The NCCI Annual Issues Symposium just wrapped up in Orlando, Florida yesterday. This event is somewhat akin to drinking from a firehose, as the information flies in a fast and furious fashion. There were two major points that were quite relevant to me. First, the industry has just concluded a terrific year, with a record Combined Ratio of 83, the lowest ratio in at least the last 75 years. There may be a lower record out there, but no one broke out the microfiche of the 1930’s to find out. The second emphasis of this gathering, and for me the most important, was NCCI’s clear effort to put a human face to the data and remind the workers’ compensation industry that the human connection remains the most vital one we have.

We are an industry that can, with proper actions, restore broken lives and help bring purpose and dignity back to those who have been injured. We need to be reminded of that from time to time, and it was refreshing to see an information powerhouse such as NCCI take that approach.

They produced several videos that were shown throughout the event, one specifically highlighting people who had been severely injured and were returned to a productive role in society with the help of workers’ compensation. NCCI’s emphasis was that data can be used to accomplish our end goals, and those end goals are about people, not process. Kudos to NCCI for reminding us of that.

A few years ago, I had a friend mention in regard to a well-known economist familiar with our industry, that “he writes very well, but his work almost sounds as if no human is attached to the workers’ compensation process.” It is a sentiment that can be used in many situations. I attend many conferences and have listened to many skilled and educated presenters. Yet, at times, I struggle to find the human element in the presentation. It seems that the processes of workers’ compensation are often discussed and debated without consideration of the people for whom they were intended. 

In my “Top Ten Predictions for 2016” I postulated that the injured worker would be completely removed from the workers’ compensation process (my annual predictions are not especially known for their seriousness or accuracy). Specifically, I said:

Long an impediment to improving process and reducing costs, injured workers’ will be removed from the claim process entirely in 2016. Culminating a move started some 20 years ago, this final step will bring true efficiency and cost savings to the workers’ comp industry. Experts will note that continued consolidation and technological advancements have essentially rendered the injured worker obsolete, making them no longer relevant to the process.

The intent was humorous, but the reality is we sometimes speak about workers’ compensation without remembering that workers are involved in the system. That trend only gets stronger with the increasing availability and importance of data analytics within the industry. 

The presentation made by AIS Keynote, author and former Time Magazine Editor Walter Isaacson, dovetailed nicely with the “human connection” message offered by NCCI. Isaacson tried to assuage certain fears regarding the advent of artificial intelligence by discussing the realm of creative thinking in the development of greater technologies. He asserted that the best inventions of our day were not machines designed to supplant humans, but rather those that allowed us to do more through intelligent interface design. He spoke about the first computer system to engage a visual display, which was a rudimentary missile detection system built in the 1950’s, as well as about Steve Jobs and his creations of the Mac computer and the iPhone. All were inventions created to improve the interactions between man and machine, and to allow us to do more than possible prior to their creation.

To that end, the power of big data, combined with the analytical tools we now possess, will only be useful if we merge them with a system that interfaces well with the people we are committed to serve. NCCI took a big step this week by directly tying the “power of insight” to the reality of process. Behind all that “big data” exists human lives in the balance. We would always be wise to remember that. 

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