It has been a while since I’ve updated you on the jurisdictional interoperability of workers’ compensation. Since turkeys are on everyone’s mind this week, I thought that today would be a good day to tackle the topic. And I’m hoping you are still reading at this point, as personally, any article that starts out discussing the “jurisdictional interoperability of workers’ compensation” would repel me in a nanosecond. Or put me to sleep. Whatever.

And if you haven’t actually heard of the “jurisdictional interoperability of workers’ compensation”, that’s ok.

It doesn’t really exist.

The concept for this discussion came to me during the recent CompLaude© Awards Gala in San Diego. A speaker was discussing the importance of interoperability of systems facilitating efficient medical treatment (something I actually once addressed here. It seems even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while). I wondered how we could extend that concept to the workers’ compensation arena, and ultimately simplify the industry for companies assisting injured workers in multiple jurisdictions.

To begin, I suppose we should review the definition of interoperability. According to Merriam-Webster, it is the “ability of a system (such as a weapons system) to work with or use the parts or equipment of another system.” Put into comp parlance, it would probably read the “ability of a workers’ compensation system to work with or use the processes, standards and data of another workers’ compensation system.”

Or, we could just focus on the weapons component of the Merriam-Webster example. We’d probably have better luck if we did that.

The question that I pose here is infinitely simpler than the answer it would require. Considering that essentially the same “data” is involved with the management of an injury claim no matter where it is located, why can’t that data be managed with common processes across state lines? In other words, why do we have zero reciprocity or interoperability in workers’ comp?

Let’s start with two extremely simple and oft mentioned items in this debate; the Posting Notice and the First Report of Injury. The Posting Notice, something that is required for employers in almost all states to display, generally advises employees of their rights and claim procedures within the state in which they work. The information they convey is startlingly consistent; yet no two are alike. Some are full color. Some are odd sizes, or have specific printing requirements. Some come online in two file segments. One can’t be distributed openly online – it must be provided by a carrier directly.

The First Reports (or Notices – we can’t even agree on a title. We will call them FROI’s) suffer very similar issues. All of them gather essentially the same data. The states just want it in different formats or places on the documents themselves. An informal group at the IAIABC once tried to get a number of states to develop a common FROI that could be used by all. I wasn’t there, but I hear it didn’t go well. Rumors that the police were called continue to be denied by all involved.

I guess I’ll stop spreading those rumors.  

This issue, of course, is not just limited to where data goes on a page. The digital versions suffer similar challenges. Even the good folks who have struggled with EDI these many years can tell you that certain states just don’t work and play well with others. Everyone wants their own variation on this data element or that.

Don’t get me wrong. As a person who runs a company that provides multi-jurisdictional compliance libraries (, and forms management systems (FlashFormSSL Auto-Population and Virtual Claims Kit), I am all for confusing oversight and regulatory mayhem. If the states ever got together and agreed on everything I’d probably have to go out and get a real job.

Which is why I took the opportunity for the shameless plug in the previous paragraph. I like my job. I don’t want another one.

Alas, as of this writing, the jurisdictional interoperability of workers’ compensation is but a pipe dream (or nightmare, depending on your particular business model). Everyone uses the same information, but they all use different recipes in the making of the stew. None of the “parts” fit properly when taken across state lines. The workers’ comp system is today like the original Star Trek; where every species strangely speaks the same language, but all the societies are different, and no one can get along.

Plus every planet (jurisdiction) kills the guys in the red shirts. In workers’ comp we call those poor bastards “Compliance Officers.”

It is not likely that the states will start agreeing on process and protocol anytime soon. Therefore, we will not often visit the concept of jurisdictional interoperability of workers’ compensation. That is probably not a bad thing. You’re probably going to be fed enough turkey this week.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

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