AASCIF 2018: Connecting with industry peers and experts

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

Each year BWC staff participates in the Annual Conference of the American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds (AASCIF).

This year, SFM Mutual Insurance Company hosted the conference in Minneapolis. SFM was a generous host providing educational sessions, informative panels and networking opportunities to the attendees.

BWC staff are involved in AASCIF in many ways. This year four BWC employees were members of AASCIF’s committees tasked with planning session topics and finding speakers.

Michael Rienerth, Ergonomics Technical Advisor, chaired the Safety and Health Committee. Bill Teets, Communications Director was on the Communications Committee. Barb Ingram, Chief Finance Officer was on the Finance and Investment Committee and I was on the Underwriting and Policyholder Services Committee.

Several BWC staff also traveled to the conference to attend sessions on a variety of topics from managing concussion claims to an overview of nationwide workers’ compensation legislation.

Shadya Yazback, BWC Chief of Enterprise Services, said that one session she really enjoyed was Telehealth – A Case Study. In this presentation, Workforce Safety and Insurance (WSI), the North Dakota State Fund discussed how they are piloting telemedicine options for a small group of employers. Some areas in North Dakota are very remote, so the pilot utilized technology to engage injured workers’ through telephone calls with triage nurses and follow-up video calls with physicians. The presentation included a live demonstration of a patient exam using the video technology (see photo below).

Shadya commented that she thought the presentation was useful in demonstrating how technological advances have the potential to improve access and quality of care to our injured workers.

I also participated in a panel titled Successfully Recruiting and Retaining the Workers’ Comp NextGen. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Wolf, Executive Director of the International Association of Industrial Accident Board and Commissions (IAIABC). The interactive discussion highlighted the value of hiring and retaining millennial talent and offered ideas such as fellowship programs and career progression paths as ways to get more young people into the industry.

In addition to the educational programming, AASCIF holds an annual Communication Awards competition. I am happy to report that BWC won four awards this year. The awards are:

  • Excellence in Writing: First Place for Saving Lives, Building a Pharmacy Program piece in IAIABC’s Perspectives Magazine
  • Radio/TV Advertising: Second Place for our Guardian Angel 30 second spot
  • Open Category: Second Place for the 2018 Ohio Safety Congress and Expo
  • Print Marketing: Third Place for BWC’s Opioid Infographic.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the conference was when our Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison announced that AASCIF 2019 will be coming to Cleveland, Ohio.

The team at BWC is already hard at work gearing up to host the conference. Cleveland is a beautiful and vibrant city so save the date for July 21 – 24 and plan on joining in 2019.

Celebrate National Nurses Week, Day: May 6 – 12

Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence

By Mary Charney, BWC Director of Nursing

Inspire, Innovate, Influence. That’s the theme for National Nurses Week, which runs from Sunday, May 6, to Saturday, May 12 (National Nurses Day celebrating Florence Nightingale’s birthday).

This year’s theme also reflects the important role nurses have in holistically caring for Ohio’s injured workers at work and home.

Better You, Better Ohio!,BWC’s health and wellness program for employers (including health care clinics, offices, practices and centers) of 50 or less employees, emphasizes the importance of employee and injured worker wellness for lifelong health.

BWC nurses lead the way

Our 58 nurses work in a variety of areas, from medical policy and employee health to rehabilitation, claims management and clinical advisement. They inspire, innovate and influence Ohio’s injured workers and our employees to manage their health and they promote the highest quality of life and well-being for all of us.

We, along with the rest of the nation, devote this week to highlighting the diverse ways registered nurses work to improve health care.

In honor of National Nurses Week, we thank our nursing professionals for what he or she does every day at work and within our communities. Nurses make a difference by inspiring, innovating and influencing all of us throughout our lives.

Largest, most trusted health-care profession

Nursing is the largest of all health-care professions, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA). For the 16th consecutive year, the American public ranks nurses as the professionals with the highest honesty and ethical standards, based on a Gallup poll.  The ANA believes advocacy is a pillar of nursing.  Accordingly, the ANA calls on nurses, as one of the most trusted professions, to be healthy role models.

