“One of the biggest cost drivers in Workers’ Compensation is seemingly ‘average’ claims that take a turn for the worst and result in several years of medical treatment and disability.”1
Too often seemingly innocuous claims lay under the radar, unnoticed until the damage is done. In this article, Mark Walls does an excellent job of pointing to several conditions that should serve as indicators of impending trouble. He discusses issues such as return to work, comorbidities, and psycho-social factors that can contribute to claim deterioration. His ideas are good and there are many more indicators that can be added to the list to recognize creeping calamity.
In fact, there are many subtle tip-offs in claims that could lead to effective prevention if noticed earlier. Delayed injury reporting and treatment is one. We know from industry research that a delay between the date of injury and first medical treatment is a predictor of claim complexity, regardless of the reason. Speculation regarding motivators of delay in filing a claim or to seeking medical treatment may not be as important as actually identifying the situation early and intensifying scrutiny of the claim. The opportunity is to discover claims with migrating intensity early, thereby avoiding unnecessary cost.
Knowing Is Not Enough
Unfortunately, knowing what conditions in claims might lead to trouble is not quite enough. Trying to apply the knowledge without a defined process has variable results. Manually identifying claims with perilous conditions is an inconsistent and inefficient endeavor because mere humans simply cannot do it well. Professionals, busy with a myriad of tasks, cannot monitor claims consistently enough to detect insidious conditions. Better process tools are needed and, happily, they are available.
Computer-Aided Medical Management
Technology can be made a powerful work tool in Workers’ Compensation. A specially designed computer software program will monitor current claim data combined with historic data continuously, something mere humans cannot do. A custom computer program will detect trouble every time and notify the appropriate person in the organization so that focused intervention is mobilized.
A software program designed to spot combinations of data elements that portend risk and cost is a powerful cost control tool. It continually searches the data without human involvement. When an adverse situation is discovered, it automatically notifies the right persons.
Computer-aided medical management programs are designed to be work-in-progress tools that inform the claims management process in real time. They are driven by combinations of data elements that when they appear together in a claim, portend developing risk. Importantly, the computer-aided management tool must continually monitor current and historic data to uncover risk from the broad spectrum. For instance, ICD-9’s in a claim are data elements that can reveal impending trouble in near real time when monitored by a specialized program.
ICD-9’s As Windows Into Risk
ICD-9’s (The International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision), the medical description of the injury or illness in a claim, can disclose much more than previously thought. ICD-9’s are documented in each bill submitted by treating medical doctors and other providers. They are windows into claim complexity at the start, but they are also powerful real time predictors of impending trouble.
Migrating Claim Severity
One true thing about claims is as they migrate from medical-only status to increasing complexity they accrue ICD-9’s. As the situation deteriorates, more medical providers enter the picture, more medical services are provided, and more ICD-9’s are added to the data. Stated simply, monitoring current and accumulated ICD-9’s will reveal those claims that are unstable and migrating downward. A system designed to monitor ICD-9’s for severity (seriousness) will spot migrating claims.
A system designed to monitor ICD-9’s is a smart system containing information about how serious individual ICD-9’s are. Like pharmacy programs that alert for unsafe drug combinations, an ICD-9 scoring system will alert for dangerous combinations of comorbidities, age, and accumulated diagnoses. A claim is dynamically and continuously scored for severity and the right persons are notified automatically.
Smart systems that monitor current and historic data for combinations that portend complexity and cost can significantly recharge managed care initiatives. They are the next generation business solutions that are available now for those who are serious about controlling costs.
1Walls, Mark. Creeping Catastrophic Claims-How to Spot Them and Stop Them. Business Insurance. June, 12, 2012. http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/99999999/NEWS080105/120609913