Becky Curtis was in a frightening roll over accident in Montana in 2005 when she fell asleep at the wheel. She was working and suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in partial paraplegia and intensive, prolonged (chronic) pain.
Ask her about workers' compensation, and she has nothing but positive things to say about the team that took care of her, and still is helping her.
|Becky Curtis' car|
Through vocational retraining Curtis became a pain management coach, and founded Take Courage Coaching to help chronic pain patients, those for whom pain management modalities have done the most any third party intervention could, enjoy life in spite of the pain.
Pain management, as Curtis explained to the audience at the Self Insurance Institute of America's annual Workers' Compensation Executive Forum yesterday in New Orleans, requires the patient ultimately be active in their own recovery, not a passive patient.
There is a psycho-physiological reality to chronic pain, that was explained by Michael Coupland, CPsych, RPsych, CRC. Coupland said that at the point where pain becomes chronic, which is when third party remedies no longer have an impact, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective.
CBT is about remapping the brain to redirect the signals sent by the nervous system and involves a concept called neuroplasticity - the brain is flexible enough that it can be, essentially, trained to feel differently.
There was an overall theme to the forum that underscored a key difference between self-insured workers' compensation programs, and traditional insurance models: focus on the employee.
Though there were sessions on marijuana, the changes in health care insurance, and other technical sessions, the overall tone was, take care of the claim and the benefits will follow. Other than the debate about self-insurance groups versus captives, there was very little talk about cost and expense; most of the talk was about how to better serve the injured worker.
I expected this from a self-insurance oriented forum. The mindset is much different from the traditional insurance model, because the self-insured employer has a much tighter, more involved interest: that injured worker is THEIR employee and they're working with THEIR money.
The insurance covered employer typically doesn't react that way because the insurance company is an intermediary with its own financial objectives.
Self-insured employers get it: the best way to lower your workers' compensation expenses is to treat the injured worker quickly, efficiently, thoroughly and with the best treatment (including CBT) available.
Notice I did NOT says the MOST treatment - that is a vendor/provider desire.
The BEST treatment means sometimes having to pay more than fee schedule. It means sometimes authorizing a couple of extra physical therapy sessions even though the law says you've done enough. It means having claims adjuster case loads of not much more, if at all, than 100, so adjusters can actually make a difference rather than spend so much time entering data and completing paperwork.
It means providing the tools to the injured worker that will empower her to overcome chronic pain.
These remedies are available to traditionally insured employers, by the way - they just don't know it.