How HR Can Avoid Becoming Cynical

Updated January 26, 2016.

human resources illustrationLong time HR people always find it amusing when interviewing someone who is just starting out in the profession, who answers the “why do you want to work in HR?” question with, “I just love people!” Look, we all loved people, and then we became HR people.

People ask me why I chose the moniker “Evil HR Lady,” and I say, “Would you read the “Warm and Fuzzy HR Lady?” But I didn’t just choose it for the shock factor.

People often view their HR managers as evil – after all, we’re the ones who employees blame for low raises, short breaks, and inflexible work schedules. “HR said no,” a boss will say when explaining to an employee while the hoped for raise didn’t happen.

The reality is, HR did say no, but the manager never gives the true reason. For instance, HR said no because there’s no money left in the finance-approved budget. Or, HR said no because the person hasn’t met performance expectations in three years, and rather than the manager having the guts to say, “You’re not eligible for a raise because you aren’t performing up to speed,” he simply says, “HR said no.”

Or, my favorite, the manager didn’t even consult HR, just told the employee he’d check with HR and then three days later told the employee that we turned down her request for a raise. Yes, it happens.

Because people don’t always like HR, it’s not shocking that HR can become cynical towards employees. After all, it’s not always lying managers, it’s employees who’s 18th grandparent just happened to die over a holiday weekend (sometimes we do keep track).


Employers Continue to Face Uphill Battle With Rising Drug Costs

PBMI Releases 2015-2016 Drug Benefit Report

bar graph: annual medical costs for family of fourPharmacy Benefit Management Institute (PBMI)|

PLANO, TX–(Marketwired – Dec 14, 2015) – Last year marked a dramatic increase in medication cost trend for employers according to The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute’s (PBMI) fifteenth annual Drug Benefit Report released today.

Traditional prescription trend increased from 2.4% to 6.2% and specialty trend increased from 12.2% to 19.2%. Cost increases were likely driven by utilization of specialty medications, especially new drugs to treat conditions such as hepatitis C, as well as overall price inflation. The report includes responses from 302 employers representing 16.3 million members.

“We are pleased to release the next version of our Drug Benefit Report which highlights the fact that employers continue to struggle to meet the challenges of rising drug costs,” says Jane Lutz, Executive Director of PBMI. “With the patent cliff and generic cost savings opportunities behind us, employers are forced to take a more creative, targeted approach to be more prepared for the pipeline filled with higher cost medications.”

Key findings from the report include:

• Cost-sharing has become more complex and targeted over the past five to ten years. Four-tier structures were used by 28% of respondents, compared with 8% in 2008.
• Although average retail 30 copay amounts for generics and preferred brands remain stable, preferred brand copay amounts have approximately doubled in the last 15 years from $37.58 to $56.65, adjusted for inflation.
• Use of pharmacy only deductibles increased 157% in 2015 compared to 2014 and 36% of plan sponsors now report having a deductible for prescription drugs compared to 14% last year.
• When appropriate, opportunities exist for plans to implement strategies that decrease out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for members through increased use of mandatory mail order or retail 90 for maintenance medications.


Game Doubles as Stroke App

Uses iPhone’s Force Touch & Robotics to Deliver Rehab

stroke recovery app that is a gameBrian Chau, MD
A team of physicians, developers, artists, and programmers are developing and testing a gaming app, Bandit’s Shark Showdown, to both improve recovery in stroke patients and maybe even make it fun.

There are a lot of stroke apps out there, from aids to help patients recognizing potential stroke signs to decision support tools for diagnosis. Featured in a recent profile in The New Yorker, neurologist Dr. John Krakauer expressed his frustration with the limitations of traditional post-stroke rehabilitation and hopes to unlock the potential of robotic therapy combined with cutting-edge interactive entertainment. He has helped found the “Brain, Learning, Animation, Movement lab”(BLAM), a “Pixar-grade” team of engineers, designers, artists and programmers that work with clinicians to use the best of art and science further research on the brain.


7 Ways to Make Return-to-Work a Cornerstone of Corporate Culture

January 14, 2016 by Michael B. Stack

Return-to-work iconOne of the fundamentals in workers compensation cost containment is return to work programs. I have seen the effectiveness of these programs over and over. It was also stated in the RIMS 2010 Benchmark Survey, “as the percentage of workers who quickly return to work decreases, the chances a company would have a bad mod (over 1.1) increases an astounding 160%.

Successful Implementation Comes From the Top

Like the success of most workers comp cost containment programs, implementation needs to come from the top of the organization. Here are some tips to make return to work a part of your culture.

