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Foresight for 2014

Originally posted on https://www.sedgwick.com

A new year brings a sense of renewal and energy as businesses prepare to embrace the opportunities and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. The world in which we live is changing rapidly and that change translates to new considerations for employers.  We believe there are seven significant trends that organizations should watch in 2014 as they focus on improving results and competitiveness. These include:

Workforce leveraging

We have long known that employees are the backbone of every organization.  Injured, absent or unengaged workers impact a company’s productivity and bottom line.  It is vital that employers find ways to leverage their workforce for maximum productivity and those that take a holistic view of employee health – physical, emotional and financial – will likely experience the greatest success in 2014.

Diversity matters

Today’s labor pool reflects the diversity of the world in which we live. Census data indicates that by 2050, there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the U.S.  And the American workforce is not just culturally diverse – more than one third are expected to be millennials by the end of this year; women now make up half of the job market; veterans are re-entering the working population.  With these facts combined, we start to see a true demographic shift.  Employers need to consider the implications of this increasingly diverse workforce and develop strategies to best meet their unique needs.

Advancements in medical care

Technological advancements in healthcare delivery are expected to increase rapidly throughout the year. There are some very exciting developments we are monitoring closely for impact to employers.  From 3D printing for prosthetics and implants, to wearable monitoring devices for tracking wellness data, to the use of Google Glass in emergency and operating rooms – these advancements are sure to change the way patients are treated in the future.  Employers need to stay up to date on new treatment methods and consider the potential positive and negative impact.  While many of these advancements could result in faster return to work, some may pose new risk exposures that will need to be addressed.

Industry evolution

Whatever your political affiliation, it is safe to say that the challenges on Capitol Hill resulted in many unexpected twists and turns for organizations of all types in 2013, and 2014 promises more of the same.  But for all the gridlock, major workers’ compensation reform initiatives were passed including Senate Bill 863 in California and the alternative coverage legislation in Oklahoma. To keep this momentum going in 2014, employers must raise their collective voice and collaborate with industry thought leaders to enact more change, especially in states where costs are out of control.  This type of evolution takes a concerted effort on the part of many employers who are willing to come together and speak with one voice for defined change. We’ve proven it in the workers’ compensation arena, but we can also use our collective voice to influence more general industry issues such as what quality really means in managing claims for employers and how we attract the next generation into risk and benefits management careers. Throughout the year, we will be looking for new ways to help move our industry forward and continue the conversation on evolution.

Predicting future health

Rising healthcare costs, increased demand for medical care and rapid improvements in technology will lead to a growing interest in predicting future health. Information about an individual’s future health conditions or potential medical expenditures could be of enormous interest to those seeking to provide care or control costs. This could surface in such practices as DNA diagnostics, genetics mapping, and other scientific and technology-enabled advancements. These practices could have a significant impact on an individual’s estimated costs or value within the workforce. Misuse of such information or technology could result in serious ethical or regulatory violations, and many argue that these practices may compromise ethics in health-related programs. Employers need to be aware that discrimination could increase with the use of such tools and technology.

The Affordable Care Act

Organizations continue to  struggle  to  understand  the  potential impact  of  the  ACA  on  American  businesses  and employees. With respect to employee injuries and illnesses, workers entitled to benefits will be competing with newly insured individuals for treatment from the same limited number of medical providers. As a result, we expect to see growing alternatives to meet the increasing healthcare demands such as the expanded use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners for routine medical services, the increased use of walk-in clinics to treat chronic conditions, and the use of telemedicine for online patient diagnosis and treatment.

Big data and embedded technology

Employers need current information that highlights opportunities for improvement. Integrated data management models have replaced traditional data warehousing and reporting techniques. Today, technology is providing employers with access to more real-time data and information than ever before. This results in better decision-making capabilities related to preventing and mitigating losses; the ability to take action early in the claims process; and an expanded use of predictive modeling capabilities. Additionally, technology solutions are facilitating employee communications and improving engagement as social media and text messaging are being used to supplement traditional means of interaction.