2016 Teddy Awards: Honorable Mention

Saving Time and Money

Applying Lean Six Sigma to its workers' comp processes earned Atlantic Health an Honorable Mention Teddy Award.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 3 min read

Putting together a Lean Six Sigma Project at Atlantic Health System made all the difference to its workers’ compensation results.

A retrospective review in 2014 of 2013 work injuries revealed that back and shoulder injuries were the most frequent and had the highest costs, said Linda Reiher, manager of occupational medicine service, at the organization that has five hospitals and nearly 16,000 employees in New Jersey.

Advertisement




The average days out of work for these types of injuries was 41 days in 2013, she said. “Having an employee out of work costs AHS money.”

After analyzing the data, Atlantic Health realized that there were delays in various steps in their workers’ compensation process.

“From reviewing our data, I noticed obtaining imaging and specialist appointments were responsible for some of these delays,” she said.

To provide more focused care, the nonprofit organization hired Donna Brucker, a registered nurse, to fill the newly created position of RN workers’ compensation case manager. In the past, nurse practitioners did most of the case management for workers’ comp cases, but they had a great many other responsibilities as well, thus leaving little time for effective case management, Reiher said.

“Although case management was important, things were not operating as efficiently as they should ,” Reiher said.

The Atlantic Lean Team: left to right, bottom row: Margaret Skurka, Linda Reiher. Top row: Beth Del Pino, Laureen O'Rourke, Joanne Brubaker, Rachel Leibu, Donna Naturale, Donna Brucker

The Atlantic Lean Team: left to right, bottom row: Margaret Skurka, Linda Reiher. Top row: Beth Del Pino, Laureen O’Rourke, Joanne Brubaker, Rachel Leibu, Donna Naturale, Donna Brucker

That has changed with the addition of Brucker, as well as Laureen O’Rourke as the coordinator who is responsible for assisting with the management of some of the sites, she said.

“Case management is Donna Brucker’s primary focus and both nurses are vigilant about shepherding the patient throughout the recovery process,” Reiher said.

“The Lean Project’s initial goal was to reduce out-of-work days [lost time] from 41 days to 35 days,” she said. “We were able to reduce our out-of-work days from our goal of 35 days to just 9 days, an 80 percent decrease.”

Atlantic Health System also saw a 70 percent reduction in the amount of time it took to schedule appointments to see a specialist, and a significant reduction in time from injury date to the first Occupational Medicine Service (OMS) appointment. This metric was reduced from eight days to 1.4 days.

The Lean project pilot had an estimated savings of more than $900,000 in workers’ compensation costs.

“The Lean project was a big success,” Reiher said, noting that it earned an Organizational Effectiveness President’s Award from Atlantic Health System.

“The most important thing,” said Dr. Rachel Leibu, medical director, OMS, “is we maintained continuity of patient care and we were able to effectively manage workers’ compensation injuries, minimize costs and provide excellent care to employees.”

“The Lean Project’s initial goal was to reduce out-of-work days [lost time] from 41 days to 35 days. We were able to reduce our out-of-work days from our goal of 35 days to just 9 days, an 80 percent decrease.” — Linda Reiher, manager, occupational medicine service, Atlantic Health System

To help protect the health of its patients and employees, OMS instituted a mandatory vaccination program in 2013 to protect against influenza and pertussis. They also more recently introduced iPad technology to help control costs related to its mandatory flu vaccine campaign. The new system better tracks compliance with the initiative by reducing the number of illegibly signed paper consent forms and potentially misplaced lost paperwork, as well as decreasing data entry and electronic medical record scanning time.

An electronic Flu Dashboard assists management with tracking employee vaccination status. The dashboard also provides for efficient identification of employees who were granted vaccine exemptions for medical or religious reasons, Leibu said. Exempt employees who are not vaccinated must wear masks when entering an AHS clinical facility when a threshold level of activity exists in the community.

Technology has also aided Atlantic Health in tracking injuries that are trending upward, so that safety initiatives can be instituted when a hazard is revealed, she said.

Advertisement




For example, dim lighting and multiple electric cords in operating rooms were causing tripping hazards. A process to bundle the device cords together while increasing education about the hazard reduced incidents, Leibu said.

Atlantic Health also began mandatory classes for nurses and other employees to help protect them from workplace violence, which is a national safety hazard in the health care field. The classes include education on how to diffuse situations when visitors or patients act out as well as self-defense methods.

For its success in enhancing its workers’ compensation processes, Atlantic Health System was awarded a 2016 Teddy Award Honorable Mention. &

_______________________________________________________

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.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

Property

Insurers Take to the Skies

This year’s hurricane season sees the use of drones and other aerial intelligence gathering systems as insurers seek to estimate claims costs.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 6 min read

For Southern communities, current recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will recall the painful devastation of 2005, when Katrina and Wilma struck. But those who look skyward will notice one conspicuous difference this time around: drones.

Advertisement




Much has changed since Katrina and Wilma, both economically and technologically. The insurance industry evolved as well. Drones and other visual intelligence systems (VIS) are set to play an increasing role in loss assessment, claims handling and underwriting.

Farmers Insurance, which announced in August it launched a fleet of drones to enhance weather-related property damage claim assessment, confirmed it deployed its fleet in the aftermath of Harvey.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now,” said George Mathew, CEO of Kespry, Farmers’ drone and aerial intelligence platform provider partner.

