Program targets high-cost claimants lost in 'maze' of comp system
The program is comprised of experts in psychosocial, vocational rehabilitation, life coaching, and other disciplines. The aim is to help injured workers who are in the limbo land of workers' comp and disability systems.
"Webility developed the Maze-Masters service to individuals because we saw too many people's lives going downhill," according to a description on the program's website. "Some people end up left high and dry, feeling sidelined and abandoned after they get deep into the maze of the health care, workers' compensation, and disability benefits systems."
Maze-Masters is not an early intervention program. It focuses on injured workers who have been out of the workforce for a prolonged period.
"We are aiming at claims that are at least one to two years out for which traditional claims and management interventions have been ineffective," said Dr. Jennifer Christian, the founder of the program. "What we are primarily doing is changing how the candidate looks at their situation and what their intentions are. We teach them how to play their role and encourage them to move from passive victim to active solution seeker."
Christian, who is also president of the Webility Corp., has been finding ways to address work disability prevention for more than a decade.
She says Maze-Masters uses evidence-based techniques to achieve the win-win goals. "Our goal for the injured person is to improve the quality of everyday life and reduce dependence on medical resources," she said. "Our goal for our paying customer, the claims organization, is to reduce the rate of medical spend and ideally move the claim toward return-to-work or toward settlement."
History of the program.
The program has been in development since early 2010. It was launched in September and now has its first pilot group of 12 candidates, with others in the pipeline. Since the program is delivered via phone and Internet, it is available everywhere.
"There are simple nonmedical techniques people can use in addition to their doctor's treatment to make themselves feel a lot better," Christian said. "Everyone can create a better, more enjoyable and meaningful everyday life and future no matter what constraints are posed by their health condition and life situation."
The idea is to change the candidate's outlook.
"We're not selling [the idea] that they will get all better. Sometimes getting all better is not realistic," Christian said. "From the payer and person's perspectives, life could be better. They could have a reduced appetite for medical care. They could start being interested in resuming productive activity."
Candidates for the program are referred by claims organizations. What makes it somewhat different from other programs is that it is an outreach service offered on a voluntary basis -- candidates choose to become involved. Employers and insurers pay for the claimant to participate.
So far, most of those referred are claimants on narcotics with low back pain and failed back surgery.
"Most of these people were high risk in some way before the episode ever began," Christian said. "The workers' comp system isn't designed to deal effectively with this type of person, to recognize and meet their needs for extra support."
What they do. Helping clients consists of a series of scripted interactions and interventions. Christian describes it as a highly structured and guided self-help program. "Our purpose is to change the trajectory of the claims."
The process begins with a telephone invitation followed by a telephone screening interview, then a two-week trial period. At each step, the candidate is being screened for his willingness and ability to participate as well as his openness to this type of program.
Once through the probationary period, candidates enter the Maze-Masters community with a list of goals. They have their own webpage, attend group classes, and join an online community. Weekly projects and sessions with their guides continue. The entire process is expected to take between three and five months.
Results. Getting candidates has not been a major challenge. "Claims organizations really are looking for new ideas and approaches, they're very open to this idea because we're offering help for expensive claims for which nothing has helped," Christian said.
While a "small fraction" of potential clients have rejected the idea, most are interested in "getting some help figuring out how to manage the impact of the injury on their whole life and future," Christian said.
While it is too early for statistical results, there are positive signs anecdotally. Christian relates the story of a woman whose claim is 11 years old who was asked about how her injury had affected her life.
"When she thought about her future, she said it looked like it would be 'miserable, painful, and sick,'" Christian said.
After the first week in the program, the candidate said, 'I know how to live with this. I've been doing it for 11 years. Now I'm going to learn how to deal with it,'" Christian related.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 7, 2011
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