, Sysco Corp.; and Mollie Kallen, CEO/president of MKCM Inc., join together to discuss high-performance workers’ comp programs and outside vendors.

The speakers will highlight how to recognize vendor-integration problems proactively, not retroactively, encouraging a targeted approach to partnering with insurers, TPAs, managed care organizations, NCMs and more.

Medical Management: Meanwhile, the medical management track offers insight on the whole-person approach while treating an injured worker with chronic pain.

A whole-person approach looks into factors affecting the healing process outside of physical ailment, such as psychosocial issues or cognitive behavioral therapies.

Melissa Burke, second VP of workers’ compensation at Travelers, and Michael Gavin, president of PRIUM, join forces in “Refining the Whole-Person Approach to Chronic-Pain Management.”

Together, they will speak on alternatives in treating chronic pain as the industry continues to reduce opioid use.

Legal/Regulatory:  In the legal/regulatory sector, Best Buy will detail its pilot program to reduce litigation management costs.


John Matejcek, risk manager for Best Buy, and Tiffany Speers, managing partner at Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell and Jimenez, will highlight the program’s successes and how others can recognize underperforming law firms and set litigation strategy to improve results.

Disability Management: Finally, the disability management track gives workers’ comp and disability management professionals the opportunity to hear from a doctor on understanding disability-assessment methods and decipher what makes someone disabled.

Marcos Iglesias, CMO at Broadspire, iterates the value of accurate communications between medical providers and claims payers.

‘The Nordstrom Way’

NWCDC will also present a keynote address delivered by Janine Kral, VP of risk management at Nordstrom.

“Janine’s continuing the discussion within the industry on driving employee advocacy and getting employees engaged,” said Wainscott. “I’m interested in hearing how she takes the Nordstrom customer service philosophy and transfers it into the injured worker’s recovery process.”

Janine Kral,VP, risk management, Nordstrom

“I think Janine’s going to bring an interesting perspective. She’s known as a dynamic speaker with an advanced workers’ comp program,” said Ceniceros.

“She’s a veteran risk manager with a lot of experience in engaging employees.”

Nordstrom’s workers’ comp program has long embraced the practice of injured worker advocacy, and Kral, leading the way, will speak on how the retailer applied its customer-focused approach to engaging with injured employees.

Kral has been with Nordstrom for 30 years, evolving the risk management department into the best-in-class program that exists today. “The Nordstrom Way: Boosting Injured-Worker Engagement” is set for Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 8:30 am. &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?


Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?


A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]