More, more, more!

More, adjective: in greater quantity, amount, measure, degree, or number

If NPA had to sum up 2014 in one word, the word that comes to mind is more. Not more in the greedy, grabby sense, but more in the bigger and better sense. Which is good not only for us, but more importantly, for you – our current and prospective customers.

Following are just a few examples:

More Staff: We now weigh in at 20 hardworking, dedicated employees. Quite the jump from the early days, when it was just Norm and Michelle working out of a shoebox. New in 2014 was administrative assistant Katie Beadz.

More Clients: We are honored to add new folks to our client list every year, and in 2014 we welcomed Lake County. We are currently providing return-to-work services to over 25 school districts, cities and counties and look forward to “closing the deal” with an assortment of newcomers in early 2015.

More Injured Workers Brought Back to Work: We could put our Data Guru, Sarah Morris-Peterson, on the spot and ask for an exact number of workers we brought back to modified duty using the OURSystem® in 2014, and she could deliver – she’s that good. We’ll give her a slide since she’s still knee-deep in year-end reports, but we will say that all those pretty graphs she sends out every month underscore the program’s success. Those columns marked “Working” are almost too tall to fit on the page.

More Dollars Saved: NPA is in this business to help its clients save on workers’ comp costs. It’s why we do what we do, plain and simple. Some of our clients save a lot, some save not-quite-as-much, but all of our customers experience a reduction in costs.

More Dogs: Yes, you’re right. This category should have been at the top of the list. In addition to Bodie, Tucker, Louie, Shadow and Ruby, we’ve added Bandit, an adorable Black Labrador-Dachshund mix.

More Expertise: When people come to work at NPA, they stay. And stay, and stay. It’s a great place to work, and every last one of us enjoys helping people. All those years in the saddle add up to a veritable brain trust of expertise. So. Got a question? Puzzled by a problem? Run it by us. Chances are we’ve been-there-done-that and would be happy to help you out.

More Experience: 2015 marks – drumroll, please – NPA’s 30th Anniversary. To celebrate that milestone (and it will be a celebration — NPA is always up for a party), Norm will be sharing “pearls of wisdom” throughout the year on this blog.  Let him know if you have a topic you’d like him to discuss, at http://www.npeterson@returntowork.com.

More Opportunities: As we begin our 30th year, we are so excited to not only mine the past, but also to look ahead and keep searching – for new ideas, more effective work systems, innovations in technology, you name it. Most of all, we look forward to more opportunities to spend time with you, our current and prospective clients. Best wishes to all for a great 2015!

RTW Specialist Cole Smith Ties the Knot

NPA employee Cole Smith was the bridegroom, but we all got into the spirit, beginning with a rip-roaring bachelor party on 7/24/14. The festivities at the Family Fun Center kicked off with an intense, high-spirited game of miniature golf and culminated with a Miz NPA Beauty Pageant. Each guy’s team of fashion-forward assistants worked against the clock to girlify and glamorize the good sports, pictured below in all their glory: Erik Peterson, Cole, Norm Peterson and Nic Krinzie.

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The outdoor wedding, which followed on 8/2/14, was lovely, and a good time was had by all.

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The day after the nuptials, the newlyweds flew to Hawaii for surf, sun and fun. Here they are on Maui, the glowing bride and groom.

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We are all so happy for Cole and Katie and wish them a lifetime of happiness!

A Look Back at 2013

by Norm Peterson, President, Norman Peterson and Associates

Speaking on behalf of NPA, I would like to thank you and your top-notch organizations for traveling at our side during the past year’s journey. We met obstacles along the way – continued budget cuts, uncooperative doctors, etc. – but we have persevered, learned, grown and improved. Following is a recap of some of NPA’s milestones which, without you, would not have been possible.

Solutions to Problematic Medical Providers

In an effort to address the uncooperative doctor problem, I helped organize a committee this past year that devised an incentive plan for problem doctors. Our goal was to encourage uncooperative doctors to provide work restrictions for injured workers, rather than simply taking them off work for months at a time (to the tune of millions of dollars). Unfortunately, it was an interesting but ultimately ineffectual experiment. However, it did lead me on the path to what may very well be solid, viable solutions – individualized Medical Provider Networks and Carve-Outs. NPA sponsored a well-attended seminar on these topics in December. Our journey, in this regard, has only just begun, but we are determined.

