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As enthusiasm grows for apps that help injured workers navigate the workers comp claims and recovery processes, the technology is evolving past downloadable programs to include web-based platforms that can be accessed from a wider range of devices.
Since apps began replacing email, faxes and phone calls that helped workers move from injury to recovery, the popularity of technology that connects them with claims and medical professionals has mushroomed, experts say.
Travelers Cos. Inc. introduced MyTravelers for Injured Employees five years ago and has seen “explosive use of it over time,” said Rich Ives, vice president of business insurance claim in Hartford, Connecticut. More than 145,000 injured workers are registered to use the web-based portal, he said.
The popularity of apps is not expected to wane. A 2021 survey of 115 workers comp professionals by Enlyte Group in San Diego ranked mobile apps as the technology expected to have the biggest impact on comp over the next 10 years. It was the first time in three years that telemedicine didn’t hold the top spot.
Whether injured workers use an app downloaded onto a mobile device or a web-based portal accessible from nearly any device, they are able to access a suite of services from insurers and third-party administrators that typically includes communications with adjusters and physicians, benefit payment tracking and frequently asked questions.
Texas Mutual Insurance Co. has replaced the mobile app it created around three years ago with one that can be accessed by a phone or other device, said Jeanette Ward, chief operating officer at the Austin-based insurer. The new app was created largely from input from injured workers at a time when the insurer was moving from on-premise applications to more cloud-based and vendor services, she explained.
“One of the things we realized we no longer needed to do is require anyone to download an app on their phone,” Ms. Ward said. “Now we have an injured worker app that’s responsive whether you’re using a web portal or your phone. It’s much more user-friendly.”
In fact, she said of apps strictly built for use on phones, “we are seeing that going away. Things like password management are evolving as well. The whole goal is to make it as user-friendly as possible so people will want to utilize it.”
When designing its smart.ly web-based platform, Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. decided not to create a downloadable app, said Leah Cooper, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based managing director, global consumer technology. “We found that it’s much easier to get someone to a mobile accessible site than it is to download something from the store.”
The smart.ly platform is the entry point for administration of Sedgwick claims, Ms. Cooper said. The injured worker is given a link to examine their claim and interact with examiners. Claimants are able to track benefit payments, enroll in direct deposit and access frequently asked questions. Another feature allows supervisors to authorize the return to work of injured employees.
Gallagher Bassett Services Inc. offers its GBGO mygbclaim as a mobile app and a web-based app to the hundreds of thousands of claimants it sees each year, according to Russell Pass, the TPA’s Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based chief information officer, executive vice president of product development.
“We are focused on getting injured workers to local high-performing medical providers,” said Mary Wernick, Gallagher Bassett senior vice president, product development, in Rolling Meadows. “One of the big wins are our pharmacy and medical cards. They’re in the app, so they don’t have to have any of the paperwork in the claim with them.”
Close connections with injured workers can provide important benefits, such as preventing litigation, according to Kimberly Wiswell, Central Point, Oregon-based senior product manager, workers compensation, with Gradient AI. “Avoiding litigation is driven mainly, I think, by keeping in touch with the injured worker and bringing them more into the loop,” she said.
And that close contact doesn’t necessarily require an app, Ms. Wiswell pointed out. Gradient AI’s risk ranking information can alert adjusters to claims that indicate injured workers may be frustrated, angry or having financial difficulties, among other issues, she said. Flagging the claim to an adjuster can set in motion the process for working more closely with the worker.
Insurers and TPAs say there likely are cost-savings from using apps, but that’s an ancillary benefit.
“There are definitely efficiency savings, but that’s not why we created it,” Mr. Ives said of MyTravelers for Injured Employees. “If you can take some of the friction out of the process for the injured employee and provide more tools, that should help strengthen the outcome. That’s the reason we did it.”
“It’s probably less about cost and more how our professional staff spend their time,” Mr. Pass of Gallagher said of efficiency savings. Because the app provides claimants with so much information, the staff is able to focus on things that drive claims to the best possible outcome,
Using apps and other technology to manage worker injuries doesn’t appeal only to tech-savvy young workers, as Travelers Cos. Inc. discovered when it began offering its web-based portal MyTravelers for Injured Employees.
“We thought there was a younger age demographic that would want this,” said Rich Ives, vice president of business insurance claims at Travelers in Hartford, Connecticut. “And one of the surprises that we learned was that demographics of all ages not only wanted the tools, but utilize them just as much.”
Travelers found that usage of MyTravelers for Injured Employees, which is not mandatory for injured workers, closely mirrored “the demographics of our injuries at large,” Mr. Ives said. “That’s been an interesting finding for us.”
The largest group of 145,000 injured workers using the tool are aged 25-34 -- 62% of the injured workers in the age group -- and 45% of injured workers older than 55 use the tool.
Gallagher Bassett Services Inc. sees about 20% of its claimants using the TPA’s mobile app, and those tend to be younger workers, said Russell Pass, Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based chief information officer, executive vice president of product development. Another 20%, generally older, prefer the web-based app and the remainder, who tend to be the oldest claimants, are sticking with the traditional telephone-based process, he said.