Tag Archives: no code

How to Improve Return-to-Work

How much do most organizations spend to handle the average return-to-work case?

One 2015 U.S Department of Labor study found that the average human resources department serving at least 1,000 employees spends more than $4,800 just in labor costs per return-to-work case. And with the same study calculating an average of 31 return-to-work cases per year (and accounting for inflation), it is pretty safe to say that many are spending far more than they realize. 

These figures also do not take into account the lost productivity from handling paper-based forms, the manual generation of reports and missed details and deadlines that could put an organization at risk.

Fortunately, there are more options today to help teams not only take control of the return-to-work process but also to use that data to make decisions and changes to keep employees safe and the organization focused on its mission. 

One of the most powerful is the choice to digitize workflows with a flexible, no-code business process platform. So what would that entail, and how could an organization get started on the path toward digitizing the return-to-work process? 

How Digitized Processes Foster Employee Privacy and Efficient Workflows

When an employee gets sick or injured at work, several stakeholders get involved immediately, and many key decisions need to be made. There are likely also regulatory requirements and medical recommendations with their own timelines, restrictions and requirements. Needless to say, handling each of these facets manually requires a lot of effort.

In a typical return-to-work case, there are likely five different parties involved:

  1. The employee-manager, who wants to ensure they properly follow all procedures and help their employee
  2. The physician, who wants to ensure the employee is getting the medical care they need
  3. The insurance adjuster, who wants to keep the overall cost of injury down  
  4. The workers’ compensation (WC) team, who is there to investigate any workers’ compensation claims
  5. The employee, who wants to get well and return to work

Combined, these parties work together to initiate and manage the return to work process, which could resemble a workflow like this:

Each of these stakeholders needs access to the right information at the right time to either meet their obligations or to support the employee during their treatment plan. The information also needs to be secure, accessible across a range of platforms and logically organized and intuitive to handle.

A return-to-work process facilitated with a no-code digitization platform not only gives the professionals that understand and manage the cases the power to design and maintain their own workflow, but it also introduces several other key benefits:

  • Increased visibility, communication and accountability from across the return-to-work process allow for case-specific and trend analysis involving internal and external stakeholders.
  • Integration and consolidation across the many systems and workflows — digital and manual — involved in managing the return-to-work case into one secure, modern solution bolsters resilience and ease of maintenance.
  • Automated routing, rule-based decision points and built-in notifications help to ensure that the right people have the right information and processes to continue moving forward.
  • Personalized web-enabled dashboards and employee self-service forms make accessing information easier.
  • Automated integration of stakeholder input into centralized case repositories removes the need for separate document handling.

See also: Access to Care, Return to Work in a Pandemic

The Benefits of Digitization to Your Bottom Line

While the primary focus is always on how to support an employee as they get their treatment, return-to-work cases can also have a noticeable impact on an organization’s productivity and operating costs.

Nimble and Responsive Processes

If your current return-to-work process involves sorting through emails, texts and documents, the decision to digitize can immediately make a big difference for everyone involved. 

Instead of what seems like endless document management, duplicative tasks and manual entry, a digitized return-to-work process can:

  • Standardize the initial claim form to help ensure all the necessary data is collected the first time.
  • Enable triggerable actions, notifications and reminders to prevent bottlenecks and keep task owners accountable.
  • Digitize and secure key records so all information stays confidential and compliant while saving on storage costs.
  • Enable accessibility anytime, anywhere — online or offline —so all parties get what they need.

In other words, digitizing the return-to-work process can be a win for all those involved. Employees don’t have to manage mountains of paperwork or wonder about the status of their case. Internal staff members are empowered to design the processes that work for their business and make it easier to meet compliance standards. And all stakeholders can trust that their data and work are being kept safe and secure.

The Impact of Outsourcing

With just a cursory look, the idea of outsourcing return-to-work management may seem like the best financial and operational decision. However, digging deeper into the workflow and costs, this option can be less attractive than choosing to use a no-code process digitization platform in-house.

For example, though cost estimates can vary, outsourcing a return-to-work process can equate to hundreds of dollars per case. While some cases are complex and come with unique accommodations and planning, others are straightforward and involve limited case management and no accommodation actions. 

In either case, having a digitized, rules-driven platform can automatically route each claim based on its nature. In turn, an organization can not only help to ensure that the right parties get involved and the necessary tasks start but also that costly, less-personalized third-party services are replaced with a platform simple enough for process owners to design and manage on their own.

Bringing It All Together

Though every organization never wants to have to process a return-to-work case, they need to be ready to not only help their employees get the medical care, treatment and support they need but also to identify the means to do it as effectively, efficiently and productively as their condition allows. 

This is where a digitized return-to-work process flow delivers: giving process owners the tools, data and built-in document management and communications features they need to do their job while enabling the visibility that employees and other stakeholders require to play their part. The result is a means to replace a disjointed and inefficient process with one that puts the employee first while also making compliance, deterrence and overall management easier.

