Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Why isn’t there a workers’ comp app for that?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In his recent column A Workers’ Comp App Store? in Risk & Insurance, our friend Peter Rousmaniere poses the question, “When will mobile devices be used to improve work safety and injury response?” He notes that Personal Lines insurers are taking the lead and cites a few examples. He goes on to offer thoughts and ideas for a workers’ comp mobile initiatives for this “ripe communication channel.”
It’s been about a year since we took the pulse of the workers comp mobile app scene here on Workers’ Comp Insider: Last April, we posted 72 apps for your workers comp, risk management & HR toolbox, and shortly before that, a roundup of risk-related and occupational gizmos & gadgets. (As with all older posts, some links may no longer work, but most appear valid.)
In doing a Google search, we found an excellent post by Michael Allen who apparently has already done some of the heavy lifting for us: Mobile health – 40 “apps” for your workers’ comp team. He lists a variety of apps ranging from workers’ comp medical guidelines, claims-related, medication management, physical therapy, patient education, and Health, Wellness and Comorbidity management apps. (By the way, we’ll be adding his great blog to our sidebar: Tech Talk for Workers’ Comp)
Besides the listings, he offers insight into how many CIOs are building app stores from which employees can download vetted apps. He links to a piece by Clint Boulton in the WSJ about the rise of corporate app stores. Boulton says such stores, “…ensure applications used by employees, particularly those that are using their own devices, meet the company’s security standards.”
So Peter is right on the money (as usual) with his “Workers” Comp App Store” reference.
A further Google search for “OSHA apps” turned up this listing of safety apps using the keyword OSHA; Another search for ADA apps brought these results. A little digging in the “about us” section of Canvas, the site hosting these listings, says that “Canvas makes it easy to publish data collection apps on wireless Smartphones and other mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, bar code scanning devices, and Netbooks.” Among other benefits and services, it also boasts, “Canvas also offers the first mobile business application store of its kind allowing business users to find mobile applications that work on a wide variety of mobile devices, with every application being customizable by Canvas users.”
So if you want to compile a list of trustworthy insurance, business, or workers comp apps for your workforce, this might be a good tool to work with.
Meanwhile, here’s a grab bag of a few workers’ comp or risk related apps we’ve bookmarked for just such a post as this:

Many of the apps we see are ghost towns – few reviews, little traction. Still, we applaud the pioneers for forging the way because in our experience, insurance as an industry is infamous for leading from behind when it comes to adaptation to new technologies.

“The touch of a human hand and tone of voice can do so much in the process we call healing”

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

As long as we’re on the topic of healthcare today, it seems to be an opportune time to share a moving video clip that we bookmarked over the holidays. Marty Ratermann, a Missouri a craftsman and furniture maker, relates his story as a cancer patient at the 2010 Health Literacy Missouri Summit. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 rectal cancer in 2008. After a grueling recovery process, he has been in remission for more than a year. He details how his situation could have been prevented with better communication between him and his doctors.
His story illustrates the difficult path that a person faces navigating the complex healthcare system and making critical choices at a point when he or she is particularly vulnerable. His prescription at the end of the clip is a simple one: take the time and make it a priority to communicate.
I couldn’t help but think of the parallels in the healing process for workers who have experienced a serious injury. Many a claim has spiraled out of control for want of good, clear communication and a simple human-to-human moment of concern. So often, we see workplace injuries that are treated as financial transactions when, in reality, they are fundamentally human events: someone is injured, often through no fault of their own. The complexity of the system a worker may find themselves suddenly thrust into, the unfamiliar insurance jargon, the impersonality – all occurring at a point where the worker may be feeling fear and anxiety about their future physical and financial well being. Our prescription: Less thinking about the injured worker as a claimant and more thinking about them as a person. In our experience, that’s what leads to the best financial outcomes in the long run.

A Patient’s Story from Health Literacy Missouri on Vimeo.

