“Claims Advocacy” – My Commentary in Response to The Point!

I hope many of you had the opportunity to attend or listen to the recording of the recent webinar “Claims Advocacy: What It Is and What It Isn’t” offered through WorkCompCollege.com. (If not, you can access the recording here).  The time of the webinar conflicted with a meeting on my calendar – coincidentally, with other members of the Survey Council for the national Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study, a group that tirelessly supports the claim advocacy model.

Since I wasn’t able to attend, you all are lucky enough to get to read the comments I would have added to the great points in the webinar chat! 

Perhaps most importantly, at least to me, is that “claim advocacy” is not about claim professionals (please stop calling them/us adjusters!) advocating for workers. It’s about empowering workers to advocate for themselves. To continue moving toward their recovery and return-to-work goals by breaking the barriers for them that exist in workers’ compensation – complicated processes and rules, unnecessary delays, confusing pathways to return to work. It’s about listening to the worker to identify their concerns and fears and collaborating on steps they can take to work through them, even if the steps seem small. It’s about understanding that the worker is the one to ultimately make the decision to return to work – the employer can offer, the medical provider can approve, but the worker will decide. Claim advocacy is, in part, about making it easy for the worker to do so.

During the webinar, Licia Thompson with Macy’s said claims advocacy is about recognizing someone who is hurt on the job is a human first, who has rights. Well said, Licia! One of those rights is the locus of control. Or, as I recently saw this described, holding the keys to their fate. Claims advocacy should give the worker back their locus of control – something workers’ compensation regulations, policies, communications, often take away. 

Why is this so important? Because locus of control impacts an individual’s motivations and behaviors. 

To reinforce how important locus of control can be, I’m reminded of a study of those who have used Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act to obtain lethal medications. The study found that uncontrolled pain was rarely the reason given (although I think many of us assume that’s why someone would want to end their life). Rather, the three most common reasons related to quality of life, dignity, and autonomy. In fact, one-third of those who obtained the drugs didn’t actually use them – perhaps it was enough to know that they had regained some locus of control. Although not related to claims advocacy, during the webinar, Bob Wilson described claim managers (again, not adjusters!) as ‘redheaded stepchildren’ of the workers’ compensation industry. (It’s not uncommon for Bob to say something in a webinar that has little to do with the subject at hand, but those little surprises are why his webinars can be a treat to watch!) As someone who is both a redhead and a stepchild, I’m proud to say I’m a member of this elite group of professionals who have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. But, as Bob would say, I digress….