2017 NWCDC Preview

Leading With Technology

The newest educational track at NWCDC reflects the growing role of technology in the workers' comp environment.
By: | November 27, 2017 • 2 min read

The thought of “insurtech” inevitably disrupting established processes and familiar practices for purchasing insurance and managing claims may scare some workers’ compensation industry practitioners.


But insurtech also may deliver a positive impact, especially for those practitioners who learn to take advantage of the changes currently underway and those likely to arrive in the near future, said Jeffrey Austin White, Senior VP and product manager, workers’ compensation, at Gallagher Bassett.

White will speak on the topic during the 26th Annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo to be held Dec. 6-8 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The former director of innovation at worker’s comp insurer AF Group is known for his forward thinking on how technology impacts insurance and workers’ comp, and its disruption of existing systems.

“Most people [negatively] look at insurtech as disruption,” White said. “I don’t want people to think of it as a bad thing. Because you can use it to your advantage.”

White’s presentation, titled “How Will Insurtech Impact the Claims World” will be part of the new Technology track added just this year to NWCDC’s other educational tracks that include Medical Management, Program Management, Legal/Regulatory, Disability Management and Claims Management.

NWCDC added the Technology track to help workers’ comp professionals gain an understanding of the emerging systems quickly becoming part of the workers’ compensation landscape.

In addition to speaking on using insurtech to one’s advantage, White said he also plans to detail where insurtech is entering workers’ comp and discuss new technologies that may become mainstream.

“Most people [negatively] look at insurtech as disruption. I don’t want people to think of it as a bad thing. Because you can use it to your advantage.” — Jeffrey Austin White, Senior VP and product manager, workers’ compensation, Gallagher Bassett

Part of his discussion aims to help his audience prepare for the future by highlighting technologies such as robotic process automation and its impact on insurance processes.

Staying true to NWCDC’s mission of providing practical educational session content, the Technology Track will also feature Travelers’ Melissa Burke, second VP, workers’ compensation, as well as Sangarapil Manoharan, an MD and regional chief of service, occupational medicine at Kaiser-On-The-Job.

They will discuss lessons they’ve learned along the road to implementing telemedicine.


The goal is to help attendees avoid pitfalls and learn how to gain maximum benefit when employing the telemed and telehealth technologies that are currently disrupting health care, Burke said.

“We will walk [attendees] through the perspective of the injured employee, the carrier, the employer and the provider,” Burke added.

Other NWCDC Technology Track sessions will include a review of the current state of mobile technology and use of apps in the workers’ comp claims world, existing wearable technology for injury prevention and post-loss claims management, and a look at how high-performance claims organizations apply technology.

The latter session will include speakers representing an employer, a TPA, an insurer and a medical management company.

Janine Kral, VP of risk management at Nordstrom, will open the conference with a keynote address titled “The Nordstrom Way: Boosting Injured-Worker Engagement.” Kral will share the retailer’s strategy for applying its famed customer-service culture to the care of injured workers.

NWCDC’s entire agenda and registration information are available online.

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]