I've spent a good deal of time the last couple of years talking about a needed culture change in the workers' compensation industry. I've promoted changing the verbiage we use, including renaming the industry Workers' Recovery. I've been very interested in converting what has become a "process and close" mentality to that of "recover and return". And most importantly, I have advocated returning a human touch to what has become a very centralized and impersonal process. All of this however is just talk. They are ideas on the digital page. I've decided that it is time to find and highlight real life examples of people and companies that have common ideas to mine, but are putting some of these culture shifting concepts to practical use. While I am just talking the talk, I want to periodically provide examples this year of those who are walking the walk.
First, however, a couple of disclaimers about this process. I do not want to be flooded by corporate marketing people anxious to explain that their CEO's know how to spell "human". There is no shortage of companies willing to let me promote their services on the pages of this blog. I already have an idea of what I am looking for, and I think I will know it when I see it. Second, some of the companies I write about, such as the one featured today, are customers; they spend money for WorkersCompensation.com products. Others are not. The status of whether they are a customer or not is irrelevant regarding their inclusion here.
However, in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I will tell you when the person or company I write about is also a customer. As noted, Ascential Care is a customer.
Ascential Care, based in Lexington, Kentucky, is a Case Management firm that, despite impressive growth, does not have any clients. They do not have injured workers, or even any claimants. They have patients. A company who's Mission Statement reads, "Empowering those we serve to achieve their highest quality of life", they are on what can be considered a revolutionary track in the industry. Now with offices in 3 cities, customers in 23 states, and patients in 48 states, their rapid growth is a reflection of their commitment to a job well done.
CEO Cindy Whitehouse, a Case Manager and ICU Nurse with more than 25 years of professional experience, wanted something different. She wanted to focus on individuality and individual needs; she wanted to remember what nursing was all about. She started Ascential Care just over 3 years ago with those ideals in mind. I had the opportunity to speak to her recently about her company, and its focus on recovery needs of the patients they serve.
In our discussions, she broached several of what I consider “key points” in the “Recover and Return” mentality I have been advocating. She made the comment that one of her goals was “putting kindness back in workers' comp”. This is an important statement, and goes to the heart of the problem we see evolving in our industry. Our business, at its very core, is helping to manage the care and benefits for injured human beings. It is a very personal service, but you may be hard pressed to find the human element in today's mandated processes and procedures. Legislation, regulation, court decisions, and even many blogs in the industry are written as if no human is connected to any workers' compensation claim. They are simply an afterthought, with the process itself taking full precedence in the dialogue. “Putting kindness back in workers' comp” is simply acknowledging the impact we can and do have in an injured individuals' life. It is an essential point.
Another item she raised when discussing the extensive training Ascential employees receive: Listen to the patient and recognize what is going on with them. Without a doubt this is, in my view the biggest issue facing our industry today. I've written about it before. Communication; something so basic, so essential, yet so limited in our industry, is the simple key to improving outcome for people (patients) in our system. Whitehouse and her team seem to understand that listening to their patients and understanding their needs and goals will help them better address their individual requirements.
How can something so simple be so radically new for our industry?
Clearly Ascential Care, as a case management firm, must work to meet the needs of the companies that hire them, and they certainly do not have an unlimited budget with which to provide these services. They seem to have an approach, however, that demonstrates improved outcome is ultimately beneficial to both patient and employer, and that providing some extra care is certainly worth the long term outcomes they can achieve. That approach is something they are blatantly upfront about. In researching this article, I spent some time reviewing their website, and was struck by this message to patients:
Our case managers are concerned about you and committed to empathy, kindness, and concern. As your advocate, we are tenaciously inspiring a better return.
“Tenaciously inspiring a better return”. That, my friends, is the message every injured worker (sorry, patient) should hear on day one of their claim. We will tenaciously work to return you to health. We will tenaciously work to return you to function. And we will tenaciously endeavor to return you to work. The ability to recognize and focus on the need to “return” is what ultimately provides value to the patient and the company paying the bill.
So, as I continue to pontificate (bloviate, spout, harangue, inveigh, proclaim – take your pick) on needed changes in process, attitude and style in the workers' comp industry, it is important to know there are players already “working the theory”. I will continue to talk the talk, while some out there are actually walking the walk. And that is truly the important thing to know. Compassion works. Listening works. Communication works. They are all critical when needed care is essential. Scratch that. Make that Ascential.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.