5 Thought Leaders Present on Physical Therapy’s Costs and Benefits at National Comp

Ahead of National Comp, the panelists of the session "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Physical Therapy Spending" share their journeys into the industry.
By: | October 15, 2021

A wealth of experience and a variety of industry perspectives await attendees for “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Physical Therapy Spending,” a presentation to be delivered October 20 at National Comp 2021 in Las Vegas.

Physical therapy is considered a first-line treatment for many common work-related injuries.

However, as tech increases, modalities multiply, and outcomes are scrutinized, PT deserves a closer look.

A panel of five experts hailing from divergent career trajectories in the industry will provide attendees with a bevy of recommendations. Meet three of them below.

Steve Figliuolo, Principal Program Lead, Chick-fil-A Inc.

Steve Figliuolo on His Journey to Workers’ Comp

Like many in the industry, Steve Figliuolo, principal program lead, enterprise risk management for Chick-fil-A Inc., came to field of risk management and insurance unexpectedly.

“I fell into [the industry]. I was thinking about going to law school but realized I had about six dollars to my name and thought more debt wasn’t the smartest move. So I ended up talking to a friend of mine whose father was in the industry,” Steve Figliuolo said.

“He encouraged me to apply and I had my first interview for a workers’ comp examiner position, which I knew nothing about other than maybe the employer pays for medical. I was fortunate enough to go with a company that had a training program.”

Now nearly 20 years down the line in workers’ comp, Figliuolo is hoping that attendees will discover something new in his session to ponder on the flight home.

“I would love it if people could walk away with a different sense of the medical community, specifically physical therapy and maybe get them thinking about the way things have traditionally been done — what’s the why behind it and can we improve on it?” he said.

Dr. Christopher Edwards, Orthopedic Surgeon, Atlanta Neurological and Spine Institute

Dr. Christopher Edwards Shares Spine Injury Expertise

Dr. Christopher Edwards, Orthopedic Surgeon with Atlanta Neurological and Spine Institute, had a similarly serendipitous entry into the comp world.

“I’ve been a surgeon for over 20 years. I became a spine surgeon because, in training, one of the high school football players had a broken neck and was paralyzed, and that player had the same name as my last name. I thought to myself that except for the grace of God that could’ve been me, because I played football,” he explained.

“[Eventually] I was asked by various companies to come out and do an assessment of their plan to decrease their back injuries. I’ve had relationships with UPS, Lockheed, Delta, and with various state and local governments.”

That fateful experience in training led Edwards to the specialty that would eventually benefit injured workers across his home state of Georgia.

Along the way, he learned a lot about the pitfalls in physical therapy, which he hopes the audience will take away from this presentation.

“You have to be specific on what you’re treating the patient for and the type of therapy program,” explained Edwards.

“The patient can go through physical therapy, get no benefit, be referred to the surgeon, and it turns out that the type of program that they were in actually wasn’t helpful or would make you worse.

“They didn’t truly fail physical therapy, they were in the wrong program to begin with,” he explained, “and then those patients end up as surgical candidates. So it’s beneficial for the patient and the employer to make sure that the patient has had a specific program and an adequate amount of therapy.”

Susan Emerson, Owner of Emerson Claims Advisory

Susan Emerson Shares Her Passion for Worker Advocacy

Susan Emerson, Owner of Emerson Claims Advisory, echoed her fellow panelists’ emphasis on taking the treatment of injured workers from tradition to innovation.

“Continuing to find new and different ways to manage the work comp claim process and improve it,” Emerson said of the driving force behind her passion for the industry.

“One of the things I’ve seen in the industry in the last 8-10 years for example is the shift toward advocacy. I have really learned a life lesson out of that coming from the insurance claim world into the employer side.”

For the presentation, Emerson hopes she and her fellow panelists can impress upon attendees the need for diligence.

“The gatekeepers of the injury …  should pay better attention and acknowledge that if the injured worker isn’t showing improvement or is getting worse, just holding onto them and continuing to treat is not effective or efficient and it can set the tone for a bad outcome,” she said.

Rounding out the Oct. 20 panel will be James Kercher, orthopedic sports medicine specialist with Peachtree Orthopedic Clinic, and Tim Hassett-Salley, vice president of business development with MTI America. &

National Comp — the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference — is back! We’re planning an in-person show for October, 20-22, 2021 and we’re excited to see everyone while still adhering to all safety protocols set forth by local and national health authorities at the time of the event.  Register today!

This year, we’ll feature seven tracks — from core content on medical and pharmaceutical management, claims and return-to-work, plus new and expanded avenues to explore like risk finance and injury prevention. All of our educational sessions are chosen for their ability to deliver sound takeaways and ideas that attendees can use right now.

In the meantime, National Comp will continue bringing you free virtual, educational content through our digital sessions series and our CompTalks program. Register today to make sure you don’t miss a digital session and check out our on-demand CompTalks library.  Missed a session? Watch it here on-demand.

Nina Luckman is a business journalist based in New Orleans, focusing primarily on the workers' compensation industry. Over the last several years, Nina has served as Editor of Louisiana Comp Blog, a news site she started in 2014 under the auspices of a group self-insurance fund. She can be reached at [email protected].