In 2021, we’re seeing workplaces and workforces go through rapid change that requires adaptation and innovation in support sectors such as workers’ compensation. There have certainly been fantastic strides in recent years — using data to improve patient safety and outcomes is a great example — but there are many more areas that can benefit from a forward-looking approach.
Technology can help us achieve better, and more cost-effective, outcomes for injured workers, which is why leaders in our field should be looking to innovate wherever possible.
I think one of the best ways we can do this is look to other industries and see what is working there. Innovation doesn’t always mean starting from scratch. It very often starts with a company looking out their window, seeing something that is working in another area and saying, “We can do that.” There are so many examples, but today I would like to share three powerful ideas that other industries have successfully put to work that we could and should adopt in workers’ comp.
1. Data Interoperability Standards
If you have an ATM card, you can go anywhere in the world and get money. Even if your bank doesn’t have a single branch in the country you are in, your card will still function and allow you to withdraw cash. Our cell phones also work in other countries, even without being on your carrier’s network, thanks to international roaming.
Both of the above scenarios are possible thanks to data interoperability standards. This is when companies within an industry, or across industries, adopt a shared standard for sending and receiving data. This can not only help insure a better and smoother user experience, but it can also create an environment of increased efficiency for entire sections of a market.
We do have some data interoperability in workers’ comp, but there is a long way to go. Lack of data interoperability contributes to a fragmented experience for injured workers, which can negatively affect outcomes, including return-to-work. Not having data interoperability also creates barriers to identifying and solving emerging problems, from the next dangerous drug to egregious pricing practices.
In workers’ compensation, better data interoperability standards and sharing can save a patient from common situations such as seeing multiple doctors and having multiple claims from a single injury. Not only could the patient experience improve, but appropriately shared data can increase operational efficiency, decrease redundancies and lower costs for administrators and payers.
2. Mobile Technology
Leveraging mobile technology is another area where all parties in workers’ compensation could benefit from the advances other industries have made. A close and applicable example is automobile insurance. Nearly every provider offers their customers a simple and user-friendly mobile app that gives them information they need about their policy and accident claim.
Right from a mobile device, customers can see their claim status and initiate a fairly broad range of actions, from uploading claim information, to reviewing with an adjuster, to initiating an escalation if needed.
In our sector, this level of mobile capability would drive engagement and education by allowing injured workers to view critical information about their injury and case. Administrators and providers would have a highly effective means to keep information flowing to an injured worker with less friction.
Like in other fields, mobile technology can free up resources in areas such as call centers, allowing for a higher level of service and better customer engagement.
3. Wider Adoption of Telemedicine and E-Prescribing
With telemedicine and e-prescribing, we have a situation where workers’ compensation can substantially benefit from the advances and more widespread adoption in the broader health care space.
Telemedicine has of course received increased attention and accelerated during the pandemic, and it has been highly effective in enabling medical interactions that would not have been possible in-person. While doctor visits are the first thing many of us think of, there are many applications beyond a video chat for a prescription refill.
For example, as international travel opens back up, COVID-19 testing requirements are being fulfilled with the help of virtual testing proctors to instantly verify results. In workers’ compensation, it’s possible to imagine some type of virtual proctoring potentially streamlining areas where testing and verification is required.
Finally, e-prescribing is an area where workers’ compensation is making forward progress, but is still playing catch-up to the broader health care space. myMatrixx Chief Clinical Officer, Phil Walls, has discussed this topic and noted that while e-prescribing has increased to 55.9% of prescriptions for myMatrixx plans as of 2020, that number still lags behind the 80 to 86% rates seen in group health.
Increased adoption of e-prescribing in our field can help pave the way for greater intervention at the point of prescription, compared to the point of dispensing. This could, in turn, increase patient safety, driving down prescription of dangerous drug combinations, and increase patient convenience by reducing the need for prior authorizations at the point of sale.
Through an open, innovative mindset that embraces and integrates successful models wherever they can be found, I believe the workers’ compensation industry can continue to improve both care for injured workers and efficiency for stakeholders.