Blogger panel inspires discussion on weighty workers’ comp issues

kendraKendra DePaul, Special Assistant to the BWC Administrator

It only makes sense that BWC’s blog would feature a post about the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference’s annual bloggers’ panel. Every year, this is a favorite event of the week, where the best-known bloggers in workers’ compensation share their perspectives and reflections on the future of the industry.

Blogger PanelThis year’s panel included David DePaolo, J.D., President and CEO of and author of DePaolo’s Work Comp World blog; Joseph Paduda, Principal at Health Strategy Associates and author of Managed Care Matters blog; Rebecca Shafer J.D., President, Amaxx Risk Solutions Inc. and author of blog; and Robert Wilson, President and CEO, and author of the From Bob’s Cluttered Desk blog. The panel was moderated by Mark Walls, VP Communication & Strategic Analysis for Safety National.

The group is a diverse one in terms of expertise and perspective, which lead to a lively and interesting discussion.

Not surprisingly, the first issue to come up was the “Grand Bargain” of workers’ compensation and the on-going discussion about whether the system is working as it should.

Here in Ohio, BWC was established in the Ohio Constitution in 1912 and has been providing workers’ compensation to Ohio employers and employees for over 100 years. The Ohio Constitution clearly defines the purpose of BWC:  to provide “compensation to workmen and their dependents, for death, injuries or occupational disease, occasioned in the course of such workmen’s employment.” And on the employer side, it was established that any employer who pays into the system “shall not be liable to respond in damages at common law or by statue for such death, injuries or occupational disease.” It set up the very fundamentals of the “Grand Bargain.”

Over the past 100 years, BWC has evolved but it is safe to say the employees of BWC still work each and every day to assure that injured workers are properly care for and that employers are getting valuable protection for the premiums they pay.

The overall thoughts of the panel on this subject were that there are always improvements to be made to the system, and that we should get mad when errors are made, but overall, most people in the system are trying to do the right thing. This could be evident in the fact that over 2,000 people gathered at the conference to think and learn about ways to improve the system.

And here in Ohio, it is not any different. We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our customers, the employers and injured workers of Ohio.

In that same vein, the conversation then turned to where the bloggers thought the industry would be in 10 years. I think everyone in the workers’ compensation industry, including BWC, has realized that the market is changing and we have to be aware of what is on the horizon.

Earlier this year, BWC managers and supervisors heard from Karen Furtado from Strategy Meets Action about the technology changes that are in our future. Thinking about the fact that 10 years ago, there were no smart phones, makes you wonder what kind of technology will be around in 2025. She talked about how wearable devices, new payment technology and drones could change the industry in the future.

The bloggers talked about similar changes. Bob Wilson said that robots and automation will change the types of claims we will have going forward. And that he is already seeing changes in how we use technology to monitor the health of an individual.

David DePaolo talked about the changes surrounding independent contractors, such as Uber drivers, and about the need to protect these people as well. As industry forces change the way we define employees, he believes the industry is well-suited to provide solutions to all sorts of employment relationships.

Another common theme was the blurring of lines between healthcare and workers’ compensation. The data has shown that you cannot simply ignore other conditions of an injured worker outside of workers’ compensation. We know those conditions affect the outcome of a claim and we need to challenge ourselves to find ways to improve the general health of the customers we serve. BWC is already looking at some of these issues through its Enhanced Care Pilot.

You know, when I tell people I work in workers’ compensation, I know they probably think it is the most boring job in the world. But it’s not. It is a dynamic, challenging landscape, where you have the ability to help real people. Is there a better way to spend our days?

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