During our time at RIMS 2015, we had Workers’ Comp industry stakeholders participate in WorkCompWire’s “RIMS Review” series, focused on what to look for this year and in the future! Here’s what Michelle Despres, PT, CEAS II, Executive Director and National Product Leader at Align Networks had to say:
1. What do you believe will be the most significant development in the Workers’ Comp industry in 2015?
In workers’ compensation, I see three mega trends, which tend to lead to increased utilization of PT services, and those are obesity, the aging workforce, and comorbidities. There is some overlap in the three areas because as people age they often gain weight and have other medical conditions, such as arthritis or diabetes, which can complicate PT treatment and delay recovery.
At RIMS this year, I had the pleasure of presenting on the panel, “The Aging Workforce: Its Impact on Workers’ Compensation”. There’s been a lot of research on the number of aged employees in the workplace, and as a clinical professional, I help people understand the physiological changes that occurs as part of the natural aging process. These changes often make aged workers more susceptible to more severe injuries. For example in our panel, we’ll discuss the loss of muscle mass and strength, which can put aged workers at risk for certain types of injuries that often require longer recovery times.
The aspect of aging workers that I like to focus on is the wealth of benefits they bring to the workplace. They have a great work ethic, can-do attitude, strong loyalty, and a reservoir of knowledge, not to mention a low rate of absenteeism and minimum risk-taking behavior. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study showed that productivity actually increased at worksites where the percentage of employees over 55 is higher. We view the end goal as taking steps to maximize the contributions of older workers, while minimizing the risk and cost of workplace injuries.
2. What is the top challenge you and your organization are currently working on this year?
Due to the depth of knowledge that’s required in workers’ compensation, education is a key priority and challenge. There are adjusters and nurse case mangers out there who are hungry for knowledge and want to challenge themselves with more education. In addition, most states require adjusters and nurse case managers to obtain licensed certification, as well as a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) each year.
Align Networks offers a significant number of CEU courses throughout the country. I travel to customer sites and deliver complementary CEUs on ergonomics, rehabilitation, and physical medicine topics. We’ve also teamed up with One Call University to offer CEUs via webinar, which adjusters and nurses can take from the convenience of their desks.
Education is another way we provide value and thought leadership to the workers’ compensation community. The growing popularity of our CEU program speaks volumes to the quality of the program and our ongoing commitment to deliver clinical expertise to our customers. We often get good feedback from CEU participants that it’s useful information that they’re able to apply on the job, and at the same time, it deepens their knowledge base.
3. Looking out 5 years, beyond obvious trends, what do you think one big change in the Workers’ Comp industry will be?
What we’re seeing as a growing change is the application of predictive modeling to physical medicine claims. We collect a vast amount of data on workers’ compensation claims, which utilize physical therapy, occupational therapy, and chiropractic services. We analyze this data for our customers and provide them with reports that breakdown claims by age, gender, body part, occupation, duration, number of visits, and other factors. This is powerful information that we can use to help them identify patterns in injuries or groups in their organization that have high utilization of PT services, as well as factors that lead to claimants requiring a longer rehabilitation than would be expected. In this way, we’re really been able to equip customers with the information they need to drive targeted risk management initiatives. We help them identify ergonomic opportunities as well as potential wellness programs that could directly impact their claims.
4. What is one thing you’d like to promote?
As I mentioned, besides the RIMS panel on “Aging Workforce,” I also deliver CEUs through One Call University, which is accessible through the One Call website. Check out their University page. On June 16, I will be delivering a free CEU webinar through One Call University, designed to provide adjusters and nurse case managers with in-depth information on “Lower Back Injuries.” I hope your readers might log on and check it out. We offer new topics ever quarter, and many of these courses are taught by Align and One Call clinical experts.
One more thing… for Nurses Week, I am also doing a special complimentary CEU for WC nurse case managers on “Return-to-Work Programs.”
About Michelle Despres
Michelle Despres, PT, CEAS II, is the Executive Director and National Product Leader at Align Networks, a leader in physical medicine for workers’ compensation. In her role, Michelle serves as a clinical liaison among payers, providers, and Align’s internal teams, helping to strategize in order to continually improve return-to-work results. She helps customers understand how Align can fulfill all of their physical medicine needs with clinical excellence and care coordination efficiency. Having worked as a PT, Michelle also provides customers with a clinical perspective on their PT claims performance, and delivers CEU training to their claims staff on many PT, ergonomics, and rehabilitation topics.