Follow Evidence Based Medicine on Every Work Comp Claim With This Simple System

Hey there, Michael Stack here CEO of Amaxx. So I’m not a doctor, right, I have no medical training. I’ve never even particularly liked science very much; biology, chemistry, those classes in high school, just not my thing. I was much better at math, I was always good at math and I was always very interested in business.

 

 

Medical Component Significant in Workers’ Compensation

 

So, fast forward over 20 years later and now I’m in an industry where the medical component of it is a huge piece to what we do in creating these best outcomes. The costs are only continuing to rise and the complexity of the health care system is following right along with it.

 

So, while I’m not a doctor and you might not be either, I do know how to read. I also know how to use a phone and I even know how to use email and if you have these three skills as well, there is no reason that you should not be following the best practices of evidence based medicine on every single one of your medical injuries, which are your worker compensation claims.

 

 

Simple System to Follow Evidence Based Medicine

 

Now let me lay out a very simple system for you to ensure that that happens. You start with reading the evidence based guidelines for that injury. John Smith’s injury, which has a rotator cuff injury, these are published in MD guidelines, also published in ODG guidelines, both of those are paid subscriptions. You can also use a free resource at guidelines.gov.

 

So either you yourself or someone else on your claims handling team, read the guideline on what it says for rotator cuff injuries for that particular ICD9 or ICD10 code. You then have a weekly meeting with your claims handling team, your risk manager, your adjuster, maybe your account representative, case manager, possibly, possibly an attorney if it made sense on that particular day.

 

 

Compare Injury to Evidence Based Guidelines

 

You talk about John’s injury, where is he now, where is he going, what has happened, how does it compare to those evidence based guidelines and you’re holding this meeting on the phone. If it starts to look like he’s going off the track or there’s some elements that when you compare them to the guidelines, it’s outside of what’s recommended or outside of what’s typical.

 

Now, that might be relevant, that might be right, based on John’s scenario but you don’t know that because you’re not medically trained and your adjuster isn’t either. So the next thing you do is, you send an email to your medical advisor and you say doctor medical advisor, can you take a look at this case based on John’s history, based on John’s circumstances, based on the comparison to those evidence based best practice guidelines for what should be expected in this case. Is that right or is there something else we should be doing, some different interventions, maybe it’s an IME, maybe it’s a UR, maybe it’s further case management, maybe it’s something else that your medical advisor would recommend.

 

Following this simple system, in a systematic way will ensure that every one of your medical injuries, which are your worker compensation’s claims do follow the best practices of evidence based guidelines.

 

Again, I’m Michael Stack with Amaxx and remember your work today cannot only have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line but it will have a dramatic impact on someone’s life. So, be great.

 

Learn more: HOW TO USE EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE TO CREATE BETTER WORKERS’ COMP CLAIM OUTCOMES

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

Effective Medical Cost Management in Workers’ Comp Programs

effective workers comp medical cost managementWorkers’ compensation is a complex system with varying laws in each jurisdiction and a changing American workforce. While there are many things that change, the fundamentals of a best in class workers’ compensation management program generally stay the same.  One of those elements is the need for effective Medical Cost Management.

 

 

What is Medical Cost Management?

 

“Medical Cost Management” is a term that describes various operations carried out by a workers’ compensation third-party administrator or insurance carrier to reduce the cost of medical claims.  It includes a number of different features that meets the needs of the employer that considers the nature of their industry, the workforce population it employs, injuries common to the work the employees perform and trends in health care that reduces the number of visits to health care professionals.  It also must provide the medical care and treatment injured parties are entitled to as the result of a workplace injury.

 

Common features of a medical cost management program include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs);
  • Nurse case management, including web-based and telephonic hotlines and access;
  • Injury case management, including medical and vocational experts;
  • Utilization review of medical care and treatment. Given the dangers and overuse of prescription drugs, a complete review of prescription drug usage is essential;
  • Independent Medical Exams (IME) & Peer Review;
  • Pharmacy / Opioid Management
  • In-Home healthcare services; and
  • Medical billing review.

