Nurse Case Manager Chronicles

Thrown from a Horse: How Technology Gave One Worker His Life Back

As workers’ compensation technology continues to grow, nurse case managers find the right devices to foster independence and cut costs.
By: | August 15, 2018 • 4 min read

Thrown from a horse. Injured with a broken back. Left as a paraplegic.

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He was a young man in his mid-twenties, working on a ranch as a foreman. He used four-wheelers daily, rode horses and drove a pick-up truck. At home, he had a wife and two young kids. He hunted game to provide food for his family.

This foreman needed to work.

“He was determined to get back to work despite the obstacles set before him,” said Kevin Glennon, vice president of clinical programs for One Call. Glennon, who has been with One Call for 22 years, was a nurse case manager at the time. He was assigned to the foreman’s case and knew exactly what he had to do.

“I had to tap into the available technology to get him back to work as a functioning member of society.”

Finding the Right Devices

“Every year there are more and more advancements with technology,” said Glennon.

For this worker, Glennon needed to find devices that could support him both on the ranch and in his home. Glennon approached the carrier and adjuster with his plans to include innovative technologies in the recovery plan. Lucky for him, they were in full support.

Kevin Glennon, vice president of clinical programs, One Call

As an avid hunter, the foreman needed a way to get into a deer stand. Glennon researched “hydraulic deer stand” and found a lot of different products. To get the foreman back on his horse, Glennon researched “specialty saddles for horses for paraplegics.”

“Thank goodness for the internet,” quipped Glennon. Before, he had to search catalogs for this kind of workers’ comp tech.

Now, the internet acts as a jumping point, providing an answer to the most important question: Is there a technology out there for this?

Cost-Effective Solutions

Sometimes the more “high-tech” devices are actually the most cost-effective in a workers’ comp case. A standing wheelchair, for example, can replace the need for multiple devices.

“I like to explain to the carrier that instead of buying multiple pieces of equipment, like a wheelchair and standing table, sometimes we can buy one that does it all,” said Glennon. “That’s cost-effective for everyone, including the injured worker who won’t need to make room for two devices.”

“Innovative approaches foster independence in patients and increase their self-esteem and self-worth. Technology today can make all the difference in a case. It provides case managers with so many more options than they had just a few decades ago.” — Kevin Glennon, vice president of clinical programs, One Call

The foreman qualified for a standing wheelchair and a ramp was placed inside the barn where he worked, which was used to raise him up to a horse’s height. A trapeze, which the foreman used to hoist himself onto his horse, was also installed.

Additionally, Glennon, as the case manager, found a saddle that comfortably supported the foreman atop his horse without straining the animal.

“Someone else has to strap him in [to the saddle], but once he’s on, he’s good to go,” said Glennon.

And as for this worker’s personal life, Glennon acquired a hydraulic deer stand. This stand enabled the worker to wheel himself into the cabin and use a button to raise the stand to a hunting height.

“Innovative approaches foster independence in patients and increase their self-esteem and self-worth,” said Glennon. “Technology today can make all the difference in a case. It provides case managers with so many more options than they had just a few decades ago.”

Increasing independence decreases the need for attendant care, which is typically $30 to $35 an hour, Glennon explained. This, in turn, keeps the injured worker less dependent on the health care system.

“That’s the biggest thing technology is doing — fostering independence.”

The Endless Possibilities of Technology

New devices can impact many types of claims. One type of technology making waves in the workers’ comp industry is wearables.

“When we talk about wearable technology, most people think about watches or the new iPhone. People don’t often think about manual wheelchairs in terms of a wearable, but they can bring a person into an upright position,” said Glennon.

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While standing wheelchairs enable a paraplegic to move around, reach items on high shelves or get back to work, something as simple as a GPS monitor inserted into a shoe can foster that same independence for someone with a minor brain injury.

“It’s just like a Dr. Scholl’s insert, and it will track people with mild head injuries who might get lost,” said Glennon.

Wearables also promote safety by preventing injury from happening in the first place. There are helmets with sensors that alert users to physical hazards in their work environment. Exoskeletons are built to prevent workers from overextending at work. Chips have been embedded in workers’ clothing to detect safe noise levels and temperature.

“As technology continues to advance, it’s important to always look for ways to keep workers safe, independent and returning to work.”

And as for the case of the foreman: “He maintained his foreman status. That claim had no attorney involvement, and he went on to have three more kids.” &

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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]