2016 Teddy Awards: Honorable Mention

A Matter of Trust

St. Luke's workers' comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 3 min read

It’s not often that workers’ compensation claims adjusters meet face-to-face with the injured workers whose claims they administer.

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But St. Luke’s Health System Ltd.’s workers’ comp team forges close relationships with injured workers, their supervisors, and anyone involved in resolving a claim by consistently doing just that. Risk & Insurance recognizes this effort with a 2016 Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

St. Luke’s, a self-insured health care system, self-administers workers’ comp claims with in-house adjusters, a nurse case manager, and even in-house bill review. It does so with centralized workers’ comp services serving a system spread across 19 Idaho communities.

The self-administration arrangement affords adjusters for the Boise, Idaho-based entity the ability to personally meet with claimants, who even stop by the workers’ comp department with claims questions.

Similarly, managers stop by to learn how the company’s workers’ comp system works and to learn what they can expect should one of their reports face an injury.

Jeanne James, manager of workers' comp and long-term disability, St. Luke’s Health System Ltd.

Jeanne James, manager of workers’ comp and long-term disability, St. Luke’s Health System Ltd.

“We have people come and see us,” said Jeanne James, St. Luke’s manager of workers’ comp and long-term disability. “We sit down with them so we become human beings to them and they are human beings to us.”

Having in-house adjusters also facilitates a quick response to all injuries, James added.

Immediate injury response, attention to safety, and an attitude that says any of St. Luke’s 14,000  employees injured on the job will be taken care of and returned to work keeps workers’ comp costs “very low,” said Lori Severson, VP and senior loss control consultant at broker Lockton Companies.

Often, employers with that many workers spread across an entire state face greater claims lag time and communication gaps when employees are injured, Severson said.

But whether injuries are major or minor, St. Luke’s in-house adjusters see to it that workers are immediately diagnosed and treated.

Lockton became St. Luke’s broker in 2015 when the health care system asked Lockton to provide services including the evaluation of its self-insured approach.

“One of the things that works very well, we saw, was their self-insured program,” Severson said.

“First and foremost we are taking care of the people that go back and take care of our patients.” — Jeanne James, manager of workers’ comp and long-term disability, St. Luke’s Health System Ltd.

St. Luke’s workers’ comp team views their role as supporting an investment in the entity’s employees and patients.

“First and foremost we are taking care of the people that go back and take care of our patients,” James said. “So we always want to make fair and consistent claims decisions. One of things we strive to do is educate ourselves on the facts of claims.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recognizes the “health care and social assistance” sector for generating more worker injuries than all other private-sector industries. The risks health care workers face include exposures to blood-borne pathogens, musculoskeletal injuries from patient-handling, and workplace violence, to name a few.

Yet St. Luke’s injury frequency increased only 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, despite employee growth that shot up from 10,142 in 2011 to nearly 13,858 during 2015.

The numbers reflect St. Luke’s emphasis on safety.

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Among other recent measures, St. Luke’s elevated the authority and titles of its safety managers to increase their visibility across the entire system and to emphasize their roles’ importance.  The new relationship with Lockton also added safety and risk consultant services.

St. Luke’s is also “super strong on return to work,” Severson said.

But meeting face-to-face with employees is one of the workers’ comp department’s most important strategies, James said. Doing so helps adjusters better comprehend accident causes, understand claimants’ explanation of their work environments, and it cultivates trust.

“One of the primary things that we do, that is most beneficial to us and everybody we work with along the claims path, is build relationships,” James said. &

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Read more about the 2016 Teddy Award winners:

target-150x150Bringing Focus to Broad Challenges: Target brings home a 2016 Teddy Award for serving as an advocate for its workers, pre- and post-injury, across each of its many operations.

 

hrt-150x150The Road to Success: Accountability and collaboration turned Hampton Roads Transit’s legacy workers’ compensation program into a triumph.

 

excela-150x150Improve the Well-Being of Every Life: Excela Health changed the way it treated injuries and took a proactive approach to safety, drastically reducing workers’ comp claims and costs.

 

harder-150x150The Family That’s Safe Together: An unwavering commitment to zero lost time is just one way that Harder Mechanical Contractors protects the lives and livelihoods of its workers.

 

More coverage of the 2016 Teddy Awards:

Recognizing Excellence: The judges of the 2016 Teddy Awards reflect on what they learned, and on the value of awards programs in the workers’ comp space.

Fit for Duty: 2013 Teddy Winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.

Saving Time and Money: Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers’ comp processes earned Atlantic Health a Teddy Award Honorable Mention.

Caring for the Caregivers: Adventist Health Central Valley Network is achieving stellar results by targeting its toughest challenges.

Advocating for Injured Workers: By helping employees navigate through the workers’ comp system, Cottage Health decreased lost work days by 80 percent.

A Matter of Trust: St. Luke’s workers’ comp program is built upon relationships and a commitment to care for those who care for patients.

Keeping the Results Flowing: R&I recognizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for a commonsense approach that’s netting continuous improvement.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Robotics Risk

Rise of the Cobots

Collaborative robots, known as cobots, are rapidly expanding in the workforce due to their versatility. But they bring with them liability concerns.
By: | May 2, 2017 • 5 min read

When the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto hired mobile collaborative robots to bolster security patrols, the goal was to improve costs and safety.