 

 

Implementing Medical Cost Management in Your Program

 

The implementation of an effective medical cost management program requires buy-in from a number of interested stakeholders.  This includes an employer concerned about providing quality care and benefit delivery to injured workers.  It also requires a third-party administrator or workers’ compensation insurer that cares about the service it provides to the employer/client and the workers served under the program.  It also includes the effective implementation of the following program components.

 

  • Prompt Reporting of Work Injuries: Any cost-effective program must include a number of different methods for employees to report a work injury.  Advances in technology have moved the industry beyond paper forms that confuse even a trained claims professional.  The use of web-based portals or smartphone apps can assist employees and their supervisors in prompt reporting of all workplace injuries.  It can also include features that allow impacted parties and potential witnesses to preserve evidence related to the injury.  One of the most important features of any injury reporting system needs to include access to immediate and appropriate medical care and treatment.

 

  • Expedited Medical Care and Treatment: Beyond the issue of compensability, all workers are entitled to immediate and effective medical care and treatment following any work related injury.  It should also include steps to monitor and manage the care so that drivers in healthcare (including fraud, waste and abuse) can be eliminated without sacrificing quality.

 

  • Return-to-Work. Return-to-work is an often overlooked component of medical cost containment.  Sadly, interested stakeholders who do not include effective return to work in their cost containment programs are doing a complete disservice to all interested parties involved in a claim.  Implementation of a return to work program should be something that is re-evaluated frequently to meet the needs of each individual client and employee.  It should also include an industry specific review of all processes and options.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Medical cost management in workers’ compensation is an important part of running an effective program focused on compliance with the law and supporting the needs of all interested stakeholders.  A multi-pronged approach requires buy-in from the employer and execution by the third party administrator or insurance carrier.  When done correctly, it will reduce costs and promote program efficiency.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

6 Ways to Get the Most From Medical Treatment Guidelines

A majority of states have some type of medical treatment guidelines in their workers’ compensation systems. They are generally intended to get the highest quality care to injured workers with an eye toward reigning in costs. Unnecessary treatments and medications can often be avoided when guidelines are followed.

 

But just as the workers’ compensation system is different in every jurisdiction, Medical Treatment Guidelines can vary widely from state to state. Organizations that operate in multiple locations may find it confusing to keep up with each jurisdiction’s guidelines; they may also get pushback from medical providers or others involved in the claims process. Understanding some of the challenges and following a few steps can help get the most benefits from guidelines.

 

 

What They Are

 

Medical Treatment Guidelines are written from a clinical perspective to help lend consistency and best practices in determining medical care for injured workers. They are a set of procedures, pre-appraised resources and tools intended to be the gold standard in medical treatment.

 

There are a variety of Medical Treatment Guidelines in workers’ compensation. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Official Disability Guidelines from the Work Loss Data Institute are the most prevalent, although many jurisdictions use just portions of each. Several states have developed their own, either based on either of the two national guidelines or developed in-house.

 

Some are intended to be educational tools for medical providers, while others are used as criteria to approve or deny treatment. Some are created via a strict scientific regimen. Others are approved by physicians on more of a consensual basis.

 

Proponents say properly written and followed guidelines can prevent inappropriate treatments and get injured workers back to function and work quicker. They point to the overprescribing of opioids as an example of a consequence for the failure to have guidelines. Better safety, clinical outcomes, shorter treatment, and improved return-to-work rates are among the benefits.

 

 

Challenges

 

While the Medical Treatment Guidelines may be the rule of the land in some jurisdictions, they are not cast in stone. That can be a positive factor, in that it allows for exceptions; however it can be a problem if medical providers either don’t understand the guidelines or refuse to adhere to them.

 

There are additional challenges posed by Medical Treatment Guidelines.

