The Rush to Automate Workers' Comp: What a Difference a Pandemic Makes

23 Sep, 2020 Bob Wilson


A survey reported on by Risk & Insurance has shown that 74% of workers’ compensation professionals are “actively looking to create a more technology-centered future industry.” The other 26% are presumably still trying to get their webcam to work during Zoom calls. We would note that is a major improvement from earlier in the year, when most of us were still trying to position the camera so as not to reveal we weren’t wearing pants. The survey, conducted by Lightico and Sapiens, was conducted in July after the implementation of COVID-19 protection measures. It showed that “A majority of respondents cited processes such as paperwork, compliance signatures, document collection, claims management and payments as the most burdensome during this transition to digitization.”

Since our company offers automation products and information services for claims management, posting notices, claims kits and jurisdictional form production, that was music to my ears. I’d better make sure my phone ringer is turned on in case somebody calls about it.

The survey found, in addition to increasing investment in technology, that insurance companies are also considering:

  • 76% of respondents are rethinking injury prevention training and education due to the new threat of COVID-19;
  • 86% of workers’ comp professionals are considering incorporating telemedicine into their overall medical cost containment strategy;
  • 89% are actively exploring better ways to communicate with employers and injured workers through multi-channel communication alternatives, such as texting;
  • 79% are looking at incorporating additional services or programs to insureds to offset premium impacts; and
  • 93% have seen a greater need for offering more flexible payment options to policyholders and injured workers (i.e. pre-paid debit card, ACH, virtual card, etc.). 

That is a remarkable difference from just a few months ago, when many of us thought telemedicine was primarily conducted with two cans and a line of taught string.

Other, lesser known survey results included: 

  • 92% of workers’ compensation professionals look forward to the day where they can enter a store without looking like they intend to rob the place
  • 86% would like to again dine in a restaurant without having their temperature taken
  • 73% would just like to dine in a restaurant again
  • 15% are pining for a return to their office cubicle
  • 5% are longing for the day where they must again wear pants in order to do their job
  • 99% of respondents had no idea who or what Lightico and Sapiens is.

(OK, we made those last bullet points up. We wouldn’t want to anger the folks at Lightico and Sapiens)

It is obvious that the entire COVID experience has changed not only the way the industry currently operates, but also how we will operate in the future. The pandemic has been an accelerator in an area that frankly needed acceleration. The workers’ comp industry, as risk averse an industry as you will ever see, needed a push to embrace the tools and methods that can reduce operational friction in the system. And I’m not saying that just because we sell some of the tools that make it possible. Ok, I’m saying that partly because we sell some of the tools that make it possible (hey, a guy as to eat, you know?). 

It is an ironic twist that a pandemic that made the world sick will ultimately make our industry healthier. While the next couple years will be challenging for workers’ comp, we will ultimately be better off operationally for the effort. 

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