Need A Beach Book?
Jul 20, 2017

Here's the book for risk managers to take to the beach this summer - Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery by Cathryn Ramin. Check out this review from Publishers Weekly

How many of the workers' comp claims that you deal with every year are all about back pain? If your program is typical, the percentage is high and the back pain claims are not your medical only nuisance claims either. Why do back claims cost so much and take so long - often forever? Start reading - but take your hypertension meds first. You'll need them.

Ms. Ramin's book grew out of her own back pain saga, but when the back pain industry started playing her case with ineffective, even damaging treatments and nonsense diagnoses to line their clinical pockets, they made a mistake. Ms. Ramin is a seasoned investigative reporter and she soon smelled a story. This book is the result of six years of in-depth investigation.

Crooked is not focused just on the workers' comp aspects of the back pain industry, although comp does play a strong supporting role in her investigations. Read on and you'll learn how back pain mills have played all forms of insurance for billions, all for ineffective treatments that become annuities for their practitioners. Are there effective treatments? Yes, and she deals with these primarily in the second half of the book. Ironically, the most effective treatments are the ones that cost the least and don't stretch out to the end of time.

If your program pays over and over for failed back programs, read Crooked. You will never look at a back claim in quite the same way again.

IS THAT A LAWYER ON YOUR WRIST?

In the last few years wearable devices, the Fitbit and its clones, have gone from rare, look-what-I-have accessories to common objects on wrists everywhere. Now that they have been reporting for duty for a few years, what have they told us? A recent item in Workerscompensation.com provides a neat update.

On the plus side, early research shows that Fitbit type devices when used as part of an overall employee health program do help to get results. One study by the Institute of Healthcare Consumerism showed:

  • an average of 28% reduction in sick days
  • an average of 26% reduction in health costs
  • an average of 30% reduction in workers' compensation and disability management claims.

The underlying data for these stats are young, but this is a nice movement in the right direction and it is intuitively satisfying. Helping people to visualize the impact of better diet and exercise routines in improving vital stats should provide an excellent nudge.

On the other hand, the Fitbit and its cohorts have also found a new role - testifying in court. According to Karla Grossenbacher, a labor and employment attorney with Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, "data pulled from wearable devices can be used to track the location and activity of a user, as well as their emotional responses to situations." In cases of workplace injury and consequent recovery of function, the information from the wearable device may be probative in court of the wearer's physical condition and reactions. Even better - "the data could be utilized to see if a user's heart rate increased to show emotional distress in harassment cases."

In effect, the wearable device becomes yet another possible witness in the tangle of events that can make up a workers' comp or sexual harassment case. Note to risk managers - does your claims administrator, or your safety officer, ask whether the injured worker was wearing a Fitbit or similar device when an injury took place? The data may or may not be conclusive but, as far as we know, Fitbits don't lie.

AND HOW MUCH DID YOUR BREACH COST?

A new study by the Ponemon Group and IBM Security takes a look at the changing costs of data breaches around the world. An excellent summary of the report can be found here. The summary includes a link to the full study (registration required). The headline for US risk managers is that the average cost of a data breach in the US is going up. The latest average is $7.35 million, up 5% from the last survey.

Healthcare once again tops the list with a going rate of $380 in costs per compromised record compared to an average cost for all industries of $141 per record. Roughly half (47%) of all breaches were malicious in nature and cause, but all were expensive. Most alarming of all, the average breach was six months old before it was discovered and it took another two months to get it fully rectified.

The good news? Companies are not helpless against this 21st Century scourge.  In fact, "incident response, encryption and education were the factors shown to have the most impact on reducing the cost of a data breach. Having an incident response team in place resulted in $19 reduction in cost per lost or stolen record, followed by extensive use of encryption ($16 reduction per record) and employee training ($12.5 reduction per record)." Of course, the least expensive breach is the one that doesn't happen. The routes in for the bad guys are still primarily phishing expeditions to find the one naïve employee with a critical access code. 

The full report has a great deal of practical information on how to prevent these incursions, how to police third party vendors, and how to deploy encryption effectively. And, of course, know your cyber protection policies. Do you have the latest policy language and riders to protect you if, say, a vendor leaves a cyber gate open? It only takes a few hits at $7.35 million each to ruin your day.

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