 

  • Some are published online, while others are put manually into a system.
  • Some jurisdictions struggle with keeping their guidelines current according to the latest medical research.
  • Lack of info. Some of the more common occupational injuries have no associated Medical Treatment Guidelines.
  • Everyone involved in a claim — the claims adjuster, nurse case manager, physician, UR and bill payment personnel must know and understand them for maximum effectiveness.
  • Dispute resolution. Some states have a dispute resolution process focused on evidence-based medicine, while others do not.
  • Decision makers. The treating physician has the final say in some jurisdictions, while payers can direct care in others.
  • Approval/denial process. In some instances, the best treatment for a particular injured worker goes against the Medical Treatment Guidelines, but the provider fails to adequately explain the rationale.

 

 

Solutions

 

Understanding, consistency and common sense are key to getting the most out of Medical Treatment Guidelines. Here are steps to do that.

 

  1. Organizations need to understand the guidelines of each jurisdiction in which they operate. They need to pass on that information to their claims handlers, nurse case managers, physicians and all others involved.
  2. Coordinate. In addition to understanding the Medical Treatment Guidelines, those involved in the claims process must be consistent in their application.
  3. Work with doctors. Medical providers need to be on board with the guidelines for them to be effective. In cases where physicians may be leery of guidelines dictating the treatment, organizations should explain that exceptions are allowed.
  4. Where an injured worker has comorbidities, psychosocial issues or other extenuating circumstances, the guidelines may not offer the best hope for a positive outcome. Organizations must be willing to take a holistic approach to each injured worker and encourage those involved in the claims process to fully evaluate medical treatment requests that run counter to the guidelines.
  5. Overcoming denials. In situations where the best treatment does not concur with the guidelines, there should be a smooth process to review and decide on them quickly. For example, physicians working with the organization need to understand how to properly document exceptions to the guidelines and explain why recommended treatment can improve function.
  6. Communicate. Keeping stakeholders in the loop is critical. Any changes in guidelines must be passed on as soon as possible.

 

 

Summary

 

Medical Treatment Guidelines are not a panacea or ‘the silver bullet’ to quickly resolving claims. But where they exist, they are based on scientific evidence.

 

At the same time, treatment dictated by guidelines is not always right for each injured worker. Common sense and individual medical diagnosis of cases must also play a part in the decision making process.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Controlling Work Comp Transportation Expense Is More Than Ordering an Uber

Controlling Work Comp Transportation Expense Is More Than Ordering an UberMonitoring and managing workers’ comp transportation expenses can drastically improve the claim expense cost, especially on larger work comp claims. Unfortunately, claims adjusters and/or nurse case managers often overlook this important expense, thinking to save money by not using a transportation service.

 

Attempting to cut costs in this category is not an option, and here’s why.

 

 

Controlling Work Comp Transportation Expense Is More Than Ordering an Uber

 

Controlling transportation expense is more than ordering an Uber for the employee to get to the doctor or writing the employee a check for personal automobile mileage.

 

When the employee is physically unable to travel unassisted or does not have access to transportation and will have multiple visits to the treating physician or other medical providers, a transportation company specializing in workers’ compensation claims is needed. Services of a transportation company are arranged by the adjuster or nurse case manager, not by the employee.   The selection of a transportation company is based on the company’s ability to provide safe and reliable transport service whenever needed.

 

A full service transportation company saves the claims office a significant amount of time, since the adjuster or the nurse case manager can spend many calls and emails coordinating employee transportation needs. Often employees reschedule doctor appointments for their own convenience and the transportation must be scheduled all over again. Or worse, employees “forget” their medical appointment and are not ready to go when the transportation arrives, knowing the doctor will not see them if they are very late arriving.

 

Experienced work comp adjusters know the more subjective the employee’s injuries are the higher probability they will miss their medical appointments, cancel medical appointments or reschedule them without advising the adjuster.

