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

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.


Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.


Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &


More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.


Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.


Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.


Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.


Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.


Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.


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