Despite COVID, Tech Investment Continues

Insurers will continue to experiment with emerging technology in 2021, despite the challenges of 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many insurers paused their 2020 innovation plans, emphasizing digital workflows and cost control at the expense of emerging technology pilots. Heading into 2021, technology priorities for many insurers, especially those in the property/casualty space, are similar to those of 2019.

The U.S. is still in the midst of the pandemic, and some insurers are anticipating lower premium revenues for the coming year. In spite of this, insurers are investing in technologies like artificial intelligence and big data, though some are narrowing the scope of their innovation efforts for the coming year.  

Understanding Emerging Technology Today

Insurers typically take a few main approaches to emerging technologies. Early adopters experiment with the technology, typically via a limited pilot. If the technology creates value, it’s moved into wider production. Insurers that have taken a “wait-and-see” approach may launch pilots of their own.

Novarica’s insights on insurers’ plans for emerging technology are drawn from our annual Research Council study, where CIOs from more than 100 insurers indicate their plans for new technologies in the coming year.

No insurer can test-drive every leading-edge technology at once, and every insurer’s priority is a result of its overall strategy and immediate pressures. Still, at a high level, several industry-wide trends are apparent:

There is big growth in RPA; chatbots continue to expand. More than half of all insurers have now deployed robotic process automation (RPA), compared with less than a quarter in 2018. Chatbots are less widely deployed but on a similar trajectory: from one in 10 in 2018 to one in four today.

AI and big data continue to receive significant investment. These technologies take time to mature, but it’s clear insurers believe in the value they can provide. More than one in five insurers have current or planned pilot programs in these areas for 2021.

Half of insurers have low-/no-code capabilities or pilots. These types of platforms are relatively new but have achieved substantial penetration in a short time. Early signs indicate they could become a durable tool for facilitating better collaboration between IT and business experts.

Despite continued tech investment, 2021 might be a more difficult year for innovation. Insurers’ technology priorities have generally reverted to the mean — more so for property/casualty than for life/annuity insurers — and technology budgets for 2021 are within historical norms. Still, some insurers are paring down pilot activity in less proven technologies, like wearables, to maintain their focus on areas like AI and big data. Technologies with substantial up-front costs, like telematics, may be harder to kick off in 2021. 

See also: Technology and the Agent of the Future

How Emerging Technology Grows

Emerging technologies have widely varying rates of experimentation, deployment and growth within the insurance sector. Their growth rates boil down to a few key related factors:

  • How easily the technology is understood.
  • How readily it can be deployed and integrated with existing processes.
  • How clearly the value it creates can be measured and communicated.

At one end of the spectrum are technologies like RPA and chatbots. These technologies create clear value, are readily added to existing processes and are relatively easy to deploy. As a result, insurers have adopted them rapidly.

Artificial intelligence and big data technologies require longer learning periods; sometimes, they require business processes to be completely reengineered. The technologies create value for insurers but have grown more slowly because they take time to understand and integrate.

Drones, the Internet of Things (IoT) and telematics can create new kinds of insurance products or collect new kinds of information. These can also create value, but their growth remains slow because developing these technologies may require orchestration across several functional areas, and they can be costly to ramp up.

On the far end of the spectrum are technologies like augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, smart assistants and wearables. Most of these technologies don’t yet have established use cases that demonstrate clear value, so it remains to be seen whether they will be adopted more widely.

Using Emerging Technology

One key insight from Novarica’s study is that technologies that integrate readily to existing processes can grow more rapidly than technologies that require new workflows to fully use. This observation comes with a few caveats for both insurers and technology vendors.

Insurers sometimes fall into the trap of “repaving the cowpath” — they adopt new technologies but integrate them into their existing (inefficient) business processes. Doing so means they can’t get maximum value from their investment. Ironically, it’s usually the shortcomings of legacy technology that have made these processes cumbersome in the first place.

It’s easy to understand the value that technology creates when it integrates with an existing process and can be measured with the same key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s much harder to create a new process enabled by new capabilities, train employees to execute it and demonstrate that the new way is better than the old way. Yet getting the most out of emerging technologies often requires rethinking how business might be done.

See also: 2021’s Key Technology Trends

For their part, vendors should focus on the value their products create and the problems they solve, aligning them to insurer needs. It’s not enough to use a new technology for its own sake, and using new tools sub-optimally may make them seem less effective. Vendors should coach their insurer clients through best practices and help them understand how their tools can ease, change or make obsolete existing processes.

At its core, insurance is a simple industry focused on connecting those exposed to risk to capital that can defray potential losses. At the center of that value chain are insurers, that continue to explore new technologies to better understand their risks, sell more and operate more efficiently. Even in uncertain times, insurers are innovating.