 

 

The professional transportation company will:

 

  1. Schedule the transportation with the employee as soon as they are notified of the medical appointment.
  2. Contact the employee the day before the medical appointment to confirm the pick-up time and the return home time.
  3. Contact the employee the day of the appointment before they leave their business location to confirm the appointment is still the same.
  4. Notify the claims office if there are any changes in the scheduled medical appointment, or if the medical appointment is missed by the employee.
  5. Provide the adjuster or nurse case manager with a documented trip history as to their departure time from their business location, the time they picked up the employee, the time the employee arrived at the medical location, and the time they delivered the employee back to the employee’s residence.

 

While automobiles are the most common mode of transportation for injured employees, other modes of transportation are occasionally needed for the severely injured. The full service transportation company specializing in workers’ compensation claims is able to provide the work comp adjuster or the nurse case manager with other alternatives including ambulances, wheelchairs and stretchers.

 

 

Employee Has No Incentive To Locate Best Price for Transportation

 

In addition to saving the claims office considerable amounts of time, the professional transportation company also saves the claims office money. The employee has no incentive to locate the best price for transportation, as the employee is not paying for it. Also, the employee is not concerned about the cost for missed appointments. By the claims office controlling the transportation needs of the employee, the transportation cost is properly managed.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

9 Questions to Ask Injured Worker’s Treating Physician

Leaving no stone unturned is critical to managing your workers’ compensation costs. With the number of steps from injury to resolution; the number or people involved from physicians to adjusters; and the number of possible outcomes from a band-aid to a large insurance settlement you cannot leave any single step to memory.

 

 

Create System to Ask All the Right Questions

 

Certain questions must be asked, forms must be filled out, and precautions should be taken. Your injury management system should ensure all the questions one should ask the physician on the telephone to be sure every “i” is dotted and ever “t” is crossed.

 

Formalize your questions in a checklist so these questions are asked uniformly; it’s not something that should be done on an ad hoc basis.

 

9 Questions to Ask Injured Worker’s Treating Physician

 

  1. Introduce yourself and give the injured employee’s name, mentioning the employee has authorized you to speak with the doctor
  2. Get and give all contact information.
  3. Offer to email authorization so the doctor may discuss the employee’s condition.
  4. Ask for diagnosis and whether it is work related.
  5. Ask how the employee is responding to treatment.
  6. Ask if prescribed medications could interfere with the employee’s job.
  7. Does the physician recommend any significant limitations?
  8. Can the employee perform a transitional duty job? If yes, obtain the employee’s work restrictions.
  9. Is there anything else that I should know, that would help our employee recover more quickly?

 

This open-ended question gives the doctor an opportunity to provide information that is additional and helpful to the employer or the employee.

 

Keeping up with all these details assists your company in getting your employee healthy and back to work.

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

Address 3 Areas of Concern For Chiropractic Care in Work Comp

Chiropractic care has been a mainstay in workers’ compensation systems for some time.  While there are many benefits to this form of care, members of the claims management team should use caution when managing claims involving a chiropractor.

 

 

Are Chiropractors Real Doctors?

 

Chiropractic care is an alternative form of mainstream medicine used to treat a variety of disorders impacting the musculoskeletal system.  By using the spinal cord as a reference point, chiropractors use various manipulations in order to treat not only neck and back pain, but also other conditions that have their origins in the central nervous system.

 

The requirements to become a chiropractor vary in every state.  In some instances, a chiropractor receives more medical based training than the average medical doctor (MD).  The main difference in training is chiropractors concentrate their focus of study in physiology and body mechanics.

 

 

 

Areas of Concern for the Work Comp Professional

 

Chiropractors should be treated with the same professionalism as any other health care professional.  Like anyone else who provides medical care and treatment, a majority of chiropractors are professionals in every sense of the word.

