Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – The coronavirus pandemic has led to a number of changes in the workers’ compensation system; more remote work among employees, virtual meetings, and tele-treatment for injured workers. Another impact may be on claim reviews. These strategy session among key participants have often involved significant preparation, travel, and many hours or days of meetings. While the end result of these meetings may help move claims forward, the traditional process has been shelved during the pandemic.
“We’ve scaled it back [due to] screen fatigue,” said Faith Mason, senior manager of Workers’ Compensation Claims for Comcast NBC Universal. “Nobody wants to be looking at boxes that identify as people, or sometimes just circles with little initials. No one wants to do that all day long. So what we’ve done is scaled back our reviews … it’s not 20 claims, but maybe 10 claims we’re really talking about for an hour, no more than an hour-and-a-half because screen fatigue is a real thing.”
Mason and other claims professionals spoke at a session during the recent Out Front Ideas with Kimberly George of Sedgwick and Mark Walls of Safety National Virtual Conference. They said the move to limit screen fatigue may have opened a more efficient way of reviewing claims.
“We have monthly settlement calls about what claims are right for settlement,” said Nathan Fraley, corporate claims manager for The Kroger Co. “Really we are focusing on the claims we should be focusing on, not just ‘I want an update on every claim.’ It takes a lot out of you prepping for an update on all claims. It’s not worth it. So we are focusing on claims we should focus on.”
PetSmart’s “touchy feely” environment lends itself to in-person, days-long claims reviews that often included casual dinners and relationship building. While the now virtual meetings are working, it isn’t the same.
“We’ve broken it up into two days just to, hopefully, prevent fatigue and make sure we are all fresh when we are meeting with the next group of adjusters,” said Virginia Baba, senior manager of Claims and Risk Management at Petsmart Inc. “It’s hard to sit there all day and stare at a screen. It’s one thing when you’re in a room and you can get up and down; so we’ve broken it up into two or more days. It seems to be working pretty well.”
Ultimately, it’s about getting the job done in the most efficient way possible. “We are making sure claims are still being closed and resolved as quickly as they can be in this new world. That’s what we are doing with claims reviews. It definitely has changed,” Mason said. “Also, it’s continuing that virtual connection — keeping in touch with everybody.”
Staying in touch with one another while working from home has presented its own slate of challenges.
“Last week I was on a call and the person who was speaking didn’t realize her little girl was in the background doing cartwheels back and forth,” Baba said. “Not everybody has the perfect space at home to make this work.”
“I used to keep work and home very separate. It’s impossible to do that now if you work inside of your home, if you have a child in the background with no shirt on or a new puppy that has to be walked every two hours,” Mason said. “It’s about being up front and present to my team.”
But there are some advantages to the new work-from-home environment. Mason, for example, said it has made her a better manager, and more focused on the emotional health of her team members. She makes sure to check in with employees every week just to see how they are doing and what they may need from her.
Kroger has “virtual happy hours every couple of weeks, and trivia games,” Fraley said. “We’re looking out for the mental health.”
Virtual communication has also fostered better synergies among workers. “In my company we’ve really developed a great relationship and partnership with other departments, like HR,” said Debra Howie, system director of Workers’ Compensation Claim Operations for CommonSpirit Health. “We have built such a great partnership working together on all these issues; [with] labor and employment attorneys inhouse, legal, regulatory compliance and quality. I’ve gotten to know folks I didn’t know existed and they didn’t know that I existed.”