This month, we learned that Intracorp's 40-year existence has come to an end, and we cannot let this passing go unnoticed, especially by those of us who were part of the "cult" and actually helped the firm rise to industry leadership.
Back in 1970, an INA workers' compensation claims supervisor, George Welch, suggested that adding nurses to the workers' comp claims process might speed medical recovery and return to work ... and with that, International Rehabilitation Associates (IRA) and an entire workers' compensation managed-care industry was born.
Of course, the addition of nurses to the claims process was not the end of the Intracorp innovative cost-containment ideas. Soon, there were IRA Vocational Specialists as well, assisting with return to work on the more difficult claims. In the 1980s, Intracorp (which is what IRA began to be known as in 1982) was one of the first companies to apply automated provider bill repricing (based on newly introduced state fee schedules and usual and customary rates) to workers' compensation medical bills (thank you Marliess Theisen!). Intracorp was also one of the first companies to apply the new healthcare-oriented "precertification" idea to workers' compensation medical care.
I also still remember the meetings in the mid-1980s in Intracorp's headquarters where Don Wilson and Greg Riedi tried to convince a senior management team that preferred provider networks, which were exploding in the healthcare arena, could also be applied in workers' compensation. If they only knew then how dominant PPOs would actually become in our industry!
In the early 1990s, Intracorp was one of the first companies to think outside the box and introduce telephonic case management along with cutting-edge software (ICMS) to support it. At one point, ICMS became something of an industry standard with many of the largest workers' comp claims payers and third-party administrators licensing it for use with their own internal case managers. Several still use it to this day.
Regardless of all its product successes, the greatest strength of Intracorp was always its people. At its peak, it was an amazing company with an exciting, entrepreneurial culture and strong employee morale and engagement. Many of us obtained outstanding professional experience and lifelong friendships while there.
As I walked through the exhibit hall at the Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo in Las Vegas earlier this month, I relived my own 19 years with Intracorp as I walked past the booths of all the managed-care players now in the industry and realized how many of them were founded by or are currently being led by friends and colleagues who were part of the Intracorp family at some point. When Intracorp was at its height, there were more than 5,000 employees living all over the country. For a while, there was even an IRA office in Australia taking a leadership role in the workers' comp managed-care market down under.
The way I see it, Intracorp was the industry innovator that provided a fertile training ground for a majority of our current industry professionals. It is, to a large degree, the reason our industry exists. We owe Intracorp a debt of gratitude and thus need to give it a grand farewell. If you think I am overstating Intracorp's impact, take a moment to consider this:
-- Coventry, previously Concentra and before that CRA, was originally founded by two Intracorp alumni: Don Larson and Lois Silverman.
-- Corvel was founded by Gordon Clemons, ex-president of Intracorp, and several more Intracorp alumni.
-- OneCall Medical's senior management team list reads like my old Intracorp phone directory.
-- You will also find Intracorp alumni in leadership positions at most of the major workers' comp managed-care companies exhibiting at this year's NWCDC, including: Genex (Intracorp's new owners), Bunch & Associates, Judy Shorman & Associates, Mitchell, Stratacare, PMSI, ScripNet, NCN, MedRisk, Paradigm, SRS, SCMS and many more.
THE NEXT INTRACORP?
So, as we bid farewell to the company that started it all, I was pondering whether there is another IRA/Intracorp out there? What was it about Intracorp that made it feel, with its demise, like an important era has ended?
Many of those who had an opportunity to actually experience the Intracorp culture would explain that Intracorp expected and rewarded innovation in an industry that is, by its very nature, risk-averse. Although more than 5,000 people strong, Intracorp felt like a small, entrepreneurial company, a place where success was recognized and was celebrated openly, which only added fuel to Intracorp employees' competitiveness. In short, Intracorp invested time and energy in creating an environment that was people-oriented, resulting in loyal, energized and engaged employees who created friendships and memories many of us will never forget
As our industry is flooded with new venture capital looking to consolidate companies and grab market share, I, for one, believe it will be difficult for a company to take Intracorp's place. Given the size of some of the consolidated entities and the heavy focus on top-line growth goals by the venture-capital community, it will be difficult for companies to replicate that Intracorp mystique. In this market, it is often easier and more cost-effective to simply buy up your competitors to gain market share rather than invest in true innovation.
It would not hurt, however, for companies left in this space to consider the opportunities presented by the Intracorp sale and work to build that innovative, entrepreneurial, energized culture in order to gain competitive advantage, not with pricing or size of the network or staff, but instead with the industry's most engaged and competitive staff eager to deliver the very best service to the customer.
Finally, for all of you Intracorp alumni, here are a few of those special memories that will definitely bring a smile to your face:
-- "Channel1," the internal communication tapes for case managers to listen to in their company cars.
-- "Everyone Wins," the IRA motivational movie shown to prospects, new employees and anyone else willing to watch.
-- Dinner in the desert at the 25th Anniversary Managers Gathering, "Turning Silver Into Gold"
-- The stream of "innovative" technologies from Clientele, VOCOMP and InTouch, to AuditPlus and ICMS.
-- The numerous Gold Medal & Gold Circle meetings designed to recognize and reward employees' contributions, held in places many of us had never been to before those company trips (St. Thomas, Barbados, Cozumel, Palm Springs, Tucson, etc.).
-- The parade of IRA/Intracorp presidents: George Welch, Gordon Clemons, Warren Fuller, Pat Rowland, Jeff Ackerman (a dentist by trade), Don Duford, Dennis Mouras, Kirk Rothrock, Ken Ross, etc.
-- "In" magazine (short for Intracorp News) and its underground spoof counterpart "Out" magazine. (We are still wondering who wrote that).
-- Bob Zeccardi as "Nancy the Nurse" at the 1997 National Manager's meeting
P.S. I have heard that there is an Intracorp reunion being planned by our colleague Bob Zeccardi. If you would like to help him with the planning or be included in the guest list (imagine the size of this guest list), give him a call 610-453-5910 or e-mail (yes, he has learned to use e-mail, J) at email@example.com.
Thanks, Intracorp, for all the wonderful memories and careers!
MADDY BOWLING is a principal of Maddy Bowling Consulting Inc.
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November 18, 2010
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