 

Claims handlers do need to educate themselves on how chiropractors operate.  Unlike most medical doctors who work in or associate with larger groups, many chiropractors operate in a solo practitioner setting.  They also offer additional services such as massage and aromatherapy.  When managing claims involving chiropractors, claims professional should employ the following techniques to ensure the injured worker is receiving quality medical care and treatment:

 

  • Review of Billing Practices: Every claims professional should review all medical bills submitted for payment with integrity.  When an employee sustains a work injury and is seen and examined by a chiropractor, it is important to review it under the same standards one would from a medical doctor specializing in orthopedic and neurological care.  This will include identifying billing codes that are consistent with an initial examination.

 

  • History of Chiropractic Care: It is important for every member of the claims management team to obtain a complete set of medical records for a claimant.  This can be difficult when a person has received previous chiropractic care.  Any billing statement from an injured worker’s initial visit should indicate if they are an existing patient, have received chiropractic care in the past or are new to this form of treatment.

 

  • Reviewing Treatment History: While chiropractors use medical terminology in their records, it does differ from what you would typically find in reports generated from a traditional medical doctor.  It is important to note the frequency of care and how long it is recommended.  One should also take note of “flare-ups” listed in medical records and determine if they coincide with the employee’s recollection.  It is also important to scrutinize any medical care with applicable state medical treatment parameters.

 

 

Managing Claim Costs

 

Members of the claims management team will need to take additional steps to address out of control treatment with a chiropractor.  There are steps that can be taken to address this form of medical mismanagement.

 

  • Independent Medical Examination: The IME is the easiest, but sometimes most expensive cost containment method in claims involving chiropractic care.  Given the restrictions most states place on such exams, it is a decision that cannot be taken lightly.

 

  • Record-Only Medical Review: This is also known as a “paper review.”  From a cost perspective, this is an excellent method to obtain an expert opinion regarding the reasonableness and necessity of care.  They can also address whether the chiropractic care is consistent with medical treatment parameters.  A paper review is also less expensive when compared to a full-blown IME.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Members of the claims management team and other interested stakeholders need to understand the benefits and dangers of chiropractic care.  Part of this includes methods and techniques to analyze the care received and making sure it is consistent with workers’ compensation guidelines.  It should also be care to treat the effects of a work injury and make the employee whole.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

8 Ways to Prepare For The Next Healthcare Reform

The great healthcare debate in Washington, D.C., left many in our industry wondering what the ultimate impact would be on the workers’ comp system.  While the proposed republican bill has failed to pass, employers and payers can still take steps to ensure they are in the best position for the status quo – or whatever future legislation may be proposed.

 

Here are some areas to consider.

 

Employee Safety & Health

 

  1. Wellness programs. If your company does not have one, this is a good time to consider the idea. Healthier employees are less likely to sustain workplace injuries or illnesses and more likely to recover quickly when they do. If your company has a program, look at its effectiveness. How do you measure its success? What is the participation rate? What kind of feedback have you received about it? Even if your wellness program is doing well, it may be time to try some new features or change it up a bit to encourage increased buy-in. If possible, connect wellness initiatives with nurse case management.

 

  1. Focus on older workers. If you’ve thought about taking steps to increase safety and health among aging workers, now is a good time to do so. Improve the lighting, implement efforts to ensure hallways are free of obstacles, and look into assistive devices to reduce bodily strain.

 

 

Fraud Concerns

 

  1. Step up investigations. You want to make sure you’re not hit with claims that are not work related; so when an injury does occur, make sure you don’t skip steps to uncover what really happened. Talk to witnesses, review any video footage, look at the timeline of events.

 

  1. Scrutinize bills. To the extent possible, make sure your providers, attorneys, and others are not trying to cushion their potential income losses at your expense. If anything on a bill raises a question — ask about it. Any reputable vendor should be able to easily explain changes in billing.

 

 

Claims Management Processes

 

  1. Use workflow automation to better manage your loss trends and reduce claims leakage. You might consider data warehousing to integrate legacy systems and multiple data sources to identify fraud and cost shifting, and to better manage performance.

