Risk Management SocietyOne of the benefits of going to a conference year after year is the chance to observe industry trends over time. The conglomeration of business in one place, the exhibit floor chatter, the sessions and workshops, blend together into themes and patterns showing where a sector is headed.

After attending 20-plus RIMS (Risk and Insurance Management Society) annual conferences, the sea change right now is clear: Finally, it’s all about the injured worker.

When I first started assisting clients in the workers’ compensation and risk management space, back in the 1990’s, it was clearly a relationship-based B2B play. And a very complicated one at that – 50 sets of state regulations, fee schedules, bill review. It was all about following the rules and cutting the costs.

Then along came the Internet, online communication, social media, and consumers driving the channels of communication. “The consumer experience” has become the new byword. “Engagement” doesn’t mean a wedding anymore. We “relate to the brand” as if, indeed, this inanimate object were flesh and blood.

And this shift in dynamics is real. Consumers are much more likely to choose and stay loyal to a brand if they relate to and resonate with the values that brand espouses. (Hopefully, their actions are congruent with their values).

And so it is in workers’ compensation. Companies now realize that the injured worker is a stakeholder as important as the insurance company, the employer, the TPA, the doctor. Here are three reasons why:

  • Unhappy customers can sue. Litigation costs add significantly to the cost of a claim. Workers tend to seek attorneys when they are unhappy or afraid. Therefore, building good communication and engagement with injured workers throughout the duration of the claim makes good business sense.
  • Engaged injured workers get well faster. Employees who are engaged in their care plan will be more compliant and make better progress. If they can get through the fragmented maze that is worker’s comp, they are happier, more engaged, and stick to their treatment plan.
  • Injured workers who are not well treated can damage a firm’s reputation. From unionized workers whose causes are fought by union officials in the media and the local government, to individuals’ heart-breaking situations reported in the ProPublica investigative series some years back, workers’ comp firms are learning the power of public opinion if they are seen as failing in their commitment to help, not hinder, those who were disabled or hurt in the line of duty.

And finally, I think – and hope – that the attention now being given to the plight of the injured workers stems from not just economic and business reasons but from the heart – it’s called compassion.

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