Workers' Comp Technology

Bringing Workers’ Comp Management Into the 21st Century

A software-based system leverages comprehensive data to give employers the best chance of turning indemnity claims into medical-only claims.
By: | February 26, 2016

A worker at a facility in Kansas is injured on the job. His company was recently acquired by a larger organization that has completely different policies and procedures for handling workplace accidents.

Add to that the fact that he’s in a rural area where few medical providers are available — especially any who understand the nuances of the workers’ comp system and its emphasis on returning injured employees to work.

Now imagine his supervisor goes onto a computer and immediately has access to all the information he needs in a way that adheres to the procedures of the new parent company. Add to that the ability for whatever physician is involved to look on his smartphone and immediately see the exact tasks the injured worker’s job entails, plus a proposed temporary light-duty solution, ultimately saving time and money for the organization.

Such a solution is being widely used in Canada and is making its way into the U.S.

“What this system does is it gives employers the best chance of turning indemnity claims into medical-only claims through the rapid use of data immediately and with more urgency,” said Richard Pimentel, veteran and well-known disability rights activist and associate with Milt Wright & Associates.

Richard Pimentel, speaker and disability rights activist, Milt Wright & Associates

Richard Pimentel, speaker and disability rights activist, Milt Wright & Associates

“It is a solution that “not only expedites your return-to-work process, it improves it by bringing together HR, safety, claims, the medical community, absence management, and occupational/nonoccupational RTW efforts into a seamless package.”

Pimentel, who has been espousing and consulting on effective disability and RTW solutions for several decades, has become one of its most vocal supporters. He’s hoping companies in the U.S. will soon embrace the system through his partnership with WorkSTEPS.

Based in Austin, Texas, WorkSTEPS provides functional employment testing throughout the U.S. With the goal of matching a worker’s functional capabilities with the needs of the job, its services include post-offer preemployment testing along with post-employment testing, which includes fit-for-duty testing, functional capacity evaluations, and sincerity of effort testing.

Software Solution

XILO, as the system is known in Canada, is called WorkSTEPS Enterprise Solution in the U.S. It was the brainchild of Grenville Lock, CEO and president of Canadian-based EARA Technologies. The former entrepreneur came from a software background and saw a need among his customers.

“Working within an organization here he was bombarded with questions as far as ‘how do we help sharing our data when it comes to health and safety,’” said Monica Kyveris, vice president of sales and customer relations for EARA. “He started to think about what it is that was lacking. A lot of organizations have this information, but nobody had thought about bringing it all together.”

“What this system does is it gives employers the best chance of turning indemnity claims into medical-only claims through the rapid use of data immediately and with more urgency,” — Richard Pimentel, Milt Wright & Associates

He started with a return-to-work system that included job demand analyses. The company’s research and development team looked at other areas of health and safety that required the same information and expanded the program. As Kyveris said, they saw a need.

“There was a lot of software out there that addressed specific areas in health and safety, but nobody really brought it all together,” she said. “Our app does everything. It crosses all silos.”

Described as a “one stop shop health safety information management system,” it allows users to store, search, retrieve, update, integrate, and share information with the click of a mouse from any computer, anytime, anywhere in the world. The company rolled out the finished product in 2005; however, it did not take off immediately.

“People were like ‘why do we need a health management system,’” Kyveris said. “We had to educate the Canadian market. You get early adopters, and then it takes off.”

With so many company acquisitions occurring in the U.S., organizations are increasingly finding it difficult to integrate their various legacy systems and ensure consistency, especially when there are multiple facilities located in different jurisdictions. Advocates see the system as a game changer here.

“As near as I can tell, there are systems [here] for data but they tend to be compartmentalized,” Pimentel said. “This is the only system I’ve seen where you can have job descriptions, policies and procedures, and reminders. It’s the only system I know of that integrates it all.”

As he explained it, the system allows for a supervisor to quickly identify and locate all jobs that meet the needs of an injured worker. For example, it can pinpoint jobs that require just eight pounds of lifting.

“The sense of it to me is that effective RTW needs to be done with a controlled urgency. So anytime you’re waiting for data, you’re losing money,” Pimentel said. “My theory is I don’t even want to wait for a physician to give someone a limited duty release. I want to hit the physician with a proposal to bring someone back to work, based on the limitations they see.”

Importing Success

Pimentel took his enthusiasm for the system to WorkSTEPS in the hopes the company could incorporate it into its existing framework. For the last three decades, WorkSTEPS has provided evaluations and assessments for new hires to determine whether a worker can safely perform the essential functions of a particular job. Additionally, the company provides an in-depth analysis of the worker’s physical capabilities at the moment the person begins the job.

“If there are preexisting conditions you haven’t identified, you own it,” said Pete Gallaher, president and managing director of WorkSTEPS. “Once there is an incident you can tell the physician what their condition was when they started and an exact picture of what that person does on the job, so the physician can make decisions based on real information.”

The company addresses privacy concerns by ensuring only specific people at a company can access certain information. “It’s shared access by all stakeholders depending on their level in the [company] hierarchy,” said Cindy Gallaher, WorkSTEPS’ vice president of business development.

“It’s information that’s so critical in goal setting for treatment of these injured workers. So you’re getting them back to work safely and as soon as possible, which we all know is critical in keeping them in the workforce.”

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected].

More from Risk & Insurance