In its Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge, a nationwide movement, the ANA states, “If all four million nurses increased their personal wellness and then their families, coworkers and patients followed suit, what a healthier nation we would live in! That’s the goal of the grand challenge an initiative to connect and engage nurses, employers and organizations around improving health in five areas: physical activity, nutrition, rest, quality of life and safety.”

Health, safety and wellness risks for nurses

The Executive Summary of the ANA Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) findings reports,

“Nurses and nursing students face unique hazards in the workplace and multiple health, safety and wellness risks.” The findings suggest that “nurses are less healthy than the average American. Research shows they experience 2.8 times more stress, have a 30 percent less nutritious diet, five percent higher body mass index (BMI), and get 10 percent less sleep. The HRA results show there is room for improvement in nurses’ health, particularly with physical activity, nutrition, rest, safety and quality of life.

“As seen by the fact that 68 percent of the nurses reported putting the health, safety and wellness of their patients before their own, now is the time to educate nurses and employers on the importance of nurse self-care.”

To help lessen safety risks for nurses related to patient lifting, needle sticks and/or infection control, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene, offers safety grants for health-care employers to improve patient and staff safety. If a nurse is injured, our transitional work grants program helps transition injured nurses back to work safely and quickly.

In summary, “nurses are critical to our nation’s (and our state’s) health. Healthy nurses are great role models for their patients, colleagues, families and neighbors.”

Promoting health and a balanced lifestyle is just one nursing role. Every day, BWC’s nurses strive to serve as the best resource and provide excellent service for Ohio’s injured workers and our employees.

Finding a way: Injured worker triumphs through tragedy

Brad Hurtig, a double amputee, inspires audience at BWC medical symposium

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

The workplace accident that took Brad Hurtig’s hands in 2002 could have taken so much more from the high school student-athlete — his place as a star linebacker on the football team, his hopes, dreams and career goals.

But Hurtig, who gave the final lecture Friday at the 2018 Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium, wouldn’t let that happen, thanks to a coach who wanted him back on the team and a water bottle on the practice field.

“He invited me to practice when I got out of the hospital,” Hurtig recalled to hundreds of health care providers gathered at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “It was in late July, super hot and muggy. There was a water bottle on the ground, and I asked my coach for a drink. Well, he paused for a moment, looked at the water bottle, then up at me and said something that would ultimately change my life: ‘If you’re thirsty enough, you’ll find a way.’”

Hurtig found a way, along with a new motto that propels him to this day as a motivational speaker and youth minister.

A three-sport jock, Hurtig had broken a school record for tackles as a middle linebacker his sophomore year. After his accident and a failed stint as a placekicker (“I was terrible”), he returned to his old position his senior year, broke more records (111 tackles) and made all-state honors in his division.

Now 33, the northwest Ohio resident travels the country talking to high schoolers, the media and others about perseverance through adversity. He calls his lecture, Find a Way: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.

BWC Administrator Sarah Morrison stands with motivational speaker Brad Hurtig before Hurtig’s lecture Friday afternoon at the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

Speaking for about an hour to the symposium audience, Hurtig recalled the June day of his accident 16 years ago, shortly after finishing his sophomore year, and the journey that followed.

He was working in a friend’s family business, a metal shop, placing sheet metal in a 500-ton power press that stamped metal into automotive parts. One sheet was misaligned. He attempted to straighten it, but his friend at the control switch didn’t notice. The press came down, severing Hurtig’s right arm below the elbow and crushing his left hand.

“The first thing I remember wasn’t really the pain or even the physical sensation, it was hearing someone scream when they looked at me,” he said.

Hurtig spent 11 days in a Toledo hospital and endured multiple surgeries. In the weeks and months that followed, he worked closely with his medical team and BWC to adapt to his new life and make life adapt to him. BWC provided equipment so he could drive, open doors, turn the shower on and operate a computer. Key to his recovery were myoelectric prosthetic arms.

He removed his prosthetics and explained to the audience how they work. He spoke of the family, friends and health care providers who supported him throughout his ordeal, the empathy of doctors and others who seemed genuinely caring and dedicated to his recovery. “BWC was huge,” he said.

