It was highly apropos. The regulators were speaking in a virtual room and telling the audience that it was interesting that a pandemic could cause such a rapid adoption of new technologies, policies and procedures. They were right. Just a few weeks ago we would never have been able to pull off the meeting we were in.
But we did.
Yesterday we recorded the Virtual Town Hall held with workers' compensation regulators, administrators, commissioners and judges from all across the country. 35 states were represented, and a contingent of industry people brought the total assembled to 91. It was put together and presented by the Southern Association of Workers' Compensation Administrators. Safety National's Mark Wall's co-moderated it. We were, of course, discussing the COVID crisis and the impact it is having on the industry. The entire meeting will be played in a public webinar today, with many of the regulators online to interact with the public via live chat. (Learn more and register here)
While the most spirited discussions centered around presumptions related to COVID in the workplace, we covered a fairly wide variety of topics. The discussion on telemedicine and the use of underlying technologies was also a big discussion point.
The people tasked with overseeing the various workers' compensation systems around the country understand that change can be slow and difficult. We have, after all, been talking about the potential for telemedicine for several years, yet only a few jurisdictions were still fleshing out when and how it could be used, and what a payment structure for the service might be. Many states had not yet seriously looked at the issue from a regulatory perspective. Workers' comp always seems to have certain irons in the fire, and revamping rules and regs to accommodate what in some minds was an unproven system just was not one of them.
What a difference a month makes. Not only is telemedicine being embraced, video conferencing has risen to save the day. As an industry we are all suddenly Zoom experts tele-commuting our fannies off.
For the regulators, as with many of us, the technology behind telemedicine has been a saving grace on other fronts. Many courts and administrative hearing offices are now conducting their business via remote platforms. Doctors are indeed seeing patients where appropriate using virtual platforms. The technology that has been resisted by some has risen to save the day when the situation required it. And I suspect many are underestimating the fundamental changes it will be ushering in for our industry in the future.
And there was no better example than SAWCA's National Workers' Compensation Regulator Virtual Town Hall. As some of you will see today, it didn't go off flawlessly, and there were a few technical glitches – a couple of them mine. I use an Apple MacBook Air when on the road, and it has been the machine I have been using remotely during the pandemic. The Mac is a beautiful machine and integrates flawlessly with other Apple products. That turned out to be an unanticipated problem. When I receive a text from someone with an Apple device (using an SMS platform called iMessage) the text also chimes through on my Mac. Just as we started recording, I received two texts, one from a work associate helping to moderate the room and another from a friend in Texas who was also an attendee. People watching today may wonder why I suddenly blurt out “stop texting me!”
I am, after all a consummate professional. I'll have to figure out how to defeat that feature before today's public webinar.
For their part, the regulators proved overall to be quite adept at the video conference thing, considering that a month ago for most of us the word “zoom” was just a verb (or noun, depending on structure) in the English language. I commend them for participating and helping to improve the lines of communication in an industry that is still trying to find its footing in uncharted territory. They were candid and direct, and provided a good glimpse at the challenges they are seeing in the regulatory world.
And I want to thank SAWCA for allowing our Center for Education Excellence to host it.
The webcast is at 1:00 eastern, today. It will be available for replay afterwards, so even if you can't make the live showing, I encourage you to register here.
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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.
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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.