Once the autonomous robotic guards took up their beats — bedecked with alarms, motion sensors, live video streaming and forensics capabilities — no one imagined what would happen next.

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For some reason,  a cobots’ sensors didn’t pick up the movement of a toddler on the sidewalk who was trying to play with the 5-foot-tall, egg-shaped figure.

The 300-pound robot was programmed to stop for shoppers, but it knocked down the child and then ran over his feet while his parents helplessly watched.

Engaged to help, this cobot instead did harm, yet the use of cobots is growing rapidly.

Cobots are the fastest growing segment of the robotics industry, which is projected to hit $135.4 billion in 2019, according to tech research firm IDC.

“Robots are embedding themselves more and more into our lives every day,” said Morgan Kyte, a senior vice president at Marsh.

“Collaborative robots have taken the robotics industry by storm over the past several years,” said Bob Doyle, director of communications at the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

When traditional robots joined the U.S. workforce in the 1960s, they were often assigned one specific task and put to work safely away from humans in a fenced area.

Today, they are rapidly being deployed in the automotive, plastics, electronics assembly, machine tooling and health care industries due to their ability to function in tandem with human co-workers.

More than 24,000 robots valued at $1.3 billion were ordered from North American companies last year, according to the RIA.

Cobots Rapidly Gain Popularity

Cobots are cheaper, more versatile and lighter, and often have a faster return on investment compared to traditional robots. Some cobots even employ artificial intelligence (AI) so they can adapt to their environment, learn new tasks and improve on their skills.

Bob Doyle, director of communications, Robotic Industry Association

Their software is simple to program, so companies don’t need a computer programmer, called a robotic integrator, to come on site to tweak duties. Most employees can learn how to program them.

While the introduction of cobots into the workplace can bring great productivity gains, it also introduces risk mitigation challenges.

“Where does the problem lie when accidents happen and which insurance covers it?” asked attorney Garry Mathiason, co-chair of the robotics, AI and automation industry group at the law firm Littler Mendelson PC in San Francisco.

“Cobots are still machines and things can go awry in many ways,” Marsh’s Kyte said.

“The robot can fail. A subcomponent can fail. It can draw the wrong conclusions.”

If something goes amiss, exposure may fall to many different parties:  the manufacturer of the cobot, the software developer and/or the purchaser of the cobot, to name a few.

Is it a product defect? Was it an issue in the base code or in the design? Was something done in the cobot’s training? Was it user error?

“Cobots are still machines and things can go awry in many ways.” — Morgan Kyte, senior vice president, Marsh

Is it a workers’ compensation case or a liability issue?

“If you get injured in the workplace, there’s no debate as to liability,” Mathiason said.

But if the employee attributes the injury to a poorly designed or programmed machine and sues the manufacturer of the equipment, that’s not limited by workers’ comp, he added.

Garry Mathiason, co-chair, robotics, AI and automation industry group, Littler Mendelson PC

In the case of a worker killed by a cobot in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2015, the worker’s spouse filed suit against five of the companies responsible for manufacturing the machine.

“It’s going to be unique each time,” Kyte said.

“The issue that keeps me awake at night is that people are so impressed with what a cobot can do, and so they ask it to do a task that it wasn’t meant to perform,” Mathiason said.

Privacy is another consideration.

If the cobot records what is happening around it, takes pictures of its environment and the people in it, an employee or customer might claim a privacy violation.

A public sign disclosing the cobot’s ability to record video or take pictures may be a simple solution. And yet, it is often overlooked, Mathiason said.

Growing Pains in the Industry

There are going to be growing pains as the industry blossoms in advance of any legal and regulatory systems, Mathiason said.

He suggests companies take several mitigation steps before introducing cobots to the workplace.

First, conduct a safety audit that specifically covers robotics. Make sure to properly investigate the use of the technology and consider all options. Run a pilot program to test it out.

Most importantly, he said, assign someone in the organization to get up to speed on the technology and then continuously follow it for updates and new uses.

The Robotics Industry Association has been working with the government to set up safety standards. One employee can join a cobot member association to receive the latest information on regulations.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion about this technology and people see so many things that could go wrong,” Mathiason said.

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“But if you handle it properly with the safety audit, the robotics audit, and pay attention to what the standards are, it’s going to be the opposite; there will be fewer problems.

“And you might even see in your experience rating that you are going to [get] a better price to the policy,” he added.

Without forethought, coverage may slip through the cracks. General liability, E&O, business interruption, personal injury, cyber and privacy claims can all be involved.

AIG’s Lexington Insurance introduced an insurance product in 2015 to address the gray areas cobots and robots create. The coverage brings together general and products liability, robotics errors and omissions, and risk management services, all three of which are tailored for the robotics industry. Minimum premium is $25,000.

Insurers are using lessons learned from the creation of cyber liability policies and are applying it to robotics coverage, Kyte said.

“The robotics industry has been very safe for the last 30 years,” RIA’s Doyle said. “It really does have a good track record and we want that to continue.” &

Juliann Walsh is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]