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5 Major Themes from WCI 2023

From return-to-work challenges to risk management program priorities, WCI’s annual conference has a session for every industry stakeholder. We cover the key ideas that are set to impact the workers’ compensation and safety and health communities.

August 28, 2023

Every year, the Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) Annual Educational Conference brings together workers’ compensation professionals from across the country for the most well-attended, unique, and informative industry conference.

“WCI continues to provide the deepest educational program with over 400 speakers presenting on topics ranging from health and safety standards and procedures to changes in regulatory and judicial environments,” said Rob Miller, Client Engagement Manager at Safety National. “While many themes have been consistent throughout the years, there were some standouts this year, particularly focusing on what the future holds for AI and the impact of having five generations in the workforce.”

We discuss some of the most impactful and exciting insights for industry professionals to have on their radar.

1. Technology advancements are key to the industry’s future success.

We are in a wave of innovation, and failing to embrace changes in technological advances has significant disadvantages. AI tools are enhancing the insight we gather, with technology designed to assist in day-to-day functions, driving efficiencies, particularly in managing data analytics. Its systems collect information quickly, ultimately giving employees more time to shift focus on nurturing essential human connections. While workers’ compensation’s regulatory environment creates restrictions around elements like payments to injured workers and adjuster remote work, many of the antiquated processes may require breaking barriers to build a successful system for the future.

2. New developments in medical treatments could transform care for injured workers.

The world of pharmaceuticals is rapidly evolving. Drugs like semaglutide are finding secondary uses. Originally intended to reduce A1C in diabetes, it is now being utilized to treat obesity. While it may not motivate an individual to make healthier lifestyle changes, the drug could reduce an injured worker’s weight when a physician requires it for high-risk surgery. Another drug, zuranolone, a neurosteroid treatment for postpartum depression, could open doors for those not responding to antidepressants. Psychedelics are also a potential for mental health therapeutics in individuals with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-resistant depression. Additionally, AI is currently being used to help determine the most effective pharmaceuticals for the best possible outcome, particularly in cancer patients. ChatGPT is also reading existing medical journals to analyze and investigate risks and solutions to diseases and conditions more efficiently.

3. Workplace violence (WPV) is an ongoing risk that shows no signs of stopping.

WPV is here to stay. Per the National Safety Council, more than 20,500 workplace injuries were reported in 2020. The annual cost of these incidents to employers is $121 billion, according to the Department of Justice. Disciplinary actions, domestic violence, and bullying are the main contributors to WPV incidents. Unfortunately, many of those incidents go unreported. Early prevention and preparedness are essential, and establishing a comprehensive strategy can help reduce risks. Proactive management includes training, enhanced physical security, and active assailant action plans that provide for preparing, reacting, and recovering.

4. Bridging the gap in the workforce generations is essential to a healthy risk management program and empathy in the recovery process.

There are apparent differences in the needs of each generation in the workforce, whether it be technology, ergonomics, or training. Instead of dwelling on generational differences, organizations should consider a perspective that provides leadership and guidance, embraces flexibility, and prioritizes personal and professional development. This outlook enables managers to engage with employees with flexible motivations that leverage skills and curiosity. Taking a mentorship approach opens the door for cross-collaboration across all age gaps. In addition to generational differences in the workforce, considerations should be made to further empathize with the needs of injured workers. For example, millennials and younger generations may prefer electronic payments and texting, whereas older generations prefer phone calls and face-to-face communications. Taking the extra step to meet their needs is critical to building a genuine connection with an injured worker.

5. Claims frequency is declining, but medical care costs associated with severe claims are increasing.

In a recent NCCI study, the share of workers’ compensation claims with a comorbidity diagnosis nearly tripled from 2.4% to 6.6%. Claims with a comorbidity diagnosis have about two times the medical costs of otherwise comparable claims. They can cause severe complications, including extensive surgeries, infections, and amputations. Furthermore, significant advances and utilization of medical care and technology are increasing accident survivability and prolonging life expectancies for severely injured workers. These advances are also considerably improving the quality of life and independence for injured workers.