Claims Management

Payers Benefit From Newer Claims Technology

The shift from legacy to cloud-based systems is unlocking new benefits and new possibilities for employers and other claims payers.
By: | March 7, 2017 • 5 min read

The retirement of baby-boomer age computer professionals is helping drive more workers’ comp claims payers to abandon older, legacy-type claims management systems for nimbler software as a service (SaaS) technology.

The shift is occurring as the aging computer professionals, along with claims adjusters who spent their careers working with the assistance of the older legacy claims systems, are replaced by millennials accustomed to newer, smarter technology.

Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions, Riskonnect

“The people who have been maintaining these legacy systems, as well as your adjusters who are used to using those systems, are getting older and exiting the business,” observed Shahin Hatamian of Mitchell International Inc. “You are bringing in younger people who don’t know how to use that legacy system and they want something that is easier to use, more configurable, and a little more automated. That is where newer systems come into play.”

The newer technology also accommodates a younger, less-experienced adjuster workforce with automation that eliminates more of their decision making.

Several other equally pressing reasons are pushing claims payers to continue a migration away from legacy systems to SaaS platforms. For one, more services now developed to improve workers’ compensation claims outcomes are created on these platforms, allowing for easier data interchange between claims payers’ systems and other services the claims payer uses.

“You would be hard pressed to not want to take advantage of the benefits of SaaS,” Hatamian said.

Legacy systems typically rely on in-house server technology for information storage and often were developed to meet a specific company’s needs. Their ongoing use, modification and maintenance usually requires the expertise of people familiar with that system.

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“There are a group of legacy systems that have more attractive, contemporary user interfaces, but they are still built on architectures that are fairly rigid and require a lot of custom coding,” said Aaron Shapiro, executive director of sales, marketing and legal at Origami Risk.

By contrast, SaaS systems are cloud based and accessed via a web browser. While much of their updating can be done simultaneously for many customers, they also allow ease in customization, according to proponents.

“From a claims management standpoint there are so many moving variables at any point in time. … There are a plethora of people involved in the whole claims process.” — Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions, Riskonnect

The newer technology’s flexibility allows easier configuration to meet a purchaser’s unique workflows, rather than requiring the purchaser to flex their operations around the technology, Shapiro added. It can ease risk managers’ connection with other company departments, such as safety, and with their company’s operations managers for quicker action on data revealing workers’ comp claim drivers.

“That leads to much higher engagement in the operational field,” Shapiro elaborated.  “Where you have a risk manager that has a collaborative relation with field operations and safety there is an opportunity to automatically trigger workflows the second there is a report of injury.”

Shahin Hatamian, Vice President, Product Management and Strategy, Mitchell International Inc.

Similarly, information can be more easily shared with outside parties such as third party administrators, nurse case managers and other workers’ comp service vendors relaying information that may prevent a claim from growing more expensive.

“That is what SaaS products do,” said Nicholas Toal, vice president of business development and sales at JW Software. “It’s a solution that tries to make the workflow seamless,” eliminating challenges claims payers frequently encounter when attempting to connect older systems with third party claims services.

Factors driving the shift away from legacy systems to SaaS also include ease in updating the newer systems with state regulatory changes and less disruption when employees leave a company employing the technology, said Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions at Riskonnect.

The most pressing reason for moving to SaaS, though, is the ability to connect with many sources of information — including industry trends and service provider data — impacting a claim, Davidson said.

“From a claims management standpoint there are so many moving variables at any point in time,” he elaborated. “It is not just the injured employee or employer. You are dealing with medical providers, you are dealing with bill review, you are dealing with nurse case managers, independent medical examiners. There are a plethora of people involved in the whole claims process.”

Multiple Benefits

Improved integration of information from all those sources can help adjusters and other end users make better decisions, Davidson said.

Tom Ryan, market research leader, Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence

Meanwhile, newer technology companies have emerged offering risk management information systems with “a broader platform of service capabilities,” said Tom Ryan, market research leader at Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence. Those capabilities include data analytics and the conversion of data into highly customized reports and dashboards for workers’ comp claims management.

Simultaneously, employers are increasingly knowledgeable about the data management capabilities of risk management information systems, Ryan added.

“So a lot of employers are looking for more customized dashboards and tools to manage workers’ compensation,” Ryan said.

RMIS systems, and their dashboard technology for managing claims, have improved significantly over the past two to three years, added Duane Pifer, senior consultant and data analytics lead in the integrated casualty consulting group at Willis Towers Watson.

But the systems typically provide relatively stagnant information, Pifer added. Employers and other claims payers could benefit, he said, should the next generation of technology products allow claims payers to receive more interactive claims information delivered in smaller, more frequent, notifications, like those that social media sites push out concerning a user’s network contacts.

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In that way alerts pushed-out to cell phones or tablets, for example, could inform employers of organizational changes — such as increased employee turnover in a specific production unit — that would likely impact claim filings, Pifer said.

Similarly, information could alert claims payers when claims are nearing a certain status point, such as a specific expense level.

“It is that kind of information, in small chunks, that Is intuitive that the user wants to see,” Pifer said. “I think the technology is beginning to get there and I know some RMIS have apps that provide that. But it is not widespread yet.”

When it comes to both RMIS and claims management systems, however, there is widespread agreement that the newer platforms are much simpler to use.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

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]