He also shared a couple of workplace safety tips:

  • Stop and think. Impulsive, snap decisions get us into trouble.
  • “If I just communicated with my friend, I would still have my hands.”

“The reality is we all have challenges in life, we all have setbacks, and I can tell you that how we handle those setbacks will in many ways define our lives,” he said. “Excuses will only get you so far. If you’re truly thirsty enough, you will find a way.”

For more on Hurtig, visit bradhurtigsafety.com.

Ohio employers receive $341,000 in workplace safety grants

Fourteen Ohio employers will share $341,020 in grants from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to purchase equipment designed to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.

BWC approved the Safety Intervention Grants in December. The recipient employers operate in eleven counties around the state, including:

  • Cuyahoga County
  • Lake County
  • Marion County
  • Mercer County
  • Miami County
  • Ottawa County
  • Sandusky County
  • Scioto County
  • Stark County
  • Van Wert County
  • Warren County

Click here for a listing of recipients by county, including descriptions of planned equipment purchases.

The Safety Intervention Grant program matches an employer’s investment 3-to-1 up to a maximum of $40,000. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies measure the effectiveness of employers’ safety interventions and establish best practices for accident and injury prevention.  Learn more about the Safety Intervention Grant Program at bwc.ohio.gov.

View stories about previous grant recipients on our YouTube channel.

Sharing insights and achievements in workers’ comp

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

In workers’ comp, we sure do love our acronyms. One of my favorites is the IAIABC which states for the International Association of Industrial Accident Board and Commission.

The IAIABC is an association that brings together workers’ compensation administrators, regulators and leaders to discuss policy and regulatory issues affecting workers’ compensation systems around the world.

Workers’ compensation is a state-based system and although rules and laws vary between states, we also have a lot in common. IAIABC’s annual convention provided an opportunity for the various states (and countries) to discuss common challenges, solutions and ways to impact the system.

The conference was held in Portland, Oregon this year and it was my first year attending. The topics discussed were familiar to those in the industry, including disability management and return to work, employee vs. independent contractor classification, promotion of health and safety, and the like.

A common topic that often comes up at these meetings is employee recruiting and how we are going to replace the knowledge and experience of many talented workers’ comp staff who may be retiring soon. The focus is often on how jobs in the workers’ compensation field have many good things to offer: stability, career advancement, opportunities for growth, the ability to help people, and the need to recruit millennials.

Since I am a millennial, I will say that all those things ring true and I very much enjoy spending my days in the workers’ comp world. I was honored this year to be recognized by IAIABC as a NextGen recipient.

The award recognizes professionals under the age of 40 who are making an impact on workers’ compensation.

As part of the award, I participated in a session titled A Conversation with the NextGen where we shared our thoughts and insights on the industry.

I had a great time meeting the other NextGen recipients and discussing the future of workers’ comp.

Although we are from different states and work in many different roles, there are common themes of needing to improve communication, leverage data and move towards a customer-focused system. There was agreement that for a lot of people, having a workers’ compensation claim is a very personal and potentially life-altering situation and it is important to not lose the people in the process.

If you’re looking for a career path in an industry on the verge of making important improvements, look no further!

Striving for world class

By Bill Teets, BWC Communications Director

It is no secret that successful organizations have a strong sense of direction and purpose. At the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, we want to be a world class insurer.

We have a clear mission to “protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.” Keep people safe. Make them better when they’re hurt. Do it effectively to not over-burden business. We also have a core set of values—service, simplicity and savings—that guide us.

While these are essential to being world class, they’re not enough. As communications director for BWC, I spend much of my time discovering all the great things happening here and sharing them with the outside world. There are so many stories to tell. Great investing has helped us return $3 billion in rebates over the last several years. Ohio’s injury rates are below the national average and our claims are at record lows. We’re finding ways to speed care to the injured and our nationally recognized pharmacy management program has drastically reduced opioid usage among injured workers.

What I’ve learned from telling these stories is that world class organizations have world class people. Our mission and values may guide us, but ultimately, it is the people that deliver on those promises. Several recent accolades prove my point.

