We recently went through a complete kitchen remodel. It was a comprehensive project that stripped the kitchen to the studs in places and included tearing out and replacing 600 square feet of tile: both in the kitchen and adjacent areas. It was a delightful affair that left my wife and I, along with our two cats living and hissing at each other in our Master Bedroom for several weeks. The cats were unhappy, too. When we started the project our kitchen designer assured us it would all be done well before Thanksgiving. Silly designer. As it turned out, the plumbing wasn’t reconnected until the Friday after, with the finishing touches coming before the end of November. It was fun. And I’m still finding construction dust in places I didn’t know could have dust (and I’m not talking about the house).
I’m not even mentioning that our shiny new porcelain tile floor was improperly installed with mismatched tiles and will have to be ripped out and replaced. That is a rant for another day.
Part of this remodel involved the purchase of all new appliances, including an induction cooktop. Some of you may be wondering what having an induction cooktop means. Well, for starters, it means you have to buy all new cookware, as your old aluminum and ceramic equipment will not work on it. Induction cooking does not heat food like a conventional stove. It instead uses electromagnetic energy to heat the cookware. It can best be described by stealing a description from Consumer Reports, which reads, “The power and precision of the technology comes from an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface that transfers current directly to magnetic cookware, causing it to heat up. Essentially, induction cuts out the intermediate step of heating up a burner and then transferring the heat to the pot.” For this technology to work, you have to have pots and pans with steel bottoms that can react to the electromagnetic field.
The end result of all this is that the cooktop itself remains cool (although it can become warm from the heated pot on top of it), and the time to reach certain temperatures is vastly reduced. Water will boil in about half the time of a conventional stove, and our new “induction capable” tea kettle starts screaming in just about 2 minutes. When I found out how much it cost, I started screaming in just about 2 seconds.
So, you ask, what does this have to do with workers’ comp? Since this is my blog, the answer would be nothing, if not for my convenient hypothetical rubber mallet that may be used to bang and bend this story into an appropriate anecdote.
It feels as though the workers’ compensation industry has been undergoing its own “kitchen remodel” in the last few years. There are new ideas and theories, long in the gestational stage, that are beginning to make headway in the industry. The ideas underlying such concepts as “bio-psychosocial treatment” and “whole person care” have moved from a few lone proponents in the wilderness to serious discussions and consideration within the industry. Disability Management seems to be shifting to the important area of Disability Avoidance, with the most important factor being that more people are recognizing disability can be avoided after an injury has occurred. Even the concept of “Workers’ Recovery,” the industry rebranding effort started here more than eight years ago, is starting to gain some traction beyond the digital pages of this blog.
Like a kitchen remodel, it has not been a smooth and painless effort. New rules have to be developed. New equipment and methods deployed. It takes a lot longer than one might hope, and the expense is, for the short term, something you would rather not think about. But in the end, if we find ourselves in a nicer room, getting better results faster than before, the remodel will be a success.
Upon reflection, the last 8 to 10 years or so the industry seems to have become much more introspective than it was when I first entered it in 1999. Hopefully that trend will continue. There is a better path than “process and close.” We just have to stick with it to see it through. If we can successfully deploy these concepts on a broader basis, workers’ comp can definitely be cooking with induction.