The priorities and challenges revealed in Healthe’s 2022 Workers’ Compensation Industry Insights Survey Report are very much reflective of an industry focused on moving forward from the pandemic – but with some residual hurdles yet to overcome.
This fourth year of the survey captured responses from nearly 500 respondents across many roles and organizations, providing readers with a well-rounded understanding of the industry’s key priorities, motivations and challenges against which they can benchmark and check-adjust their own organizational and program initiatives.
Here are some themes that rose to the top.
Concerns About the Changing Workforce
Seventy-one percent of survey participants are concerned about the changing workforce impacting workers’ comp. This is not an entirely new concern. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and/or accelerated multiple factors that are re-making the American workforce and workplaces, at least for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps the most significant change to the workforce over the past two years has been the labor shortage, driven by unexpectedly early retirements, women leaving the workforce, and enormous pressure on frontline workers in hospitality, education, and healthcare. Physician and other healthcare professional shortages have been on our radar for several years, and now compounding this are shortages of home health workers, pharmacists, technicians and more, which can adversely affect access to and/or timing of care.
And of course, the ability to attract and retain new talent is a concern within the workers’ compensation industry itself – one that predates the pandemic. Two of the biggest-hit areas are also two of the heaviest-hitting roles in today’s claims organizations: claims staff and IT resources. The former representing the foremost, frontline role critical to management of the injured worker claim; the latter representing a cornerstone for the technological goals that many workers’ comp organizations are in pursuit of.
Alongside recruitment, retention, and employee engagement strategies that the industry is implementing, solutions that help claims organizations do more with less or more with same are a higher priority than ever before. Which leads us to the next insight…
Greater Urgency for Efficiency & Automation
With intensified labor pressures, it is no surprise that operational efficiency and automation are top of mind for many in workers’ comp. For insurance carriers, TPAs, and MCOs, this includes claims processing and medical program management efficiency. In fact, claims process automation was ranked as the #1 most important technology for the next 3-5 years for survey participants. These same organizations expressed a high degree of concern about outdated technologies, ranking it as their #3 concern.
While having the right people in place is essential, in a labor pool where the availability of qualified people may be limited, technologies that support operational efficiency are a necessary complement to recruitment and retainment efforts. Importantly, they improve the experience for the employees who are left behind to make up the gap – helping to ease growing workload burden, as well as enable claims staff to remain focused on more complex, high-value tasks and decisions that will have the greatest positive impact on claims.
Need for Stakeholder Integration & Improved Experience
In the complex environment of workers’ compensation medical care, true efficiency cannot be achieved within organizational silos. Every stakeholder’s experience depends, in large measure, on stakeholders from other organizations. Injured workers, claims professionals, healthcare providers, pharmacists, ancillary product and service vendors, all interact and are, to a large degree, interdependent. A level of dissatisfaction with the flow of information between stakeholders was evident in various sections of the survey. As insurance, healthcare, and other related industries face increasing worker shortages, the imperative to connect systems and improve the claims and care management experience for all stakeholders becomes more urgent.
To this end, survey participants see promise in technical solutions to bridge communication gaps and interruptions in the flow of information between stakeholders. We agree with the one third of participants who think that integration and data sharing between stakeholders is an important technological advance. Better connectivity across the workers’ comp medical care continuum is key to a positive and productive experience for all industry stakeholders, as well as better health outcomes for injured workers.
Download an open-access copy of the 2022 Workers’ Comp Industry Insights Survey Report for question-by-question results and more detailed analysis.