Recently, our Chief of Enterprise Services, Shadya Yazback was named a C-Suite Award Winner by Columbus Business First. In their own words, “the C-Suite Awards recognizes Central Ohio’s top executives for their contribution and commitment to the community and their outstanding professional performance.”

This year’s 19 winners were selected by a panel of business school professors in Ohio. Among her achievements at BWC is the implementation of a multi-year, multi-million dollar replacement of our core claims and policy management systems—systems used by more than half our 1,800 employees to serve Ohio’s injured workers and employers. It was not always a smooth transition, but as the driver of the process she proved world-class people are able to adapt and keep an organization driving toward a common goal.

Kendra DePaul is another example of our world-class staff. Kendra has been named as one of 11 NexGen award winners by the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). She achieved this accolade for leading Ohio’s effort to build our Other States Coverage and managing the program. Because of this program, Ohio employers who do business in other states have options that make life easier when it comes to covering their employees.

That same organization awarded our pharmacy department the second annual IAIABC Innovation Award. That entry, “Saving Lives — Building a Model Pharmacy Program Amid a Deadly Epidemic” reflects Ohio’s efforts to reduce opioid abuse and excessive prescribing of the painkillers while building a pharmacy program that’s recognized as a leader in the industry today. Because of the pharmacy department efforts, led by John Hanna, who just retired, we have reduced the number of injured workers dependent on opioids from 8,000 in 2011 to 4,100 today. You can point to policies, but it was John and his people who took the initiative to make this reality.

Three world-class accomplishments. Three world-class people. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At BWC, we have 1,800 other dedicated individuals who work every day to help keep workplaces safe, get the injured back to their lives, and help reduce bureaucratic obstacles to their success. Not a bad place to work.

Collaboration among states improves program

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

In late August, underwriting consultant Julie Phillips and I traveled to the User’s Conference for Other States Coverage. The conference was hosted by United States Insurance Services (USIS) who is the vendor we work with, along with Zurich American Insurance to offer workers’ comp coverage outside the state of Ohio.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, workers’ compensation can be complicated for employers working in multiple states as each state has different rules and laws that must be followed. The Other States Coverage program allows BWC and several other state’s funds to assist their policyholders with securing proper coverage nationwide.

The purpose of the annual conference is to get together with the other states to discuss program results, best practices and troubleshoot common questions.

There are six other state funds in the program and in 2016 about 3,000 policies were issued collectively. The majority of the policies are small, with 68% being under $5,000 in premium. Although there are some large accounts, the collective group has primarily embraced this program to offer coverage options for smaller employers.

Around the meeting table it was clear that the reason each of the state funds offered this option is because they cared deeply about their policyholders and wanted to assist them with being successful. The issue with coverage and claims in a multitude of different states is not unique to Ohio. Each of these state’s funds have dealt with similar issues of employees hired in one state and injured in another, or with employers being fined for not having coverage in a specific state. It is also clear that some states are harder to work with than others and require multiple forms to be filed when policies are issued there.

A big push at this User’s Conference is for each state to share lessons learned or tools created to make the program more efficient for each user. One example of this has to do with schedule rating forms. Schedule rating is an available premium adjustment on private workers’ comp policies. An insurer can offer debits or credits for unique conditions of an employer.

For every policy we issue we are required to complete a form stating whether a schedule rating was used and the specific reasons why. Most states have a separate form for this purpose and if you issue a policy in multiple states, multiple forms are often required.

In an effort to reduce the time spent completing these forms, Julie Phillips took the initiative to create an Excel tool where policy information only has to be entered once and then is populated to multiple forms and saved as a PDF document. This new format has allowed our underwriters to spend much less time completing individual forms. Julie presented the Excel tool at the User’s Conference so they could begin taking advantage of it as well.

I am thankful for Julie’s hard work in completing this and I am continuously impressed by the collaborative spirit of all the state funds involved in the program. Each of them has offered assistance as we continue to improve our Other States Coverage program in Ohio. We all have the same goal of providing excellent customer service to our policyholders. Working together, I am confident we will do just that.