Nurse Case Manager Chronicles

Making the Connection: One Nurse Stops Tragedy by Solving a Medical Mystery

Quick-thinking nurse case managers solve a medical mystery and save a man’s life.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Although it’s rare, there are times when a seemingly simple injury can turn catastrophic in the blink of an eye. When it happens, nurse case managers can find themselves in a race against the clock, with a worker’s life hanging in the balance.

Advertisement




Delainne Bond and her colleague found themselves in exactly that position when a scratch almost became the cause of a workplace fatality.

A worker lost his grip and fell when riding on the back of a truck. The truck was going less than 10 miles per hour and the fall was around four feet. The worker incurred a small scratch on his cheek and a chipped tooth — nothing that would be considered severe. The man was treated at an urgent care facility.

“This worker didn’t work in what we would call a ‘medically clean’ environment,” explained Bond, a registered nurse and certified case manager. So the medical professionals on staff gave him an antibiotic to prevent any infection from the scratch. They told him to follow up with his dentist about the chipped tooth.

Overnight, the worker’s face and body broke out in a rash. He went to the hospital, but after seven and a half hours of waiting, he left without medical attention. The next day, he followed up with urgent care, where he learned he should be admitted to the hospital.

Delainne Bond, national catastrophic program manager and national crisis intervention coordinator, Genex Services

Unfortunately, the worker didn’t think the rash was as bad as the doctors said and insisted on going home. By day five, the rash took a grim turn, bordering on catastrophe.

“He was super sick. He went to a local community hospital, one that didn’t have a lot of resources,” said Bond, who has 11 years’ experience working in case managing. She is the national catastrophic program manager and the national crisis intervention coordinator at Genex Services, which specializes in medical management.

“They got him on an IV, but the staff was unsure of what was going on with him.”

One of Bond’s nurse case managers was there. Even without knowing the exact diagnosis, she knew the man wasn’t receiving the proper care for his illness.

Using her network of medical professionals, said Bond, the nurse contacted the right doctor for the job. He came in and assessed the situation. He confirmed that the rash was a rare reaction — called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome — to the antibiotic the patient took.

“You don’t come into this job and expect to be saving peoples’ lives, but it happens.” — Delainne Bond, national catastrophic program manager and national crisis intervention coordinator, Genex Services

Stevens-Johnson Syndrome is a serious skin disorder that oftentimes begins with flu-like symptoms followed by a painful reddish-purple rash that spreads and blisters.

The injured worker needed to see a burn specialist, the doctor concluded. The rash blistered into his mouth, lining his digestive tract and had spread across his body and face. He no longer talked, ate or used the restroom without assistance. He faced a 70 percent mortality risk.

“By comparison,” Bond said, “hospitals consider three percent mortality risk to be unacceptable.”

Now, Bond was on the job. No stranger to intense scenarios, she oversees some of the “worst-case” injuries employees face. Amputees, motor vehicle accidents, burn cases and the like are escalated to her.

She met with the employer, carrier, lawyers and company executives to explain the severity of the situation. Those present unanimously agreed to air-lift the patient from the local hospital to a burn facility.

“A hospital-to-hospital transfer can take one to two days, or even more, to obtain authorizations and contracts with the air-lift and ambulance agencies and establish doctor-to-doctor communication,” explained Bond. Her team moved the worker within four hours.

Finally connected with the right level of care, the man made an instantaneous recovery. He was discharged 36 hours after being transferred.

Crisis Care Saves Lives, and More

“If we didn’t have that case manager on site, if she hadn’t had analyzed him and knew to bring me onto the case, and if I didn’t know where the right resources were … ” Bond began. “You don’t come into this job and expect to be saving peoples’ lives, but it happens.”

Bond’s depth of experience allows her to spot issues that might otherwise be overlooked. Clients rely on her ability to glance at a file and know what to do and what resources to tap into.

In another case that Bond worked on, a truck driver broke his neck and skull during an accident. After a few days in the hospital, the man slipped into a coma. The hospital staff thought it was related to his brain injury, but upon reviewing his chart, Bond determined it was a diabetes crisis issue.

Advertisement




The truck driver received insulin, and the case manager proved that the diabetic crisis caused the accident, saving the employer’s insurance roughly $175,000 in medical bills.

“The biggest challenge is getting in there and making everybody feel like it’s going to be okay,” Bond said. “The injured worker is feeling panic. The employer is facing their own pressures, like keeping their workforce on task, while dealing with OSHA. Carriers have to analyze the injury, make sure it’s compensable. For people coming from a non-medical background, it’s easy for them to not know what’s going on.”

This is when a case manager steps in, calming the patient, setting up proper appointments and explaining the situation to employers and carriers.

“A lot of employers, and even a lot of nurses, don’t really know what case management is or what it entails,” said Bond. “Every day is new. Every case is unique. I’m still learning new things even after all these years.”

The case manager role removes barriers that might be in the way of recovery — a position that Bond said can be just as rewarding as it is challenging.

“I want to see the profession utilized more,” she said. “Case managers are very effective in minimizing injury and reducing risk.” &

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

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

Advertisement




Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

Advertisement




Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

Advertisement




“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]