March 23, 2007

Ease of access enhances workers’ comp business

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Jack Boone talks about Vanderbilt’s role in the region’s workers’ compensation community at a recent conference. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Ease of access enhances workers’ comp business

The mixture of people and professions that interact as part of Middle Tennessee's workers' compensation community is indeed a diverse one.

When an employee is injured and requires treatment, the parties that may be involved can range from the employers themselves — large and small — to various health care professionals and institutions, insurance companies, attorneys, unions and even local and state government offices.

It's a complex dance of sorts, but it's one that the Workers' Compensation Division of Vanderbilt Corporate Health Services is helping choreograph more smoothly.

Recently, nearly 300 players in the region's workers' compensation system gathered for a conference at Cool Springs to learn more about Vanderbilt's efforts to streamline the often-complicated process of treating an injured employee and helping to return him or her to work.

Through its 'single point of access system,' the division acts as a one-stop-shopping resource for employers, case managers and insurance adjusters, matching them with a preferred list of Vanderbilt health care providers in numerous specialties.

“We really act as a liaison department for the Medical Center,” said Jack Boone, administrative director of the Workers' Compensation Division.

“We give the workers' comp community one starting point to get all the information they need, answer questions and address any issues they may have regarding injured workers.”

Roy DeHart, M.D., is the division's medical consultant for Corporate Health, part of Vanderbilt's full array of Occupational Medicine services under the umbrella oversight of Mary Yarbrough, M.D.

Among other services, the division's team members:

• recommend the Vanderbilt providers appropriate to treat an employee's particular injury;

• set up a free interpretation service for initial appointment;

• obtain medical records and impairment rating results;

• provide assistance with billing and return-to-work questions;

• update employers on all workers' comp patients who may utilize Vanderbilt's Emergency Department or be admitted to the Trauma or Burn units.

Their efforts are paying off. Before the division was formed in 1999, Vanderbilt's workers' compensation business ranged from $10 million to $12 million per year. At the end of Fiscal Year 2006, that number stood at just less than $25 million.

“Workers' comp is about 1 percent of the Medical Center's business, but the volume has definitely grown,” Boone said. “The significance is that it presents Vanderbilt as a complete, integrated, full-service provider for area employers to send their injured workers.”

That wasn't always the case. Prior to the division's formation, Vanderbilt's array of clinics and services was seen by many in the workers' compensation community as a maze that was difficult to navigate.

“What we needed to do was provide ease of access. That's the key to the whole thing; we really tried to zero in on that, and we've been successful,” Boone said. “We've made tremendous strides in our ability to deliver services, and our customers' attitudes have changed. They now say we are among the best providers around.

“That's crucial, because for the workers' comp community, it's all about getting information, getting people healthy and back to work and getting claims paid quickly. Their expectation of quick turnaround is high,” Boone said.