Tech is doing more than changing how we live. Change is happening so quickly, many of us feel overwhelmed. Once beloved print newspapers, large department stores, and video rentals seem to have evaporated overnight. Their replacements may be more convenient, but are they better?
Digital technology is also reordering workers comp. While the changes can be beneficial, they must be approached cautiously. After all, the well-being of an injured employee is at stake.
An Ounce of Prevention
One of the best ways digital tech has reorganized workers compensation is through prevention. Although lost-time claim frequency has been declining, average indemnity claim severity and medical lost-time claim severity are on the rise. What that means is they while fewer people are making claims, the ones that do are receiving more money and other benefits.
The most common claims are related to lifting, pushing, or pulling a heavy object improperly. This can lead to injuries in the back, knees, shoulders and other vulnerable places.
For years, wearable tech has helped athletes monitor their miles and their pulse rate. Smartwatches can even warn wearers if their heart isn’t beating properly –– a leading indicator for strokes. Today some companies are employing wearables to keep employees from injuring themselves. Lift improperly, and the wearer feels a vibrating warning. While some may find the surveillance intrusive, other industries, like trucking companies have long monitored drivers for unsafe speeds or missed performance metrics.
Another advance in the digital world of workers comp prevention is the use of drones. Small, unmanned craft can fly into damaged buildings to make sure they are safe to enter. They can monitor a roof to make sure it can be accessed without injury. Drones can even be first responders, entering burning structures before firefighters. They can also watch over workers on a construction site, ensuring that protocols are followed.
Cutting Red Tape
Anyone used to streaming their favorite show in seconds or avoiding the rush of shoppers with two-hour delivery will be dismayed by the paperwork-laden, methodical bureaucracy of workers compensation. The program is designed to protect employees from undue financial stress after an injury. If they are unable to return to work, it can replace a portion of lost wages. It also covers medical expenses from surgery to rehabilitation.
No program can offer benefits to anyone who asks. This is why claim investigations are usually started within 24 hours of the injury. Digital delivery systems can seamlessly provide the necessary paperwork, while automated phone systems guide an injured worker to the right department.
However the need to speed up a traditionally slow process shouldn’t come at the worker’s expense. No one is happy spending precious time on hold. Few are pleased when they finally reach a representative who is clearly in another country and lacks specific knowledge about how to handle their claim.
Many injured workers don’t come from a desk job. This means they are less likely to be comfortable with online forms or email contacts. They may also lack the access to digital systems that so many take for granted.
Workers compensation professionals should do their best to make contact with a phone call and try to address the claimant’s concerns. Studies suggest that workers who feel overwhelmed by red tape or think they are being treated unfairly by workers compensation representatives are more likely to pursue legal action. Of course, even when they are treated well, many injured workers decide that this complex area of the law is best handled by skilled professionals like the attorneys at Pathfinder Injury Law.
In worker’s compensation, as in the rest of society, digital advances work best when they compliment human talents rather than attempt to replace them.