 

  1. Intervene early. Don’t let potentially high risk claims deteriorate. Work with your insurer or third party administrator to identify claims that could go south. Leverage clinical and specialty resources early in the claim cycle.

 

  1. Use quality providers. Make sure you’re working with high quality partners, to help expedite claims and get your injured employees back to function and work. Medical providers should be outcomes-based with good track records of delivering the best care. They should also have a comprehensive understanding of occupational health. If not, look for new providers or educate those in your network.

 

  1. Check the paperwork. Make sure your policies and procedures relating to employee health and safety are up to date and easily available to employees. If you have a drug-free workplace policy, for example, make sure it includes any recent related changes in your jurisdiction. Any relevant portion of the employee manual should also be reviewed and changed where needed.

 

 

Conclusion

 

At the moment it seems healthcare is going to remain unchanged.  However, whether or not there are future changes proposed, it behooves stakeholders to be prepared.

 

 

For additional information on workers’ compensation cost containment best practices, register as a guest for our next live stream training.

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

Live Stream WC Training: http://workerscompclub.com/livestreamtraining

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

4 Areas To Manage Workers’ Comp Medical Costs

Medical treatment has comprised the bulk of workers’ comp claim costs in recent years, and the trend seems to have no end in sight. Where indemnity used to be the main expense, medical now represents 60% or more.

 

There are a variety of tools to help manage medical costs; medical bill review, utilization review, provider networks, nurse case management, nurse triage, Medicare Set-asides, and the list goes on. While any of these tools can be effective, they might actually be costing you more than they are saving. You need to look at your return on investment and make sure the medical management services you are using are truly helping your organization save money on medical.

 

 

  1. The Doctors: Costs vs. Outcomes

 

Low-cost medical networks were all the rage in the workers’ comp system for a while. But in recent years, there’s been more and more evidence to show that going cheap on medical providers may come back to bite you.

 

The latest indication comes from a study in which a 63-year-old woman with low back pain was sent for MRIs at 10 facilities in the New York area to see what, if any differences there would be. Sure enough, not a single diagnostic finding out of 49 distinct findings reported was identified by all 10. The woman’s actual diagnosis was stenosis; she was given physical therapy and education and is said to be doing just fine. But had one of the 10 interpretations of her MRI been used, she might have been sent for unnecessary surgery and/or drugs — big expenses with a poor outcome.

 

The adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is as true of medical providers as it is for anything. Try to partner with area providers that A: understand the world of workers’ comp — and if there are none, start educating area physicians; and B: have low litigation rates and high return-to-work outcomes.

 

Likewise for other medical providers, such as physical therapists. Look at the number of treatments, their average cost, and the outcomes.

 

Once you’ve identified the best providers, partner with them and direct injured workers to them where possible. In states where the employer cannot direct care, you can still provide information that lets the injured worker know who the top providers are.

 

 

  1. Pharmacy Benefit Managers

 

Pharmacy benefit managers with good track records can be invaluable to a workers’ comp program. But again, you need to make sure you’re getting one that adds value to your company.

 

Where PBMs initially added value through lower prices, many have implemented clinical management programs to lower costs further and improve outcomes. It’s important to look at a PBM’s overall program to make sure you’re getting the best for your money.

 

Consider such things as pharmacy charges vs. pharmacy costs; the percentage reductions below the state’s fee schedule; the PBM penetration rate; cost per script; percentage of medications dispensed by pharmacies vs. physicians; and first fill rate.

 

 

  1. Involvement of Nurses

 

Nurses can be brought in to help with a claim — nurse case managers; or they can be the initial source to help determine medical treatment — nurse triage.

 

NCMs are the point person for the injured worker and medical providers. Those who do it in-office are telephonic case managers, whereas those who go out of the office are field case managers. Evaluating the effectiveness of NCMs is easiest with a large database, to compare things like the cost of claims and number of lost workdays with and without a NCM. Your insurer and/or third-party administrator may be able to help.

