Advocacy has emerged as a very effective means for addressing work-related issues and the many challenges they pose. This session at WCI’s 2017 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference provided an in-depth discussion of how an advocacy approach works and the benefits it can produce.
The panel included:
- Max Koonce, Managing Director, Sedgwick Claims Management Services (moderator)
- Janice Van Allen, Senior Director, Risk Management, Walmart Stores, Inc.
- Stephanie Wood, Claims Manager, The Wendy’s Company
- Laura M. Rodgers, ARM, Senior Claims Manager, Pier 1 Imports, Inc.
A workplace injury and the complexity of the workers’ compensation system can create apprehension and anxiety for many injured employees. Advocacy is designed to alleviate this uncertainty by offering employee assistance throughout the process. Instead of questioning claims, advocacy focuses on making sure injured employees get the assistance needed to recover and restore their health. This may entail addressing pre-existing health conditions, recognizing psychosocial issues, or clarifying overall claims expectations. By treating the whole person, resources can be identified and aligned in a way to produce a more positive experience, identify an effective pathway to recovery, and ultimately reduce employer costs.
There are three areas in which to concentrate:
- Addressing the need for change in how we communicate. Workers have completely different expectations depending on their generation. Usually, the better the communication, the better the outcome of the claim.
- Ensuring that there is a balance between stakeholders – employee, employer and administrator – to get the best outcomes.
- Creating a system that can adapt to the individual’s needs. Everyone has different expectations on how system should work and each claim has different needs.
There are several ways that employers can apply advocacy to their programs. Examples include:
- Demonstrating a ‘we care’ attitude in helping the worker through a really confusing system. Making sure case managers develop relationships with the worker and maintaining constant communication.
- Asking providers to learn your business and the jobs associated with it so that they can better serve the injured employee. Invite them on site to see facilities and identify light duty jobs.
- Involve Human Resources to help assist with the return-to-work process, providing clear communications on what to expect.
- Eliminate paperwork, where possible, with online resources.
- Using bilingual nurses rather than interpreters for more-direct communication.
Not only does advocacy work, but it is quite simply the right thing to do for injured employees. It takes a complete change of mindset to one of compassion and empathy.