2018 NWCDC Preview

2018 NWCDC: The Can’t Miss Sessions, Speakers and More from This Year’s Workers’ Comp Conference

The claims advocacy model is just one of many important topics on the agenda for 2018 NWCDC this December at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
By: | October 15, 2018

In the years since “advocacy claims management” gained traction among employers willing to break with tradition, it has been practiced, studied and surveyed enough for the jury to return a verdict: It produces better outcomes and is an effective strategy to control workers’ compensation litigation.

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“In the past, we talked about advocacy claims management’s potential to address the needs of injured workers, so they wouldn’t go to an attorney,” said Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor for Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Conference & Expo (NWCDC), which will be held Dec. 5-7 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

“Now practitioners can talk about how to practice it effectively.”

Unlike the traditional adversarial claims model — designed to rein in the few bad actors, but imposed indiscriminately on the majority of workers who simply want to get well and return to work — the advocacy claims model takes a collaborative approach to workers’ compensation, making litigation unwanted and unnecessary for the majority.

“We’re seeing a paradigm shift from ‘claims management’ to ‘injured worker assistance,’ ” said Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund and NWCDC board member.

Despite its demonstrable benefits, both financial and in employee morale, “many companies and claims people think the advocacy model is too hard for them to adopt. It’s not,” Dulich said, as a panel of speakers will explain in the conference session “How Advocacy Programs Produce Optimal Outcomes.”

In keeping with the conference’s goal of providing actionable and sustainable information to attendees, the session panel will also offer advice on program implementation and measurement, Dulich said.

Practical Take-Home Lessons Coming From 2018 NWCDC

All conference presenters will offer practical, real-life experience and case studies that attendees can take back to their companies, Ceniceros said.

Sessions are pitched to a broad range of experience. “They run the gamut from Workers’ Comp 101 to fairly advanced,” Dulich said, and give attendees insight into “a very broad-based capsule of national information.”

Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund

Dulich uses the conference to track trends in jurisdictions other than her own in California. “It prepares me for changes that might be coming down the road in my own jurisdiction. I get a heads up.”

A mega-session, “Steal These Ideas! Teddy-Award Winning Employers Showcase Their Successful Strategies,” beams the spotlight on four award-winning workers’ compensation programs from organizations in retail, health care, the public sector and education.

“These case studies apply across sectors and industries,” said Ceniceros. “Attendees learn from the best.”

Departing from previous years’ tradition of a keynote speaker from within the industry, seven-time Olympic medalist Shannon Miller, now an advocate for women and children’s health, will describe how the gold-medal mindset overcomes challenges and inspires success.

The survivor of numerous injuries that threatened to derail her gymnastics career, her keynote address will describe resilience and the gold-medal mindset — which may apply to efforts the workers’ compensation industry makes on behalf of injured workers.

With tracks devoted to claims management, disability management, medical management, legal/regulatory issues, program management and technology, “there’s something useful for all workers’ comp professionals,” said Ceniceros.

Dulich “likes to pick up a lot of tidbits about what other people are doing that I can do in my own program.” For example, she attended a pharmacy session at the 2017 conference that introduced her to a key metric to measure success. “I went home, looked at my program and used the metric to measure my service provider’s performance.”

In total, the conference features 38 breakout sessions, two “mega sessions” and one general session.  But opportunities to learn aren’t confined to educational sessions, Dulich added. It’s also an opportunity for attendees to “build their Rolodex of contacts.”

Troubled Claims

While advocacy claims management aims to avoid troubled claims, sometimes they’re inevitable. The conference offers help on those, too.

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In a session in the track dedicated to medical management, “Getting Difficult, Frustrating and Expensive Claims Unstuck,” medical experts will explain how to first identify the obstacles that delay healing and recovery, then the biopsychosocial interventions that can put claims back on track. Presenters will offer exemplary communications drawn from actual claims that apply to other real-life situations.

“We’re seeing a paradigm shift from ‘claims management’ to ‘injured worker assistance.’ ” — Jill Dulich, claims and operations manager, California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund; board member, 2018 NWCDC

Avoiding, Managing and Winning Workers’ Comp Litigation” addresses both aspects of litigation management: knowing how to prevent court involvement and winning when a trial is inevitable. The speakers, including an expert on workers’ compensation cost containment, will offer advice on hiring the right lawyers and dealing with those who don’t understand the complexity of workers’ comp law.

Another session in the Legal/Legislative Issues track, “Avoiding Unintended Consequences, Obtaining Desired Litigation and Legislation Results,” describes how, without strategic thought and experience, the legislative or legal “solution” to one problem can create worse problems.

Presenters will describe real-world examples of decisions that produced unintended consequences, then offer guidance on how to think more strategically.

Return to Work

The conference devotes three sessions to return-to-work issues. In a general session, “A Powerful Combination: Return-to-Work Strategy with Value-Based Accommodations,” a large media company’s senior disabilities manager will discuss how a strong workplace ADA accommodation program, rather than throwing up productivity roadblocks, can improve employee engagement, loyalty, productivity, presenteeism and the bottom line.

A related session, “A Case Study for Shortening Disability Durations with On-Site Resources,” describes how Norton Healthcare’s pilot program to improve the return-to-work process produced a 4:1 return on investment. In its first phase, the program cut 1,200 lost work days by applying ergonomic best practices, improving accommodations and providing psychosocial support.

2018 NWCDC: For the Techies

The 2018 conference continues the technology track that started in 2017.

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Telehealth’s Emerging Role in Workers’ Compensation” discusses bringing high-quality, affordable health care remotely to injured workers, and its limitations. Among the considerations: the employer’s workforce, technology requirements, medical-provider relations, regulations and vendor selection.

Health care is a favorite target of hackers. The presenters in “Health Care Under Attack: Tools for Combating Insider and Third-Party Cybersecurity Risks,” a risk manager and an attorney will discuss technologies for avoiding internal staff errors, managing supply chain and thwarting hackers.

Tech in pain management is addressed as well. Research findings suggest virtual reality and wearable technologies may reduce medical costs while preventing injured workers’ exposure to opioids. Executives from Travelers and Samsung Electronics — partners in testing the effectiveness of a “digital pain-reduction kit” — will explain in “Virtual Reality and Wearables: Alternatives to Pain Medications” how technology may play a future role in workers’ comp pain management. &

Susannah Levine writes about health care, education and technology. She can be reached at [email protected]

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