Free Web seminars: Standard/Universal Precautions and Communicating with Spanish Speaking Employees

Monday, May 14th, 2007

We’ve learned about a few free seminars that we thought we would pass along to you. We don’t have any connection with either of these groups, but they are both sponsored by reputable organizations and sound interesting.
Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers – Wednesday, May 16
The North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Education and Research Center is sponsoring a free NORA Interdisciplinary webcast on Wednesday, May 16 from 1:00 – 2:30 pm EST. Kathy Kirkland, Executive Director, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics in Washington, DC, will present “Standard/Universal Precautions: Compliance, Beliefs, and Barriers.” The seminar can be viewed live via webcast, or an archive link will be available a few days after May 16 for viewing at your convenience.
Access the seminar here at 1 pm EST on May 16, and log in as a guest. Type in your first and last name and click the “Enter” button to launch the OSHERC meeting space. You may need to download the meeting plug-in (Flashplayer). There will be an interactive question and answer session. Slides and an evaluation form are available.
The seminar topic has been approved for 1.5 contact hours or 0.15 CEUs through the University of North Carolina. To receive the CE credit, you must complete a registration form (hard copy available only) and send a $4.00 check payable to *Friday Center for Continuing Education* to Susan Randolph by *May 25, 2007*; you must also complete an evaluation form after the seminar.
More info: Susan A. Randolph, FAAOHN Clinical Instructor Occupational Health Nursing Program University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1700 Airport Road, CB #7502 Room #337 Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7502 – Phone: 919-966-0979
Improving Communication with Spanish Speaking Employees – May 24
Benefits Management Online Forum & Expo is sponsoring this free online forum on Thursday May 24 at 2:00pm EST. Register for attendance here
The notice for this forum states:
If you are an employer with Spanish-speaking employees, an HR director responsible for the success of Spanish-speaking teammates, or a benefits specialist who must communicate plans to Spanish-speakers, this online forum is for you.
Spend an hour with Melissa Burkhart, founder and president of the consulting firm Futuro Solido USA, as she shows why developing Spanish straight talk es muy importante. Melissa will explain the different workplace behaviors and values held by English-speaking and Spanish-speaking workers and reveal the secrets to successful trouble-shooting and team-building with Spanish-speaking employees.
In this presentation, you will learn about:
* Culturally rooted beliefs
* Common pitfalls and employer frustrations
* Strategic solutions for optimizing communication and building more effective teams

Health literacy: employees at risk

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Last week, Ezra Klein put the issue of health literacy back on our radar screen with a link to a recent Washington Post article, A Silent Epidemic. The article discusses the complexity of the health care system, and how a huge swath of the population is unprepared to effectively engage that system because of functional illiteracy, language, or culture. The article cites a 1999 report by the American Medical Association finding that most medical forms are written at a graduate school level while the average U.S. adult has eighth-grade level literacy skills. Another study cited painted a bleaker picture:

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1995 found that more than 80 percent of patients treated at two of the nation’s largest public hospitals could not understand instructions written at the fourth-grade level for the preparation of gastrointestinal X-rays known as an upper GI series. A 1999 study of more than 3,200 Medicare recipients found that one in three native-born patients could not answer a question about normal blood sugar readings even after being given a paper to read that listed the correct answer. And a study of 2,500 elderly patients published last year in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reported that patients with low health literacy were twice as likely to die during a five-year period as those with adequate skills, regardless of age, race or income.

The Joint Commission recently issued a report 65-page report on this issue entitled “What Did the Doctor Say?”: Improving Health Literacy to Protect Patient Safety (PDF), but if you’d like a quick executive summary, see recent press release on Low Health Literacy Puts Patients at Risk, which offers a summary of the issue along with some specific recommendations for healthcare providers to address the problem. These include:

  • The sensitization, education and training of clinicians and health care organization leaders and staff regarding health literacy issues and patient-centered communications.
  • The development of patient-friendly navigational aids in health care facilities.
  • The enhanced training and use of interpreters for patients.
  • The re-design of informed consent forms and the informed consent process.
  • The development of insurance enrollment forms and benefits explanations that are “client-centered.”
  • The use of established patient communication methods such as “teach back.”
  • The expanded adaptation and use of adult learning centers to meet patient health literacy needs.
  • The development of patient self-management skills.
  • Health care organization assessment of the literacy levels and language needs of the communities they serve.
  • The design of public health interventions that are audience-centered and can be communicated in the context of the lives of the target population.
  • The integration of the patient communication priority into emerging physician pay-for-performance programs.
  • The provision of medical liability insurance discounts for physicians who apply patient-centered communication techniques.

