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Workers' comp professionals share their predictions for the industry's future

COVID-19 brought new questions to the workers’ comp industry and can help illuminate what the market will have to face down the road.

By Denny Jacob

Workers’ compensation is currently being tested as never before. Despite being well-positioned financially, COVID-19 and a shaky economy threaten to derail much of the progress the industry has made in recent years.

In the months since COVID-19 disrupted all sense of normalcy, the workers’ compensation industry, like virtually every other industry, was suddenly faced with questions it didn’t have answers to: would COVID-19 be covered under workers’ compensation, what would happen to injured workers who now couldn’t risk seeing their doctor or physical therapist for the foreseeable future, what technology can be utilized to help as many people as possible and more.

COVID-19 may end up ultimately being just a small moment for the workers’ compensation industry, but it is an example of what kind of scenarios the industry will have to look for down the road.

To find out what the industry thinks is next in workers’ compensation and how technology will affect the industry in 2020 and beyond, Mitchell surveyed about 100 workers’ compensation professionals at a range of companies, including insurance carriers, third-party administrators, public entities, brokers and managed care and risk management companies.

Here are some of the biggest findings from the report.

  • More than half of workers’ compensation professionals believe that telemedicine (32%) and artificial intelligence (30%) will have the greatest impact on the workers’ compensation industry in the next five to 10 years. This finding aligns well with participants reporting that the main drivers of technology adoption in the industry today are containing costs, increasing automation and helping workers get back to work.

  • Cost containment (47%) continues to be the primary driving factor behind the workers’ compensation industry’s adoption of technology,

  • Within the workers’ compensation claims process itself, advanced technology is expected to be the biggest help in improving medical outcomes (29%).

  • Forty-two percent of respondents reported that their organizations are processing about 25% of their claims with straight-through process automation. While it is important that claims organizations strike the balance between automation and the human touch, taking advantage of automation can help improve both the accuracy and consistency for small dollar bills or frequently submitted codes.

  • The biggest challenge that workers’ compensation claims organizations are facing today is workflow consistency (27%), according to survey respondents.

Predicting what will come next in workers’ compensation will probably fall short of reality, but the insights shared by those surveyed by Mitchell highlight where the industry is headed in the short-term at least.

Mitchell’s full report with additional findings can be found here.

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