During our time at RIMS 2014, we had Workers’ Comp industry stakeholders participate in WorkCompWire’s “4 For 14” series, focused on what to look for this year and in the future! Here’s what Darrell Brown, Chief Performance Officer at Sedgwick had to say:
1. What do you believe will be the most significant development in the workers’ compensation industry in 2014?
When we look at some of the most critical issues facing the country and workers’ compensation – specifically issues like prescription drug abuse and the need within more states to implement statutes and regulations to allow for more effective management of cases where Schedule II narcotics are involved – the need to preserve access to and ensure quality healthcare grows in importance. Consider the recent Centers for Disease Control study that shows prescription drug overdoses exceed traffic-related deaths and highlights the need for change at both the federal and state levels. America has 4% of the world’s population but consumes 80% of the global supply of opioids. In looking at the long-lasting effects to the body from inappropriate use of prescription drugs, especially narcotics, it’s evident that the guidance of a highly ranked provider can make a major difference on not only the outcomes of a claim, but also the long-term wellbeing of the workers they treat. The reality is this: Schedule II narcotics are common in older cases; if access to quality physicians is limited or laws are not put in place to discourage over-prescription and utilization, poor outcomes are highly probable for these injured workers.
Another component of access to healthcare is, of course, advancing technology. Technology today is moving very fast and furious. Many injured workers are embracing self-service technology. They want real-time information and they want to be able to access it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As an industry, we need to ensure we are keeping up with these advancements so that we are leveraging technology to the fullest extent. Technology can enable us to help the injured worker while integrating efficiencies into the process. The ongoing need to make healthcare even more accessible and more immediate will help drive such technology advancements.
2. What is the top issue/problem you and your organization are currently grappling with?
As a service organization, we are always working to meet our clients’ needs; we strive to deliver excellence and the highest level of customer service possible. While we work hard to deliver for the here and now, the real challenge is making sure we anticipate and understand what the future will hold for our business. In thinking about the uncertainty our clients will face and how future issues will impact their operations, we must be certain we have solutions and strategies designed to address our clients’ future needs. We can come up with solutions for today’s problems and issues, but those will invariably change and force us all to look at things in a different way. For example, we just posted a study on how collaboration and innovation among employers and other stakeholders can improve results in difficult jurisdictions. Another study Sedgwick recently summarized, published by the University of Illinois in Chicago, looks at the impact of stress in the workplace. We want to make sure we are not just handling claims, but really providing valuable thought-leader solutions for our clients.
3. Looking out 5 years, beyond obvious trends, what do you think one big change in the Workers’ Comp industry will be?
An easy answer would be conjecture about the potential impact of the ACA. I obviously agree the workers’ compensation industry may have to deal with issues around access to care and the need to engage employees more directly in the healthcare process through technology, as noted previously. However, what we have seen over the years is that employers have successfully mobilized to influence legislative change when there is imbalance in the workers’ compensation systems – when injured workers are not receiving appropriate benefits or costs are unreasonable and unpredictable. I think this approach will continue. I think as employers and the industry continue to reflect on issues in various states, we are going to see more states moving to laws that allow employers to opt out of the traditional statutory workers’ compensation systems, much like we’ve seen in Texas and Oklahoma. I predict we will see an expansion of this, given the focus on delivery of benefits, return to work, and alternative dispute resolutions.
4. What is one thing you’d like to promote?
There are actually two things I would like to promote and encourage employers to consider. The first is the importance of employer activism. In such states as California, Illinois, and Oklahoma, we have recently seen the impact that employers can have in influencing positive changes within the workers’ compensation system when they galvanize, come together, and speak with one voice. Activism is key to advancements within the workers’ compensation system.
Additionally, I want to mention Performance 360. Sedgwick introduced Performance 360 as a way to redefine how quality is delivered and measured within the industry. Clients expect us to provide quality service and meet regulatory and carrier requirements as a matter of course. Performance 360 goes above and beyond this. It calls for us to focus on outcomes of the claim. By getting involved earlier in the process, we can make better assessments and determine where to direct resources to ensure they have an optimal effect. We really believe Performance 360 will impact the way employers view and measure the quality of their programs.
About Darrell Brown
Mr. Brown is the Chief Performance Officer with responsibility for Sedgwick’s Total Quality Initiative, Performance 360, as well as innovation. Darrell is based in Sedgwick’s Long Beach, California office.
Darrell has over 20 years of experience in claims management. He joined Sedgwick in 2001 as an assistant claims manager. Afterwards, he worked as an operations manager and also as an area manager for the southern California region. Most recently, Darrell spent over five years as the workers’ compensation practice lead for Sedgwick. Prior to joining Sedgwick, Darrell worked as a claims manager for a third party administrator specializing in public entities.
Darrell has been an instructor for the American Insurance Educational Association teaching workers’ compensation advanced and workers’ compensation case law and labor code. Darrell holds a self-insurance license in California. He has also earned the associate of risk management designation (ARM) through the AICPCU.
Darrell received a bachelor’s degree in finance from California State University at Northridge.