Two interesting things happened to me yesterday. First, I spoke at the Minnesota Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation Summit at Cragun’s Resort near Brainerd, MN. Second, I got a wild ride back to the airport thanks to my GPS navigation app, Waze.  

The conference was held at a beautiful resort location, and the hospitality of Commissioner Ken Peterson and the Minnesota DOL employees was very gracious and deeply appreciated. Unfortunately I could only enjoy it for a brief period. The problem was I had to be in Nashville today for the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network Conference. 

That meant I had to literally “speak and run”, as I had a tight time window between the end of my session and my flight out of Minneapolis. 

There are a couple ways to determine the estimated drive time between Brainerd and the Minneapolis Airport. Mapquest, that tried and true internet mapping stalwart, told me it would be 2 hours and 17 minutes. My phone based GPS app, Waze, however, told me upon starting the journey that it would be 2 hours and 42 minutes. It predicted I would arrive at the airport at 5:01PM for my 6:30 flight to Tennessee.

Why the huge variance from Mapquest? Simple; Waze has better real time information, and uses it quite effectively. 

Waze is an interactive app. In addition to providing you with maps and turn by turn voice commands, it also collects traffic data not just from your phone, but all the other app users in the system (these users are commonly referred to as “Wazers”). This gives the system a good picture of what is happening around you, and it can re-route you on the fly to avoid big traffic stoppages. While I knew Waze had this capability, I had not really experienced it until my trip back to MSP.

And what a wild ride it gave me.

I had been pretty concerned about making it to the airport in time. The day before, on my trip through Minneapolis from the airport, I had encountered frustrating traffic and huge delays. If the return trip was similar, I could have easily been doomed. Therefore, not fully trusting this technology, I manually scouted out alternate routes. It seemed to me the simplest way in and out of the airport would be the 494 bypass. Waze had not taken me that way at all on my arrival. It had taken me closer to the city, across a number of highways and thoroughfares. I was pretty sure at this point that Waze was secretly seeing Siri, my virtual assistant who has proved my travel nemesis on more than one occasion. They were conspiring to get me hopelessly lost in my travels. 

Conversations with some of the locals told me that the 494 bypass was under heavy construction, and at times could be problematic. Nevertheless, I was strongly considering that route should Waze try to take me downtown again.

The trip back was quick and easy until I reached the city. Even as I entered the Minneapolis area, traffic was exceedingly light. As suspected, Waze was trying to take me beyond the 494 interchange, and deeper into the city. Since traffic was very light, I denied the urge to rebel from this techtronic navigational overlord. I meekly obeyed and drove on, honoring the Waze recommended path. That is when, for a moment anyway, the wheels appeared to come completely off my journey. I could see traffic building ahead when Waze directed me on to what appeared to be “State Hwy 55”. Unfortunately that route was but a quick extension that ended and dumped me directly downtown – on the mean streets of Minneapolis.

Ok, I know everyone in Minnesota is nice, but I’m crafting a tale here…..

I was really concerned at this point. The airport is far south of downtown. Why I was on 3rd Street, taking a right on 4th Ave and then left on 6th Street was beyond me. I considered going old school and “taking it manual”, as I wasn’t sure Waze knew where we were going. The entire time it doggedly insisted that I would arrive at 5:01, and I was merely 9.6 miles from the airport. Before I went old school, which is a complicated and emotional process that would have required me to buy a new phone afterwards, I noticed on the Waze map that it was indicating heavy traffic delays on the highway I thought I should be on. I realized I had been re-routed; an action that was planned early on as no navigational update occurred on the screen. 

What followed was an amazing roller coaster ride. Back on the interstate for several exits, then off it again. At one point it tried to get me to exit where there was only a concrete wall. Then a lovely drive through a park. A multiple turn drive through a residential neighborhood. There was a moment where I think I drove through a Target cosmetics department – I can’t be sure. Then Pelham Blvd. And finally, a meandering drive down S. Mississippi Boulevard, an elite neighborhood with large, stately old homes along the Mighty Mississippi River. 

I highly recommend that drive, by the way.

Somewhere along this journey the radio told me there was an accident on the 494, and that, combined with construction, had left it hopelessly delayed. Soon I was on Hwy 5, and 1.3 miles later I was at the airport. It was 5:01PM. 

Son of a bitch. That little bastard really knew what he was doing. 

Imagine if we could have a Waze app for workers’ comp. An app that could look at a claim, assess particulars, and analyze psychosocial factors pertinent to the injured worker. It could map a path of action for the adjuster based on real time data. It could analyze the continuing data stream for early signs of delay or stoppages, and re-route the participants so that their journey could continue, and they would arrive on time. You have to understand, Waze had enough information to know where I would need to go and how long it would take from the moment I started the journey. Any adjustments made on my path were quick and seamless. That app could clearly predict and see the outcome before I even put the car in gear. 

We have no such device for our industry today. At best we have a flow chart; a Mapquest of comp, providing a general schematic that shows us where we should go if everything is ok. One unexpected road closure, however, and we’re wandering the mean streets of Catastrophe, the city that never sleeps, and unlike Minnesota, contains no nice residents. 

Yes, in workers’ comp the best we have today is Mapquest; a competent tool that just cannot provide the real time data and direction we need in our complex and process driven world.  

Mapquest is ok. But in workers’ comp, we need to find a better Waze. 

 

 

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