Integrated disability management: Emerging trend in boosting the bottom line
According to Brad Johnson, executive vice president of disability operations at Memphis, Tenn.-based Sedgwick -- the largest integrated disability management (IDM) provider in the nation, specializing in highly customized programs -- emerging tools and an integrated approach to tracking absences can help businesses get employees back on the job sooner, simplify the process and improve the employee experience.
"For many employers, the direct and indirect costs of absence and the need to improve employee productivity are critical competitive issues," Johnson explained. "Effective absence management has become a key initiative for them."
As a result, Johnson added, integrated disability management is gaining more recognition as a beneficial option that can help employers streamline disability, workers' compensation and absence programs, improve tracking and ensure regulatory compliance. The result: a rise in productivity and the bottom line.
There is a growing need, in fact, for employers to be consistent in their approach to absence management, regardless of the cause. There are increasing employer compliance risks due to tighter regulations, such as those associated with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and ever-changing state workers' compensation systems. Employers must comply with FMLA and ADA regulations in many occupational and non-occupational illness and injury cases.
For companies that use separate outside vendors to manage disability, workers' compensation and leave of absence benefits, the status quo is information not easily shared/integrated between all parties. With multiple processes and vendors to oversee, managing the details of each benefit can become an overwhelming task for an employer's risk management, human resources and legal teams.
Think about the typical absence; it's not unusual for an employee to receive requests to follow up on three or more administrative events arising from one absence. Employees often become dissatisfied and confused as they receive up to two or three letters simultaneously from different providers with individual medical forms, and differing rules for job protection and responsibilities for return-to-work. Supervisors and HR managers, too, can become frustrated by receiving multiple communications from different vendors.
Certain aspects of a non-integrated program for disability, workers' compensation and leave of absence management can lead to increased costs and reduced outcomes. Some of the common characteristics include:
- Two, three or more partner contracts
- Differing contact points for reporting an absence
- FMLA, leave of absence, workers' compensation and disability benefit entitlements often overlap or intersect -- making resolution between vendors time-consuming
- Employees receive conflicting messages and multiple follow-up requests related to benefits and return-to-work, which can have a negative impact on the overall employee experience
- Three to six different technology interfaces are often required and ongoing duplicate updates are needed when changes occur
- Without reliable information that can be viewed side by side, it can be more difficult to determine the real impact of absence, measure program changes and develop effective solutions
By combining all types of disability, workers' compensation and leave of absence under a consistent IDM program, however, employers can establish a single source for claim intake, improve the overall employee and employer experience, manage both occupational and non-occupational disabilities more effectively, and see a comprehensive view of all absences in one reporting package.
In an integrated program, the coordinated leave and disability management activities avoid effort duplication and save time and resources. Example: information is typically required from the employee and the medical provider, and integration can eliminate redundant communications with multiple administrative vendors. Contacts with the supervisor and HR team also can be simplified, reducing interruptions and data conflict. In addition, benefits are coordinated, which avoids duplication and ensures employees receive accurate, timely payments.
Denise Fleury, senior vice president, disability and absence management for Sedgwick, explained that successful integration also means absence and lost time information can be defined, collected and managed across all benefits through a single control point. Having comprehensive information from one source gives the employer expanded capabilities to "drill down" into comparative data to determine trends in overall absenteeism (i.e. frequency, duration, cause, occupation and business unit). This helps companies target areas where it may be possible to reduce costs and improve productivity -- key factors that can enhance their ability to stay competitive.
"Flexibility and in-depth experience are critical in helping employers create customized programs that bring together their risk management and employee benefits programs," Fleury said. "You need a knowledgeable, dedicated team that understands both sides and can share valuable expertise with employers looking to build an effective IDM program."
Data access also plays a critical role in IDM program development, Fleury said, so having a single system to manage data for all claim types delivers a key advantage. "Sedgwick brings all of the information together in one customer-driven, state-of-the-art system offering the most flexible, efficient and user-friendly claims management technology available."
Sedgwick works with employers to build results-oriented solutions that combine all of their employee benefits and risk management needs under one consistent IDM program, and its depth and breadth of integrated services is unique in the market. At Sedgwick, Johnson said, the company has been serving employers for more than 40 years and its industry-leading 97 percent retention rate speaks volumes.
"Our strength and client commitment have contributed to our growth. Over 40 percent of our new business comes from existing clients that continue to renew and integrate their services with us," Johnson said. "We firmly believe and have proven time and again that the more integrated the services, the better the outcomes for everyone."
Sedgwick provides claims and productivity management solutions for a wide range of employers nationwide, offering the broadest array of integrated services available in the industry.
Our integrated disability, absence, and workers' compensation programs help employers with:
- Incidental absences, such as paid time off, sick days, vacation time, etc.
- State, federal, and municipal leaves, such as those that fall under FMLA
- Military leave
- Employer-sponsored leaves, such as medical, personal, adoption, sabbatical, etc.
- Short- and long-term disability claims
- State mandated disability plans
- ADA leave
- ADA accommodation assessment process
-- One of our job accommodation specialists will certify the impairment with a physician, moderate an interactive discussion with the employee and the employer's human resources team to identify possible solutions, and work with the employer and employee to implement the most appropriate accommodation
- Workers' compensation claims (self-insured, state-funded, group, and affinity programs)
- Care management needs including network development and provider benchmarking, nurse case management, clinical consultation, bill review, utilization review, pharmacy services, peer review, and return-to-work
- Medicare set asides and MMSEA compliance, OSHA compliance, recoveries, fraud and investigations, structured settlements, loss prevention, and risk modeling
To learn more about integrated disability management, contact Sedgwick at 800-625-6588 or Sedgwick@sedgwick.com, or visit sedgwick.com.
September 24, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications