There is an unassuming little room here in Florida that could teach us something in the workers' compensation industry. While the purpose of the room has nothing to do with workers' comp, it offers vital lessons in simplicity to those of us mired in the complex legislative myriad of process and procedure that drives our industry.
Located in a YMCA on Euclid Avenue in Sarasota, the room itself is quite modest. No bigger than a very small bedroom, it has a distinct classroom feel, with cupboards lining one of its cinder block walls and an Active Board dominating another. The furniture is small, with a short round table and tiny chairs designed specifically for little people. No, there is nothing particularly special about this room.
Except it is the place where miracles occur.
I am not speaking of epic miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, the 1980 US Hockey team, or the fact that “The View” regularly draws a television audience. No, I am speaking of quiet miracles; miracles of a much more personal and intense nature. Miracles where a little boy learns how to tell his mother he loves her, and a young girl learns to interact with her siblings. It is a room where children, who would otherwise have no options, are given the ability to communicate both in and with a world that generally takes that skill for granted.
The Sertoma Kids Speech Clinic has been in operation for 55 years, providing speech related therapies to children and families that have not been able to afford conventional treatment. It was founded and has been continually funded by the Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota.
Thousands of children have passed through this clinic over the years, and they continue coming there today. Some have issues that can be corrected over time. Others have issues that will always inhibit what we consider normal communications, but they can still learn alternative methods that open up their world, and introduce their thoughts and needs to those they love. Today, with the benefit of amazing technological developments, therapists can do more than ever, but the financial demands have commensurately increased as well.
The active board I mentioned is an excellent interactive tool, and today many of the children are given their own iPad. Tools like the iPad, which in my humble opinion is the biggest communication advancement since the invention of the telephone, are exceptional for children with both severe auditory and verbalization challenges. These devices allow children to communicate through icons and interactive systems with those who care for them. Fifty years ago some of these children would have been labeled as “slow” or “retarded”. Locked inside a body unable to communicate, they would have been shunted aside, forever prevented from communicating with a family desperate to speak with the child they love.
That is not happening today, thanks to advances in technology and the commitment of a dedicated community of volunteers.
I had the great honor of again chairing a fundraiser over the weekend in support of this operation. Our 6th Annual Sertoma Sarasota Celebrity Roast raised over $25,000 while lambasting a genial and highly supportive county sheriff, Tom Knight. Before the event began, I was speaking to one of the table sponsors, who recently discovered our group and what we do. She told me that she would like someday to tour the facility – and that request was the seed for this article.
We of course will be happy to show her the facility, but my first thought as we spoke was that it would be a quick and unimpressive tour. It is, after all, just a simple, unassuming room. But I was wrong about that.
You see, it is not the physical facility. It is not the logo or the marketing material. It is not the professionally produced video used to open the Roast (available below). None of that makes the Sertoma Kids Speech Clinic special, and a success.
It is the results.
In some ways Sertoma Kids has it easier than the workers' comp industry. There is not a labyrinth of regulatory jibber jabber to adhere to for the clinic. There are not conflicting cases or disputed claims. There is no Utilization Review; no hearings, no IME/AME/QME hoops to jump through. But the lesson is still there, and it is this:
A group of people with a clearly defined end goal can be successful when they allow that goal to drive the process.
In workers' comp, the opposite is often true, and process frequently shapes and defines the end goal.
If we can shift our thinking to be motivated and driven for improved outcomes, we will see a shift in the things that we can do. We can achieve more by envisioning the outcome, and working to fill the needs that designated goal defines. That is how a clinic with no visible means of support has survived and succeeded for over half a century, and it is the necessary future of claims management in this country.
It is a lesson from an unassuming room that is simple and modest and not that much to look at – But miracles are happening in that simple little room.
PS – By the way, I am walking in a fundraiser for this clinic on March 22nd, and am still looking (begging, groveling, pleading) for sponsors to help us meet those goals! I have had some very generous donations from a few people, but am still just over halfway to my relatively modest goal. Be a dear and help me out, would you? A simple $5 or $10 donation will go a long way to that next miracle. You can make that happen here. Thank you!