Teddy Awards: Progress Report

Fit for Duty

2013 Teddy Award winner Miami-Dade County Public Schools is managing comorbid risk factors by getting employees excited about healthy living.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 5 min read

When evaluating Teddy Award applicants, one of the qualities judges look for is a program that’s built to last, with a commitment to continuous improvement.

So it’s no surprise that Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), a 2013 Teddy Award winner, is still aggressively pursuing strategies to reduce its injury frequency, claims costs, medical costs and lost time.

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Case in point: Through regular reviews of claims data, M-DCPS identified a significant volume of claims where comorbidities were compromising the recovery of injured workers, and negatively impacting the severity of claims.

A wellness-focused injury recovery program called Rebuilding Me had been in place since 2007, but it was not having the desired impact on recovery outcomes. Rather than scrap the program, though, M-DCPS wanted to revive it.

The Rebuilding Me program focused on the Transportation department, which had the highest concentration of employees with comorbid conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“We finally thought — we need to take this to a different level,” said Rosa Royo, supervisor, workers’ compensation for M-DCPS. “This isn’t really doing what we want it to, and we need to put some money into it.”

Together with partners Gallagher Bassett and Coventry, M-DCPS rebranded and re-energized Rebuilding Me, what Royo calls a “targeted loss prevention program.” The pilot for the relaunch focused on the Transportation department, which had the highest concentration of employees with comorbid conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

“They have range of motion issues, they have strength issues, weight is a real problem,” said Royo, noting that 87 percent of the department is overweight or obese.

An angioscreening of 650 employees revealed that only 98 had blood pressure within the normal range, while 250 tested abnormal and the other 302 registered as morbidly high. The comorbid conditions were taking a toll on claims cost and duration.

Even for something as minor as an employee whacking a knee against a steering wheel, said Royo, “You’re taking someone who’s very heavy and you’re immobilizing the joint. So maybe now you have a pulmonary embolism. You go from what would have been a $500 claim and now it’s a half a million dollar claim.”

Clamoring for More

Rebuilding Me includes the use of dedicated nurses to conduct one-on-one sessions with injured workers who are at increased risk for lost time based upon their health and wellness conditions.

It also features fitness classes, nutritional education and ergonomic awareness activities. The core Rebuilding Me team — comprised of Royo, Naomi Kuker of Gallagher Bassett, and Caroline Sauve of Coventry — is present at all events.

Strength and range of motion are key targets for the program. Royo related a story about an employee who showed up for a class and did an entire workout while clinging to a pillar. A short while later, she approached Royo and said, “Look I can raise my leg now.”

“That’s exactly what the program is for,” said Royo. “If you happen to lose weight, great. But it’s that range of motion and strengthening and those kinds of issues that we were really trying to address.”

“We’re spending $100,000 a year on this. But that wouldn’t even pay for one shoulder repair.” — Rosa Royo, supervisor, workers’ compensation, Miami-Dade County Public Schools

The response has been gratifying, said Royo. The initial pilot was conducted one day a week at the North East transportation depot. But soon, she said, “I had people chasing me in the parking lot saying, ‘You need to come more!’ ” It now runs three days a week with two trainers, and they have maxed out their available space and are seeking space for expansion.

M-DCPS has a solid program running now in five of its eight bus yards, with a sixth launching in January. At another location where lack of space has been a challenge so far, the workers’ labor union is clamoring for the program to be put in place.

The unions, in fact, wholeheartedly support Rebuilding Me, especially now that new U.S. Department of Transportation rules on medical fitness for duty could disqualify workers with significant health risks.

“Some of their members were at peril for losing their jobs,” said Royo. “This is a way for us as an employer to say, ‘We don’t want to throw you away. We don’t want to fire you. Here’s an opportunity for us to help you with this.’ ”

Well Worth the Cost

Because Rebuilding Me is a voluntary program, Royo and her team look for creative incentives to get people through the door initially, including lots of small branded swag items like sunglasses and lip balms.

But once an employee has committed to the program, the incentives ramp up. Employees get a towel after completing their first workout, and a T-shirt after the fifth. By the time they reach their 75th workout, they’re rewarded with a hybrid bicycle worth more than $400.

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“Our offices look really funny right now, because we’ve got stacks of scales and Fitbits and bicycles.”

That may make it sound like an expensive program to pull off, but Royo is quick to put the cost in perspective.

“We’re spending $100,000 a year on this,” she said. “But that wouldn’t even pay for one shoulder repair.”

The team is highly invested in the program’s success. They work to ramp up excitement within the Transportation centers, and created an online social media presence as well, through Instagram (@rebuildingmemdcps). The Instagram feed includes photos of events and classes, nutrition and fitness tips, recipes and motivational messages.

Royo hopes to build on the program’s success and popularity and keep it growing in order to maximize the impact.

“The hypertension issues, the weight issues, the musculoskeletal issues … I know this program can’t address all of these things as much as we’d like, but the better the penetration, the better the outcomes we’re going to have,” she said.

“We always try to do something that is innovative in our program, and I really think that this is special.” &

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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 Award 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.

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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.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]