 

To find the value of nurse case triage, you can look at the number of calls divided by the number of claims actually reported for workers’ comp, to get the number of claims avoided by percentage.  It’s also important to look at the training and experience of the nurses involved. One thing to be aware of is how invested the triage nurse is involved in the claim. Triaging is at the initial stage of the claim, not manage the claim — which is the job of the NCM, if there is one.

 

 

  1. Bill Review

 

Medical Bill Review fees can be hidden and pricey, so it’s important to look for transparency from the claims administrator. There are many claim service providers now that have modified their BR fee structures so the costs are more obvious. Ideally you want a lower administrative cost for BR, combined with maximized savings.

 

You can find the net savings of your BR service by taking the gross savings (total charges minus total paid) and subtracting the BR service fees. Additional things you can measure to ensure you’re getting value are the percentage of net savings, the turnaround time, and the denied bill rate.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Price alone should not be the deciding factor for medical management tools; a holistic view of your services is best. However, you also want to make sure you aren’t shelling out more money than you are saving. Whether you are evaluating your current tools or looking for new ones, just make sure they lead to improved outcomes and lower costs, to get the best from your investment.

 

 

For additional information on workers’ compensation cost containment best practices, register as a guest for our next live stream training.

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

Live Stream WC Training: http://workerscompclub.com/livestreamtraining

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

You Win If Your IME Doctor Shows Up At The Comp Board

comp-board-imePicking the correct doctor for your Independent Medical Examination (IME) can determine whether you win or lose your workers’ compensation case.  This is based on a number of factors, which hinges on the ability of the examiner to prepare a persuasive report based on the facts provided to them.  Sadly, this is an area when claims management teams and other interested stakeholders defending workers’ compensation claims often cut corners.

 

Now is the time to change your thinking and be open to using the right medical examiner for the case. The IME is one of the few points where the outcome of the claim can be influenced, and you want to know that you have the right expert to WIN.

 

 

Preparing for the IME

 

In most jurisdictions, the employer and insurer get only one opportunity to have the employee seen and examined for purposes of the IME.  Due to the nature of the examination in the adversarial process, it is important to treat it with upmost importance.  A number of factors go in the examination, which often include:

 

  • The education and training of the expert. The practice of medicine is highly competitive.  Choosing a doctor with a reputable background is important.  It is also critical your expert has an updated Curriculum Vitae (CV) that includes information on their ongoing education training and reputation within the medical community.

 

  • Specialization is key. This is especially important in today’s cases where medicine is specialized and medical care and treatment is scrutinized by experienced compensation judges or members of the compensation board; and

 

  • Independence is essential. Your medical expert will be asked to give an opinion on issues regarding causation, the nature and extent of injuries, reasonableness and necessity of medical care and treatment, and need for future care.  The judge or hearing officer will view your expert as a more objective witness if he is truly independent and does not have any financial ties to the client/employer or vendor that is setting up the IME.

 

 

Show Up & WIN

 

In addition to the factors mentioned above, it is important to work with an independent medical examiner that adds value to the defense of the case.  This includes adding certain intangibles when the case boils down to a “battle of the experts.”

 

One such area an IME doctor adds value is the time they spend on a case.  IME physicians are paid a flat rate for their services.  A low fee paid to the provider means he will be unlikely to spend significant time reviewing the medical records and history, seeing and examining the employee, preparing their report, or being available to show up at a hearing to defend the case.

 

On the other hand, high quality IME service providers fairly compensate the right physicians to offer a meaningful opinion, and be available to show up at a hearing to defend their position. While this may increase the cost of the IME, the dividends can pay off significantly in future savings when settling cases.  Other benefits of working with service providers who provide a higher quality IME expert include:

 

  • A higher degree of accuracy and precision in the findings and opinions contained within the IME report;

 

  • Better familiarity with the file and its materials. This allows the doctor to develop their medical theory on direct examination and guard against losing credibility on cross examination; and

 

  • It avoids the wrongful perception the IME report is merely “bought and paid for” by the insurance carrier.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Workers’ compensation cases are often won or lost with an IME.  If service providers hinder the ability of their medical experts to do a complete job, the results may be disastrous to your file load.  When medical experts are fairly compensated for their time, they are able to reduce workers’ compensation costs and move your cases toward a reasonable settlement.