“The current wind and hail damage season that we are entering is when many of the insurance carriers are switching from proof of concept work to full production rollout.”

 According to Mathew, Farmers’ fleet focused on wind damage in and around Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time of this writing. “Additional work is already underway in the greater Houston area and will expand in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

No doubt other carriers have fleets in the air. AIG, for example, occupied the forefront of VIS since winning its drone operation license in 2015. It deployed drones to inspections sites in the U.S. and abroad, including stadiums, hotels, office buildings, private homes, construction sites and energy plants.

Claims Response

At present, insurers are primarily using VIS for CAT loss assessment. After a catastrophe, access is often prohibited or impossible. Drones allow access for assessing damage over potentially vast areas in a more cost-effective and time-sensitive manner than sending human inspectors with clipboards and cameras.

“Drones improve risk analysis by providing a more efficient alternative to capturing aerial photos from a sky-view. They allow insurers to rapidly assess the scope of damages and provide access that may not otherwise be available,” explained Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy at JLT Specialty USA.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now.” — George Mathew, CEO, Kespry

“In our experience, competitive advantage is gained mostly by claims departments and third-party administrators. Having the capability to provide exact measurements and details from photos taken by drones allows insurers to expedite the claim processing time,” he added.

Indeed, as tech becomes more disruptive, insurers will increasingly seek to take advantage of VIS technologies to help them provide faster, more accurate and more efficient insurance solutions.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh

One way Farmers is differentiating its drone program is by employing its own FAA-licensed drone operators, who are also Farmers-trained claim representatives.

Keith Daly, E.V.P. and chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance, said when launching the program that this sets Farmers apart from most carriers, who typically engage third-party drone pilots to conduct evaluations.

“In the end, it’s all about the experience for the policyholder who has their claim adjudicated in the most expeditious manner possible,” said Mathew.

“The technology should simply work and just melt away into the background. That’s why we don’t just focus on building an industrial-grade drone, but a complete aerial intelligence platform for — in this case — claims management.”

Insurance Applications

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, believes that, while currently employed primarily to assess catastrophic damage, VIS will increasingly be employed to inspect standard property damage claims.

However, he admitted that at this stage they are better at identifying binary factors such as the area affected by a peril rather than complex assessments, since VIS cannot look inside structures nor assess their structural integrity.

“If a chemical plant suffers an explosion, it might be difficult to say whether the plant is fully or partially out of operation, for example, which would affect a business interruption claim dramatically.

Advertisement




“But for simpler assessments, such as identifying how many houses or industrial units have been destroyed by a tornado, or how many rental cars in a lot have suffered hail damage from a storm, a VIS drone could do this easily, and the insurer can calculate its estimated losses from there,” he said.

In addition,VIS possess powerful applications for pre-loss risk assessment and underwriting. The high-end drones used by insurers can capture not just visual images, but mapping heat, moisture or 3D topography, among other variables.

This has clear applications in the assessment and completion of claims, but also in potentially mitigating risk before an event happens, and pricing insurance accordingly.

“VIS and drones will play an increasing underwriting support role as they can help underwriters get a better idea of the risk — a picture tells a thousand words and is so much better than a report,” said Ellis.

VIS images allow underwriters to see risks in real time, and to visually spot risk factors that could get overlooked using traditional checks or even mature visual technologies like satellites. For example, VIS could map thermal hotspots that could signal danger or poor maintenance at a chemical plant.

Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy, JLT Specialty USA

“Risk and underwriting are very natural adjacencies, especially when high risk/high value policies are being underwritten,” said Mathew.

“We are in a transformational moment in insurance where claims processing, risk management and underwriting can be reimagined with entirely new sources of data. The drone just happens to be one of most compelling of those sources.”

Ellis added that drones also could be employed to monitor supplies in the marine, agriculture or oil sectors, for example, to ensure shipments, inventories and supply chains are running uninterrupted.

“However, we’re still mainly seeing insurers using VIS drones for loss assessment and estimates, and it’s not even clear how extensively they are using drones for that purpose at this point,” he noted.

“Insurers are experimenting with this technology, but given that some of the laws around drone use are still developing and restrictions are often placed on using drones [after] a CAT event, the extent to which VIS is being used is not made overly public.”

Drone inspections could raise liability risks of their own, particularly if undertaken in busy spaces in which they could cause human injury.

Privacy issues also are a potential stumbling block, so insurers are dipping their toes into the water carefully.

Risk Improvement

There is no doubt, however, that VIS use will increase among insurers.

Advertisement




“Although our clients do not have tremendous experience utilizing drones, this technology is beneficial in many ways, from providing security monitoring of their perimeter to loss control inspections of areas that would otherwise require more costly inspections using heavy equipment or climbers,” said Luck.

In other words, drones could help insurance buyers spot weaknesses, mitigate risk and ultimately win more favorable coverage from their insurers.

“Some risks will see pricing and coverage improvements because the information and data provided by drones will put underwriters at ease and reduce uncertainty,” said Ellis.

The flip-side, he noted, is that there will be fewer places to hide for companies with poor risk management that may have been benefiting from underwriters not being able to access the full picture.

Either way, drones will increasingly help insurers differentiate good risks from bad. In time, they may also help insurance buyers differentiate between carriers, too. &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]