Workers compensation implications
This issue has great relevance to employers for the implications that health literacy can have on workers compensation, general disability, and general work force wellness. Good outcomes require good communication. If you want to ensure that your workers get good medical care and return to health and to work as soon as possible, effective communication between the injured worker and the treating physician is essential. And it would appear that if the average reading comprehension is at eighth grade level, few employers are immune. The challenges for employers with a high population of unskilled workers or workers who have or no English are even greater.
First and foremost, employers and managers should understand the risks inherent in their work force. Illiteracy is also an issue that with enormous implications for safety and training. Organizations with a work population that is at high risk from a health literacy perspective should also take particular care to select physicians who have cultural competence. And when a work injury occurs, there may be a need for a health care liaison to help and advocate for the injured worker. For complex cases, this might be a nurse case manager. For simple injuries, employers might assign a workers comp injury coordinator who would follow up with the injured worker frequently during the recovery process, and verify that medical instructions are understood and being followed. A translator might also be part of the care team if the worker has limited English.
Related posts:
When it comes to safety, make sure you speak the same language!
A health literacy crisis looming?
Cultural competence in healthcare and beyond

Don’t let medical providers “discount” your injured workers

Wednesday, August 24th, 2005

We talked a bit about “framing” on Monday – the depersonalization that can occur when people are lumped into broad categories or stereotypes, and how that pigeonholing can set the trajectory for future behaviors and events. Thus, an injured worker can make the leap from being your best employee to a rather suspicious “claimant” in one fell swoop. So it was of some interest when, in doing our weekly medical blog rounds, we came upon a post that related to the transformation and depersonalization that often occurs when one becomes “a patient.”
Rita Schwab at MSSPNexus points us to a story in The New York Times about the degrading shift from person to patient* that often occurs when one crosses the threshold into a hospital. Rita comments that, often, ” … the courtesies that help lubricate and dignify civil society are neglected precisely when they are needed most, when people are feeling acutely cut off from others and betrayed by their own bodies.”
She excerpts this incident from the article:
“Mary Duffy was lying in bed half-asleep on the morning after her breast cancer surgery in February when a group of white-coated strangers filed into her hospital room.
Without a word, one of them – a man – leaned over Ms. Duffy, pulled back her blanket, and stripped her nightgown from her shoulders.
Weak from the surgery, Ms. Duffy, 55, still managed to exclaim, “Well, good morning,” a quiver of sarcasm in her voice.
But the doctor ignored her. He talked about carcinomas and circled her bed like a presenter at a lawnmower trade show, while his audience, a half-dozen medical students in their 20’s, stared at Ms. Duffy’s naked body with detached curiosity, she said. “

If you or a family member has been hospitalized recently, you may identify with some of the stories and issues discussed in the article. It made me recall The Doctor, an old film in which William Hurt played a successful but brusque surgeon who learned what it feels like to have the tables turned after he gets cancer.
(* If the NYT article is archived, you may be able to access it from here with free registration.)
What happens when your injured workers visit the doctor?
Employers need to give some thought to what happens when their injured workers become patients. As Rita points out, this is a very vulnerable point for your employee and the medical milieu can be a highly confusing and frustrating labyrinth. In addition to all the regular depersonalization inherent in encounters with the medical world, employees who seek care under the banner of workers comp can be made to feel like they are somehow less worthy, second-class patients. And in a sense, they are – workers comp rates are generally discounted by fee schedules and network negotiations; further, some providers are reluctant to be involved in what they see as a potentially contentious case.
Employers that truly care about the recovery of their injured workers would do well to assume the role of patient advocate. This entails advance planning by seeking out and meeting the quality medical providers near your facilities and making these doctors familiar with your organization and your return-to-work programs. In representing your work force, you have more buying power and more influence to ensure timely service and priority care than any one individual walking in off the street would. If an employee is experiencing frustration or confusion during the course of treatment, you want to know that and be in a position to help resolve those issues whenever possible. If you don’t pay attention to those frustrations, an attorney would be glad to!
Hands-on advocacy
Often, employers think that managing the relationship with providers is the job of the insurer or the contracted network, but we would argue that this is not a relationship that can be “outsourced” on the day-to-day managerial level. Employers need to be an active participant in this relationship, and to ensure that injured employees get top quality care and service. And we would add that a good place to begin is to be more concerned with quality than with discounts when seeking out a network or a doctor — in fact, we often encourage employers to pay more to ensure good service. Cheap medical care is no bargain; a few extra dollars spent early might be the best bargain of all.

Fraud or lack of worksite controls?

Monday, October 6th, 2003

Minnesota is getting tough on fraud. They estimate that about 10% of all claims are fraudulent. If fraud is that high in the state, it’s a clear sign that employers aren’t making the most of basic worksite controls – communicating and establishing expectations with employees, managing injuries immediately, bringing employees back on RTW. Generally, in our experience, when fraud is high, employer controls are being underutilized.