•  Talk about Return to Work in a positive way

Discussion should always focus on the benefits to the company, and the employee. Examples include: improving employee retention, keeping employees involved in workplace activities, maintaining employee’s full wage earning power, faster recovery, etc.

•  Make Return to Work jobs a positive experience by finding productive tasks or jobs.
Don’t punish your employees by having your transitional duty jobs be punitive. Put some thought into your transitional duty job bank and create jobs that would be productive for the employee and the company.
•  Communicate the cost of NOT implementing Return-to-Work.
Communicating the financial benefits to the employees and managers can really open people’s eyes. Use the Transitional Duty Cost Calculator at as a reference.

California Has Highest Claim Frequency in Nation

California #1 finger hand graphic


Sacramento, CA ( –

In the latest update to the Analysis of Changes in Indemnity Claim Frequency report, WCIRB researchers find that indemnity claim frequency increased in California by 3% from 2010 to 2014 while frequency for National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) states declined by 11% over the same period. The WCIRB report reflects insurer unit statistical and aggregate financial call data submitted to the WCIRB through the third quarter of 2015, as well as other external data, in order to identify the key factors driving these recent frequency increases.

The key findings of the report include the following:

1) Approximately 10% of indemnity claims are estimated to be reported after 18 months from the beginning of the accident year for 2014 as compared to less than 2% for 2007. A significant proportion of these late-reported claims are for cumulative injury claims, which are approximately four times as likely to be reported late as non-cumulative injury claims.

2) Approximately 18% of indemnity claims are estimated to involve a cumulative injury in 2014, as compared to approximately 8% in the 2005 to 2007 period. The growth in cumulative injury claims beginning in 2009 has been concentrated in claims involving more serious injuries and multiple injured body parts.

3) The long-term shift in California’s industrial mix toward less hazardous employments, which has typically dampened indemnity claim frequency, has moderated in recent years as economic recovery is occurring in high hazard industries such as construction and manufacturing.

4) The increase in indemnity claim frequency in 2010 was generally experienced across the state. Since then, the increases have been concentrated in the Los Angeles area. Indemnity claim frequency increased by an estimated 13% in the Los Angeles/L.A. Basin region from 2010 to 2014 while frequency in the remainder of California declined by 6% during this same period. The Los Angeles area also has experienced significantly higher numbers of cumulative injury claims and claims involving multiple body parts than other regions of California.



Smartphone Apps for Weight-Loss: Quality Assessment

How’s your app-etite?
Quality assessment of the evidence-base for the most popular apps.

JMIR Guest Contribution

weight loss app screenshot1. What was the motivation behind your study?
Smartphone ownership and app use have rapidly risen over recent years. Individuals in the public have readily taken to using commercial health and fitness apps to track and improve their health behaviors and well being, as well as to lose weight. However, there has been little done to assess the quality and effectiveness of dietary weight loss apps. Further, as there are no industry standards or regulations governing the quality of commercial weight loss apps, our aim was to conduct an evaluation of popular commercial weight loss apps.

2. Describe your study.
For this study, we looked through 800 popular commercial “health and fitness” apps to find those that focused on weight management and had a facility to record food intake. The 28 apps fitting these criteria were used for five days and assessed against quality measures including: the app’s credibility, accuracy and coverage of scientific information relevant to weight management, inclusion of technology-enhanced features and its usability. We also scored apps for their inclusion of elements that could facilitate changes in an individual’s behavior, also known as behavior change techniques.

3. What were the results of the study?
From our evaluation, we found that overall the most popular commercial apps for weight loss were sub-optimal in quality, with apps lacking in their incorporation of behavior change techniques (with an average of only 6.3 of 26 techniques included). However, positively, popularity of apps was associated with quality – such that more popular apps were significantly associated with a higher total quality assessment score, greater accuracy and coverage of scientific information related to weight management, more technology-enhanced features, and greater inclusion of behavior change techniques.

4. What is the main point that readers should take away from this study?
The apps receiving the highest overall quality score were: Noom Weight Loss Coach by Noom Inc. (75 out of 100) and Calorie Counter Pro by MyNetDiary Inc. and Control My Weight by CalorieKing Wellness Solutions equal second (65 out of 100). MyFitnessPal, which ranks as the number 1 health and fitness app in the app stores, only received a score which placed it as equal 9th (54.5 out of 100) out of the 28 apps evaluated.


Study Links Worker Safety and Health to Stock Market Success


cartoon of man in hsopital bed with medical and stock chart

Three recent studies suggest companies that excel at worker health and safety also thrive in stock market value.

