This past week, the workers’ compensation industry came together in Burbank, CA to celebrate the 2016 Comp Laude Awards. Comp Laude was created by the late David DePaolo, WorkCompCentral founder and CEO, on the premise that workers’ compensation does a lot of good things for people experiencing the misfortune of a workplace injury or illness. For two jam-packed days, attendees were busy learning from one another, networking, and sharing ideas and projects focused on improving the workers’ compensation experience, along with congratulating the Comp Laude honorees.
The Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation hosted a day-long claims track, which focused on advocacy-based claims management, as part of the event. Employers and stakeholders shared their insights into creating and operating within an advocacy model. Advocacy puts caring, listening, and empathy at the forefront of the claims process. Panelists acknowledge the system is complicated to navigate and often intimidating. Early adopters of advocacy are reworking the vernacular used with injured workers, rewriting the letters they send, and working diligently to communicate more effectively with injured workers.
I was humbled and deeply touched by the fireside chat held with injured workers. In this panel we heard from three injured workers and a spouse; they shared their injury and recovery stories and, with passion and care, shared how they felt the system could improve. A panelist formerly on narcotics for 12 years was told by his medical and case management team he was as good as he would get. Yet, when a fresh carrier team evaluated his claims, rehabilitation was an option – and two years later he goes to the gym daily and is medication free. As society wraps its arms around those diagnosed with cancer, having a work injury is taboo unless the injury is catastrophic from the start and all resources are offered to support the injured worker and family. Has the payer community given up on injured workers with a desire to get better?
As Cindy Cassidy, Assistant Manager, Sedgwick, shared with me, “Rarely do claims professionals get to put a face to the claim and truly understand the impact of the injury on the worker’s life as well as their family’s lives. All the injured workers who spoke drove home the importance of communication, even when the news wasn’t what they were hoping to hear.” Another Sedgwick colleague, Brittani Drost, Claims Representative, reflected, “I was greatly moved by the fireside chat and thought it was an incredibly important section of the event. It’s important to be reminded of and revitalized for the main purpose of workers’ compensation, which is to help people. Sometimes, the overwhelming rules and regulations, the juggling of tasks and deadlines that this industry requires can wear a person down. During the advocacy panels and the fireside chat, I greatly wished I had some way to broadcast it live to my colleagues at home, primarily to encourage them with the reminder that what they do every day does matter, and people do appreciate the time and effort they put in with every claim.”
Another highlight of the event was the People’s Choice Award presentation. Each presenter shared an impactful six minutes on their topic and the audience voted for their favorite. Sedgwick’s own Jay Ayala, managing director, shared his thoughts on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Unlike most D&I conversations, Jay’s powerful message hit on two groups of diversity we do not normally think about, hiring those with disabilities into the claims environment, as well as single parents. The audience voted Dwight Johnson, Soule Innovations, the People’s Choice Award winner. In a way, Dwight has become the face of Comp Laude and in his raw, open, honest and heartfelt approach, he reminded us all to care – care for the injured worker, care for each other, and care to be better.
The audience learned about the growth of Kids’ Chance nationally and a Kids’ Chance scholarship recipient from California shared her story about growing up with a parent impacted by a work injury and what this has meant to her life. Her story is compelling; Kids’ Chance creates a future that might not have happened otherwise, Kids’ Chance creates opportunities, and Kids’ Chance cares and supports their scholarship recipients when there might be few others in position to do so.
As I reflect on my experience at Comp Laude, I have a renewed appreciation for advocacy, and designing programs to improve the experience for stakeholders – both claims professionals and injured workers. Comp Laude allows the industry to come together, set our logos aside for the event, and focus on being better together.
Kimberly George, SVP, Corporate Development, M&A, and Healthcare