How the Abrupt Shift to Work-From-Home Actually Boosted Improvements in Injured Worker Care and Advocacy

A RIMS session looks at how the push to adopt new technologies to support a remote workforce can be used to aid injured worker advocacy.
By: | March 17, 2021

There are few things in the world today that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t disrupt. They ways we work, shop and generally live our lives have transformed by the pandemic.

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The workers’ compensation industry is no exception to this disruption. With remote work came new worker safety, injury and ergonomic risks. Early on, claims may have been delayed due to providers closing their offices to non-essential medical care. 

In these turbulent times, technology has stepped in to keep workers’ comp claims — and our lives — on track. Telemedicine helped make sure injured workers never missed an appointment. Portable technologies made it possible for claims adjusters to work remotely. And mobile tools have improved claims experiences and outcomes.  

“Due to COVID and some of the other events that we’re facing, communication is very key,” said Doug Anderson, regional manager, workers’ compensation claims at Liberty Mutual. 

“The injured employee is working from home. It’s one thing to make sure that they’re productive while working from home, but businesses also need to make sure that the work environment is safe for their employees.”

On April 27, Anderson will join Gina Tubbs, west market claims manager at ADP, and Suzette Tierney, director financial risk management and TS northeast claims manager at ADP TotalSource, for a panel discussion on how the move to remote-work and new technology investments have helped improve both injured worker care and advocacy during the 2021 virtual RIMS conference. 

The session, “We’re Locked Out of the Office! How Changing to an All-Remote Workforce Helped Improve Injured Worker Care and Advocacy,” will take place virtually from 2:30-3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Tech Advances Worker Advocacy

When most people think of the worker advocacy movement, they think of offering support to workers, whether that be through in-person meetings where they explain the claims handling process or through phone calls to check in on their wellbeing. 

Doug Anderson, regional manager, workers’ compensation claims, Liberty Mutual

Seldom do they think of the ways in which technology can facilitate this process. 

During the panel, Anderson and his co-presenters will discuss how digital tools can help facilitate communication with injured workers, which types of medical care can be effectively provided through telemedicine and how technological investments can help workers’ comp adjusters maintain claims handling excellence.  

Understanding how technology can aid in injured worker care and advocacy has been necessary for many organizations in 2020. Early on in the pandemic especially, injured workers had few options outside of telemedicine for continuing their care.  

Technology became essential for facilitating communication between their doctors and claims adjusters during these times. 

Ongoing and proactive communication became essential, Anderson said, because things changed so rapidly with the virus and phone calls, emails and even text messages helped facilitate those conversations. 

“Trying to make medical appointments, follow up, receive therapy, even a lot of the treatment has moved virtual,” Anderson said. “So the key to all that is ongoing and proactive communication.”

Technology didn’t just help facilitate communication, however. It also facilitated care for many workers, something that may continue after the pandemic for soft tissue and musculoskeletal injuries, which can be particularly suited to virtual physical therapy programs. 

“Historically, physical therapy has always been done in a physical setting. Individuals are required to drive or receive transportation to the facility where they receive the physical therapy to aid their recovery,” Anderson said. 

“With telemedicine, individuals can receive physical therapy and continue the recovery, while remaining at home.”

Keeping Advocacy at the Fore 

As new technologies become more commonplace, it’s important for workers’ comp programs to consider how these tools can be used to aid in worker advocacy. 

As evidenced by COVID-19, technology can step in and help keep injured workers connected during a disaster situation.

One way that Anderson and Liberty Mutual have used technology to drive worker advocacy is through developing a “catastrophe playbook,” which helps them connect with injured workers who live in areas that are experiencing severe weather.

“The catastrophe playbook makes sure that we proactively are addressing potential issues that an injured worker may face,” Anderson said. 

“We use technology to determine which injured workers are off work, where they live, and then cross reference that where we anticipate there could be a storm. We’re able to proactively reach out ahead of any catastrophic event just to make sure that the injured workers have what they need to continue to recover.”

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If attendees take away one thing from the session, Anderson hopes that it’s the importance of treating injured workers like valuable company assets and caring for them as such. 

“Companies tell us their employees are their most valuable asset,” Anderson said. 

“Our claims professionals really focus on four key areas. We want to make sure they understand the perspective of the injured worker. We want to make sure they show compassion and empathy. They set expectations about the process and also very important is that they educate and empower workers to ensure that they get the treatment they need.” &

Courtney DuChene is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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