Claims Executive

Seven Questions for Patrick J. Walsh

Consistently getting the fundamentals right is a key focus for York Risk Services' Patrick J. Walsh
By: | May 12, 2017 • 5 min read

Patrick J. Walsh recently joined York Risk Services Group as Executive Vice President, Chief Claims Officer, and President of Risk Management Practices. He is responsible for leading all of York’s national claims operations and providing direction and expertise in servicing York’s self-insured and deductible clients. Risk & Insurance sought his views on trends shaping the claims business and his goals in his new position.

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R&I: What’s your view on how to get the best out of claims handling talent?

PJW: I believe the secret is genuinely caring about the success and working environment of those with whom we work; and leading and acting every day with integrity, honesty, and transparency.  The constant churn and stress that comes with the claims role creates an interesting challenge for managers.  There’s almost a ‘negative foundation’ that adjusters, unit managers, case managers, etc., inherit when they step into these roles.  Leaders have a responsibility  to ensure people in these roles understand the incredible value they bring to the industry and how they can make or break the experience of customers, claimants, and other stakeholders.  In my view, claims professionals deliver the promise we make to our customers and they deserve our respect and support. They also deserve our honest, constructive feedback so that we can work together to develop the best possible work environment and support their individual and collective success.

R&I: What must a claims handling organization be more adept at now than it was, say, five years ago?

PJW: The obvious answer here is data.  Everybody talks about the importance of data and how it will drive our industry in the future and I agree with that perspective.   But for all the advances in technology and data science, we can’t overlook the importance of people in the claims process.  To succeed, companies need to be adept at identifying, hiring, training, and retaining employees, at all levels, who LOVE this industry.  I believe there is a lot of untapped talent out there and the company that is willing to invest intelligently in recruiting and training non-traditional sources will have a significant advantage in the future.

R&I: You’re clearly passionate about what you do. Talk about what you derive from insurance’s higher purpose, that it repairs people and property and tries to make them whole again.

PJW: I do love this business.  I love the fact that we help so many who are in need and that claims professionals get to deliver on the promise made to the someone by, for example, an employer or an insurer.  I get personal satisfaction from working with other insurance professionals who are interested in the well-being of their clients and claimants who are, after all, relying on us to help them recover when something terrible happens to them.  I’m proud to talk about what I do with my family, friends and people I meet.  While many like to tease about the ‘sleazy insurance guy’ I believe they know that our industry does so much good work and has a positive impact on individuals, companies and our economy.

Leaders have a responsibility  to ensure people in these roles understand the incredible value they bring to the industry and how they can make or break the experience of customers, claimants, and other stakeholders.

R&I: In this new position Patrick, what are key goals for you?

PJW: My focus is on three things that will ultimately deliver value to our many stakeholders.  First, build an environment that York associates can be proud of and that is focused on creating a great work experience for them.  Second, deliver an experience to our customers, claimants and other stakeholders, that is second-to-none.  Third, aspire to zero defects in our work product, because that allows our employees and customers to focus on innovation and more exciting ways to support our collective success.

R&I: What are some keys to maintaining York’s low employee turnover rate?

PJW: Low turnover is driven by a combination of good choices during the selection process, engaging employees from day one, training employees before we ask them to perform work on behalf of our clients, and delivering honest and constructive feedback on their performance that is focused on their individual success.   An organization’s employees are their greatest asset.  By focusing on their success I believe we create a much better experience for our customers.  And when customers are happy they engage more and develop relationships with our employees that deepen our partnership.   We want employees to enjoy their environment and their client relationships – when we reach that point, turnover becomes a very manageable issue.

R&I: What challenges do you see in this segment going forward? What will you have to get right over the next five years to achieve the successes you are after?

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PJW: While there are obviously lots of challenges I’ll concentrate on a couple of things.  First, we have to do the basics right ALL THE TIME.  We can deliver innovations and talk about cool new stuff but if we don’t do the little things and get the fundamentals right, none of that will matter.  Second, we have to continue to work with customers and their representatives to develop trust. Third, we need to reimagine processes to remove some of the barriers that add additional expense to risk management programs.

R&I: What’s the most difficult kind of claim to resolve? And what are some of the most trustworthy methods to resolve difficult claims?

PJW: This is an article in and of itself.   Regardless of how I answer the first part of this I’ll get beat up by people who handle other types of claims so I’ll simply say this….the most difficult kind of claim to resolve is the one where there’s simply too much emotion and the parties will not step back and look at the facts and reality of the situation.  This is when honesty, transparency, and sincerity come into the equation – those behaviors build trust.

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]