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Paduda: Invasion of the Techies

By Joe Paduda

Friday, May 20, 2022 | 1

Artificial intelligence. Blockchain. Wearables. Smartphones. Chatbots. Various combinations thereof.

Joe Paduda

Joe Paduda

All these tech wonder-things are working their way into workers’ comp, or at least trying to. I’ve been tracking this sporadically (who has time to monitor all the press releases announcing this revolutionary app or that whiz-bang solution?) and have come to a few conclusions.

With rare exceptions, the companies developing and offering these “solutions” are founded and run by either a) clinicians or b) techies.

Those run by techies seem to think they can stitch together a wearable thingie connected to a smartphone app, and voila’! They’ve built a substitute for/adjunct to physical therapy.

Of course, the techies KNOW tech, understand AI and video tracking of movements and integration of smartphones with remote devices. What they do NOT know is medical stuff, what really happens in rehab, the role of the therapist/prescriber/patient, the realities of the therapy process, where things break down in the patient/therapist process/interaction and why.

And a lot of other stuff I can’t think of this second.

Oh, and patient engagement. That’s kind of super-important.

Clinicians really understand the care process, clinical issues and the reality that effective therapy and recovery are driven largely by patient compliance. What they don’t get are the tech challenges, the singular importance of reporting information back to other stakeholders, the limits of technology and adoption/effective/consistent use of technologically-driven “solutions.”

So, tech-centric approaches rarely address patient engagement, compliance or the obstacles thereto.

It doesn’t matter how great your tech is if people:

  • Can’t figure out how to download it.
  • Don’t have a smartphone.
  • Can’t figure out the app/wearable/Bluetooth connection/whatever.
  • See that it isn’t specific to the needs of each individual patient (language, physical characteristics/comorbidities/functional limitations/pain levels, reading level, therapy needs and evolution of same).

And it doesn’t matter how great your clinical expertise/knowledge/experience is if:

  • The tech is clunky.
  • Your staff has to onboard/explain/coach/be tech support for your patients.
  • The data collected isn’t automatically shared with stakeholders.
  • The data isn’t entirely secure yet accessible for reporting/analysis/research.

On that last point, no device/app/tech is helpful if other stakeholders (the therapist/prescriber/case manager/claims handler/employer) don’t get reports on progress and alerts on potential problems, especially if those reports and alerts aren’t easily accessible/pushed to them so they don’t have to go looking for them.

What does this mean for you?

Apple beat Microsoft because it made using a computer easy. Adoption of tech-enabled “solutions” requires making the entire process/use by all stakeholders easy.

Put more succinctly, ideas don’t matter; execution does.

Joseph Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consulting firm focused on improving pharmacy programs in workers’ compensation. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.


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