From a historical perspective, the property/casualty industry is one of the most hide-bound traditionalist enclaves in the domestic business landscape. I do not think I'm going out on a limb with the foregoing statement. That certainly extends to the suspicion with which it regarded "technology" advances that began to manifest in the 1980's.
In the days of yore, the manual environment of claims, underwriting, loss control, actuarial, etc. depended on myriad manual records that were mountainous, and often difficult to locate when needed or required. However, in the 1980's, the computer revolution started making an impact with insurance companies.
In the claims world, these advances were initially demonstrated by AS-400 mainframe systems and shared terminals that normally displayed only claim identification information and financial data (payments and reserves) for each case. There were no "online claim notes." They were still in the manual files. Of course, when manual files transitioned to electronic files, the computer systems were looked at with anxiety and distrust.
Despite early instability with many of the claims computer systems, it is now commonplace for insurance companies to have all information computer based. In fact, it is difficult to imagine in the present day world what it would be like to manage and collate, in a manual environment, the prodigious amounts of information insurance companies routinely use. Regardless of this fact, the P/C sector still generally looks askance at technological advancements that, used properly, will have a positive material impact on operations, and the bottom line.
Continually Repeat: "Technology Is My Friend"
Technology can be daunting. It is often difficult to understand, and it doesn't help that software vendors are trying to purvey more "solutions" that can be counted. Therefore it is axiomatic that technology must be thoroughly vetted and understood before adoption. In my career, I have more than once heard the viewpoint expressed that "no one else is doing this so we are not going to do it." In the face of continual advances, as a reason for not adopting new technology, this view is ultimately myopic (and narrow minded).
Obviously, one must pick and choose what programs are worthy of their attention and ultimate adoption.
As an example, an area where I sincerely believe technology has allowed material advances that can benefit claims people is in the arena of motion capture.
Essentially, motion capture is an advanced motion analysis technology that can be utilized to quantify and analyze human movement and exertion. It allows a comprehensive, objective, consistent, and reliable measurement of an injured person's accurate physical abilities.
The way motion capture works is relatively simple to understand. The injured person has small motion capture "infrared markers" affixed to various parts of their body, and then they are asked to ambulate over a pressure sensitive mat, and (depending upon the nature of the injury) possibly bend, squat, lift, etc. while infrared cameras are recording the event.
After the various motions are filmed, a software program then performs an analysis of the biomechanical movement. The results are consistently accurate.
Technological advances in this realm allow non-invasive testing and analysis that can result in a plethora of benefits to insurance claims personnel, employers, doctors and the injured workers. When all stakeholders gain an advantage from technology, you know it is something that deserves your investigation (and potential adoption), especially since it is a "fee for service" arrangement, involving no annual contract costs. So let's look at this area a bit more closely.
The development of motion-capture technology involved advances in computer programs, optics and biological movement and locomotion analysis. This type of service/product is truly an example of technology being used in the service of man.
This technology has been long in the making. Motion capture started in the early 1960s. It was concomitantly championed by San Diego Children's Hospital (for pediatric gait analysis), the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and sports medicine physicians interested in the biomechanics of athletes. Originally the cameras used were 28 volt DC models that the military used for air to ground reconnaissance photos. In the early 90's, the availability of infrared camera systems and highly reflective "body markers" made motion capture a potential everyday practical diagnostic tool (though top-line equipment for each motion capture lab still exceeds six figures).
Motion capture affords several distinct advantages over traditional musculoskeletal exams and functional capacity evaluations (FCEs).
* These are not static tests such as MRIs, CT-Scans, X-rays, etc. A motion capture test actually captures biomechanical movement of the injured person.
Motion capture exams provide photo/computer analysis based functional capacity assessments, that are ruthlessly accurate.
* Motion capture provides an accurate, comprehensive, and objective assessment of a person's actual physical abilities and limitations for the movements that are recorded.
* The results of the exam can provide the underlying cause of the manifestation of the physical problems, thus allowing an early, accurate diagnosis and result in correct medical treatment regimen from the inception of the injury.
* In lengthy disability cases, motion capture can illustrate biomechanical compensation patterns the injured person is using to avoid pain, and thus provide insight into what treatment pattern will be most effective going forward.
* Motion capture analysis can also support IME reports by offering objective physical performance data.
* If there is little or no physical manifestation of an injury extant demonstrated on the motion capture exam, the analysis will discover the lack of objective manifestation of physical disability, thus failing to confirm the subjective complaints of motion limitation.
* Motion capture can also be incredibly valuable when used for pre-employment physicals for jobs that require lifting, bending, walking, etc. Think how much money that can save in the long run by avoiding hiring a person who cannot meet the physical qualifications of a position but claims they can do the work (are you listening UPS and FedEx?).
The cost of motion capture evaluations is not prohibitive (usually around $1,000 per evaluation). When used properly, this test can be the fulcrum upon which early, accurate diagnosis is made, which in turn allows proper treatment regimens. Also, lengthy disability cases can be controlled. When used as a screening process, motion capture can be the methodology utilized for the right selection of new employees (thus resulting in cost avoidance down the line).
When All You Have Is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail
The key to using services built on advanced technology involves understanding when they should be utilized. In other words, different tools for different jobs. There is no one panacea for all ills.
Motion capture is but one of a plethora of tools made available via advanced technology to help manage claims, and practice cost avoidance. Using it inappropriately will result in increased allocated expense costs with no benefit. However, when dealing with the proper cases (usually amorphous musculoskeletal issues), it certainly has a place in the pantheon of options for employers, adjusters, doctors, and injured workers.
The embracing of technology shouldn't be something to cause dyspepsia or depression. If used properly in the right circumstances, technological advances such as motion capture can be a great advantage to early adopters.
April 5, 2012
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