Can Information Sharing Improve the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation System?

December 21, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

Often, debates about the efficacy and fairness of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system revolve around isolating an “at fault” constituency and punishing that constituency. For instance, there is the “insurance companies are to blame” school; there is the “stingy/unethical employers are to blame” school; there is the “lazy lying workers are to blame” school; and there is the “entire system is broken so there’s really nothing any well-intentioned person can do anymore” school.

Unfortunately, by dividing up the participants in the North Carolina’s workers’ compensation system into “good guys” and “bad guys” – irrespective of the rightness or wrongness of those categorizations – we may be overlooking some easy “win-win” solutions that could improve the system’s efficacy and effectiveness without causing pain to any participants.

One important strategy involves information sharing and information processing. Like most state workers’ comp systems, the North Carolina workers’ compensation system often finds itself gummed up by needless bureaucracy, long wait times, and paperwork. Almost all organizations – state run and privately run – find themselves overloaded with information these days. This overload makes it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff — harder to make good decisions.

Practically speaking, this might mean that an injured woman who needs back pain medication may have to go through a grueling wait process to get approved. Or it might mean that an employer gets stuck dealing with tons of workers’ comp paperwork and has to spend dozens of man-hours dealing with claim forms instead of attending to his business. Even insurance companies suffer from the stifling bureaucracy. All of the paper shuffling and information mis-management that goes on at big insurers surely drains these companies’ bottom lines. Insurers may then end up passing these costs down to consumers.

So how can we go about in some systematic, industry-wide way cutting through the clutter and eliminating bureaucracy? Obviously, this is way too big a topic for one small blog post to handle. But consider these suggestions:

1. Solicit ideas from people “in the trenches” about how/where we can collectively save time, money and resources.

Talk to everybody involved, from the state insurance commissioner down to claims processors, injured workers, and small business employers, about their frustrations and innovations. There is no need to impose “top-down” solutions to cut through bureaucracy – often, the people “in the trenches” intuitively and immediately understand what needs to be done.

2. Simplify Simplify Simplify

Apply the “KISS” (Keep it Simple, Stupid) principle throughout the system to identify and do away with needless complications, paperwork, and restrictions.

3. Restrict the flow of information to find liberation.

Author Timothy Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week, talks about the benefits of a “low information diet.” By allowing information to pour into your environment, office, insurance company, or wherever, you set the stage for info overload and overwhelm. The easy fix is to turn down the informational faucet – to eliminate all but the most essential, need-to-know info from your life and business.

If you or someone you care about got hurt at work or suffered a job-related chronic illness, you may have lots of questions about how to handle your benefits case. Connect with a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm today to explore methods for getting more out of your case.

More Web Resources:

Getting Things Done — Better information processing philosophy

Information Overload dangers


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