In each study, researchers analyzed long-term stock market performances among organizations recognized for safety excellence. The findings included:

Avoiding and Defending Repetitive Use Injuries

Editor’s note: If you need an ergonomic evaluation of your work environment, Ed Donahue, our Physical Therapist,  provides this complimentary service for employers and organizations in the Santa Maria Valley.

January 7, 2016 by Michael B. Stack Leave a Comment

Repetitive strain injury caution signRepetitive use injuries are difficult for claims management team members to defend.  They can also be costly as they are more common in older individuals in the workforce.  Preventing these injuries from occurring are the first part of the process.  All team members and interested stakeholders must also understand how to defend these claims.

What are “Repetitive Use” Injuries?

This type of injury does not occur from one specific incident.  They occur over a period and result from minimal trauma to an employee.  This period can vary in length, with no specific defined parameters.  Most often, they are the result of repetitive motions or activities performed during the course of one’s employment.

The legal standards for such injuries vary in each jurisdiction.  The common elements of such incidents are the following:

  • The employee actually engages in activity that can be considered repetitive;
  • The repetitive activity places physiological stress on a certain part(s) of the body; and
  • The employment activity brings about disability or injury to would not otherwise occur outside of usual activities or in other employment.

    Preventing Repetitive Use Injuries

    The best defense against these type of injuries is to prevent them.  This starts with members of the claim management team engaging their clients and encouraging them to be proactive in workplace ergonomics.  While these assessments can be expensive, the benefits outweigh the cost in the long term.

  • Ergonomics reviews include the use of experts familiar with body structure and movement. It can also include vocational experts who know how to modify workplaces to decrease movement of joints susceptible to injury.
  • Employers should take the opportunity to review workplace design to remove hazards that lead to these type of injuries. Movements to avoid include lifting, bending, twisting, turning and carrying.  Sometimes modifications can include rotating employees throughout the workday.  This reduces the chance of stress and can increase productivity.
  • Review all positions and determine if the descriptions of the activities meet position requirements. It is important to avoid asking employees about disabilities they may have as it can lead to state and federal workplace discrimination lawsuits.  Employers can encourage employees to self-report workplace problems and disability.


Bob’s Top Ten Workers’ Compensation Predictions for 2016

By Robert Wilson

hands spread to reveal future predictionsIt has been a few years since I issued a “Top Ten” prediction for the new year. This is for a variety of reasons, none less relevant than the fact that I generally suck at it. Seriously, my past performance has been less than stellar when it comes to annual prognosticatory behavior. An annual prediction issued by me has the life expectancy of a Jack Bauer love interest, or the two minute reign of Ms. Colombia as Miss Universe. After the last time I tried this, in 2012, the results were so poor I vowed to only do predictions after the year was over. I thought that would improve my accuracy significantly. However, I am older, and therefore automatically wiser, so I thought I would once again weigh in with my biggest predictions for the year ahead.
So, with a brief introduction and related formalities aside, what can we expect in 2016?

  1. It Will Be Discovered That the Concept of “Exclusive Remedy” Was the Result of a Typo – 
Researchers at Gunterman Polytechnica will unearth long forgotten foundational documents that show the creators of the Grand Bargain intended to establish workers’ comp as an “Elusive Remedy”, rather than the previously believed Exclusive Remedy. Somewhat embarrassed, the industry will realize we’ve been getting it right all along. This stunning discovery will mean the Florida Supreme Court has no cases left to review, and has kept us waiting for nothing.
  2. Medical Travel Will Become a Reality For Workers’ Comp –
    Despite being labeled as a “non-starter” by self appointed experts such as myself, Medical Travel will gain a strong albeit brief foothold in the workers’ comp industry in 2016. Hundreds of our most demanding injured workers’ will be schlepped to Turkishmaninacanstan to receive somewhat competent and exceedingly cheap medical care. The short lived effort will ultimately fail, however, when injured workers’ attorneys insist their clients be given round trip tickets, instead of the one way fares they were originally provided.
  3. ProPublica Will Issue a Scathing Report Revealing Workers’ Comp Professionals Receive Salaries To Perform Their Jobs –
    The stunning revelation will send shockwaves across the country, as people demand that workers’ compensation employee salaries “should instead be used to treat injured workers”. To appease the angry masses, salaries in the industry are eliminated. This frees up many dollars that are then distributed to injured workers, which makes everyone’s job extremely easy. Lawyers voluntarily eliminate all fees. Doctors work for free. Pharmaceutical companies donate their drugs. Everyone continues working because it just feels so darn good. The year ends with everyone joining arms in the town square and singing Kumbaya while the Grinch and his dog return Christmas to the village.