At the 19th Annual Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo, Las Vegas, NV, Mark Walls, Assistant Vice President - Claims at Safety National, was interviewed by attorney Brad Bleakney of Work Comp Chicago concerning the Executive Roundtable Session at the conference as well as his role as the founder of the Workers Comp Analysis Group on LinkedIn, which is nearing 7,000 members. To view the video version, click here. An edited transcript is set forth below:
Brad: Hi, this is Brad Bleakney from Work Comp Chicago. I'm here at the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Expo here in Vegas. I'm with Mark Walls from Safety National. And Mark has been active with a very successful group on LinkedIn, the Work Comp Analysis Group, the popular networking group for workers' compensation at this point. Mark, can you tell us a little bit about the Work Comp Analysis Group, and tell us a little bit about the show here.
Mark: The Work Comp Analysis Group is approaching 7,000 members. We've been in operation for almost two years now, and we have members from a variety of backgrounds in the industry -- just about anything possible -- employers, attorneys, TPAs, vendors -- a very wide range of industry professionals.
Brad: I have to say I participated in some of the discussions on the group and you also get a pretty wide range of opinions posted for some of the topics.
Mark: The strength of the group is definitely the discussion board. We have a lot of great members in the group, and they willingly participate in the discussions, share their opinions with others, share their expertise with others, and that creates the value of the group.
Brad: To me I know of no other national group that is present. You can go to a conference once a year and discuss things, but this is ongoing every day. You can post in the evening. People can contribute. I, myself, think it is a forum for discovering hot trends that are running the nation. I know you are going to be speaking tomorrow at the workers' compensation round table. And I know you polled the Work Comp Analysis Group to come up with a list of hot topics the industry is concerned with. Can you tell us a little about the hot topics that will be discussed tomorrow?
Mark: Yes. We wanted the executive round table session to really address the issues that the workers' compensation community was the most interested in. So we polled the group and came up with several different suggestions, and then we took the suggestions and polled the group to come up with the actual topics that will be discussed. So this is a pretty unique session in that the attendees to this conference decided what we will be talking about.
Brad: I think that is important these days: the feedback from the group to determine what they are most concerned with, what the hottest topic is, and what they are most interested in learning. I think it builds attendance for the Workers Comp Conference as well.
Mark: We're hoping so. The session is a two-hour session. The first hour we will discuss measuring outcomes on claims and selecting and compensating the best medical providers to get the best outcome on claims.
Brad: Like a preferred (provider) network? Do you feel it is going more that way to contract with preferred networks?
Mark: Correct. We will talk about that. Is there merit to actually seeking out better doctors and perhaps compensating them better to get better outcomes for the injured workers which in turn is cost savings for the employers.
Brad: With the better result and better restrictions you are more likely to get them back to work with their own employer or you will reemploy them at a higher rate of pay elsewhere. So in Illinois, you would be avoiding some of your exposure on the wage differential claims.
Mark: That is the thought, definitely.
Brad: In this economy a lot of people don't have a job to go back to once they have restrictions.
Brad: In the industry working with Safety National or through the forum, are you seeing a large increase in wage differential claims?
Mark: Yeah, I would say that because of the economy you are seeing more of that. It is harder for employers to get injured workers back to work. If they can't return to their previous employment it is a lot harder to place them in a job to vocation or rehabilitation.
Brad: Mark, I hate to put you on the spot here, but what do you see is the number one things employers should be doing to help trim their workers' compensation costs and or hold down their exposure on the work comp claims?
Mark: It all starts with loss control. The best claim is the claim that never happens.
Mark: Employers have to be focused on preventing losses in safety and insuring they have a great safe environment for their workers. If they have a claim, they have to give the claim appropriate attention with appropriate experts so the best outcomes can be achieved for the injured worker.
Brad: A team of experts between your risk management, medical, your attorneys, your rehab nurses -- it is a concerted effort. But if you have all the right people in place, I think the tell of the tale is in the outcome.
Mark: That's the hope.
Brad: That's all from me, Mark. Is there anything you want to add in signing off here?
Mark: No. It's been a great conference so far. I hope people can attend the round table discussion tomorrow. I hope you enjoy the conference.
Brad: I'm looking forward to the round table discussion myself. I will be in attendance. Thanks so much for the interview, Mark.