 

 

For additional information on workers’ compensation cost containment best practices, register as a guest for our next live stream training.

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

 

©2016 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC.  . He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

Live Stream WC Training: http://workerscompclub.com/livestreamtraining

 

Can You Authorize Up To $6,000 For A Winning IME?

doctor-imeThe cost of litigation in workers’ compensation is a driving factor that can impact a claim.  Most claim management teams require defense attorneys to submit detailed litigation budgets and hold their counsel to it.  While budgets are unavoidable in today’s marketplace, flexibility can be given in certain situations when it comes to costs associated with an Independent Medical Examination (IME).

 

 

Why Are IMEs Important?

 

The IME can make or break your case.  It can determine the direction of your claim and is used to defend issues concerning causation, the reasonableness/necessity of medical care, treatment parameters or other medical related issues.

 

Failing to use the right IME service provider will impact your claims based on a number of important issues.  These include:

 

  • Available panel selection of medical experts;

 

  • Quality control issues; and

 

  • Customer service issues, including the timeliness of IME reports.

 

 

Developing Trust with an IME Service Provider

 

When dealing with these matters, it is important to evaluate an IME service provider on how they perform in the following areas:

 

  • Service support during the examination process. This includes turning around reports in a timely manner and superior customer service;

 

  • Their panel selection and variety of medical experts. This is important in many instances where an area of specialization is vital to defending a claim; and

 

  • Other intangibles. This includes “best in class” service, the ability of medical experts to clarify issues and add value during all aspects of the examination process.

 

Having confidence in your IME service provider is paramount.  The IME service provider can assist attorneys, members of the claim management team and other interested stakeholders when it comes to evaluating their case and selecting a medical expert.  This is especially important in high exposure cases.

 

 

High Exposure Cases Require Trust & Flexibility

 

An IME cost will range between $500 – $1,800 depending on the provider and the state. This can include a review of all medical records and other documents pertinent to the employee’s background.  In most instances, this includes a summary of the employee’s deposition that has a description of their everyday work activities and specifics concerning the mechanism of injury.

 

Some cases, however, are not average cases and require more than the average IME, with potentially more than one expert opinion.  It is these situations where flexibility and a trusted IME provider relationship is paramount.

 

 

Can You Authorize Up To $6,000 To Get This Done?

 

The timing and execution of an IME requires a medically sensitive determination, and the selection of the right physician expert to make this determination is critical.  The best IME vendor relationships will be trusted and authorized to spend additional funds when necessary to select the right expert from their physician panel at the right time in a high exposure case. This expertise and specialized knowledge makes the IME vendor an invaluable partner to the claims management team.

 

This can be the case when you are dealing with the following issues:

 

  • Cases that include claims for mental/mental or physical/mental injuries. In cases involving a mental component, IME’s will often include multiple medical experts and an array of tests and procedures;

 

  • Instances where the employee has suffered significant physical injuires to multiple body parts. In other matters, future surgical procedures that are complex in nature often drive the cost of an IME; and

 

  • The prior claims history of the employee is also important to consider. When dealing with “experienced claimants,” it may be imperative to select an IME doctor who is not hindered by a budget and can go the extra mile to drive the matter toward settlement.

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

Litigation budgets are an important component of workers’ compensation cost containment.  When it comes to an IME, it can be an invaluable asset to allow for flexibility when defending a high exposure claim.  Develop a trusted relationship and leverage the expertise of your IME vendor as an invaluable partner to your claims management team.

 

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices.

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

 

©2016 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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