Technological Innovations

We continue to develop and fine-tune our BridgIT software, the brilliantly conceived engine that, along with our people, drives this company. We have now reached the point where all our claims tracking is done through this fully integrated, one-of-a-kind software system. Our efficiency allows us to work smarter and faster – for you!  We also purchased and installed a new terminal server that connects our computers and allows for better access when we’re on the road. We have our own cloud!

Internal Expansion

Five years ago, NPA’s staff consisted of nine people. Today we’re 19 strong (and counting). New to our dedicated, hard-working staff are RTW assistants Lagbara Garner and Nicholas Kinzie, as well as office assistant Nicole Toutjian. To streamline our operation even further, we’ve made a concerted effort to cross train; when a person or two becomes unavailable, we don’t skip a beat. In addition, our policy to promote from within resulted in new hire Cole Smith transitioning from assistant to return-to-work specialist in record time. Another of our youngbloods, Alexandra Gastelum, was also promoted to specialist this year. With nine specialists now on board, we needed a manager to keep everyone on the same page, and Erik Peterson stepped into this role in mid-2013.

Continued Services

In addition to our RTW services, we continue to analyze our clients’ data to produce informative, timesaving reports. These reports include quarterly analyses, TTD savings reports, monthly status reports and critical claim review analyses, as well as max mod duty reports that help with FEHA compliance.

On the Road/Welcome New Clients

We put 75,000 miles on our fleet of vehicles this year, meeting with prospective clients, implementing new RTW programs, visiting established clients and attending industry meetings, workshops and conferences. We had one close call. RTW specialist Cole Smith, a native of Alaska, spent a week in southern California, at the Mexican border, implementing a new OUR System. The temperature hovered at 115º. Needless to say, intensive Slurpee therapy was required. See our blog, normanpetersonandassociates.com, for the year in photos. We welcome each and every one of our new school district, city and county clients.

In Closing

NPA’s management team, consisting of Sandy Ward-Hollingsworth, Erik Peterson and Sarah Peterson, along with our hard-driving staff, looks forward to serving you in the coming year. Best wishes to each of you for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Impressions from Floor Level: 2013 in Review

By Bodie and Tucker Hollingsworth, as told to Shelly Riley

Every time our mom, Sandy, brings us to the office, it seems like a strange, unfamiliar human has shown up to join the pack. It’s hard work, training these newbies how to play with us and read our signals. It’s so frustrating when one of them refills our water dish, while all along we were obviously requesting a treat. (They’re a bit on the dim side, but we love the big dopes.)

This year’s new arrivals are called Cole Smith, Lagbara Garner, Nicole Toutjian and Nicholas Kinzie. Cole started out as a return-to-work assistant but was promoted to specialist, as was our girl Alex Gastelum. Lagbara and Nicholas are assistants, and that Nicole person seems to pretty much run the place. We overheard one of the humans saying that we now have 19 employees! They obviously can’t count – like we said, they’re a bit on the dim side – because we and the two mutts in suite four bring the total to 23. Whatever.

One of these newbies seems to show up at our office almost every time the phrase new account is mentioned. Apparently, NPA has been getting a lot of these new accounts, which means more work, which means new staff. And boy, do these humans go, go, go! They just don’t seem to get the whole sleep-more-work-less thing. A shame.

“Sometimes Humans” are the ones who only show up every now and then. One of our Sometimes Humans is Brandon, also called The IT Guy. A while back we sensed that something big was about to go down – something connected to the blinking black tower in suite one, that creepy stack of humming machine-things that always gave off a hot, metallic scent. Brandon showed up, killed the old black boxes, hauled them away and set up new ones. After the replacements whirred to life, all anyone could talk about was the “new terminal server” and “our very own cloud.”  But the thing is, the sky was clear, not a cloud in sight, so what was the ruckus was all about? Crazy humans, is what.

One of our favorite pastimes is sitting in front of Mom and whining. This behavior is often rewarded with a walk. Walks are the best, but occasionally some weirdness creeps in. All summer long, for instance, the air was filled with smoke, and not the yummy steaks-on-a-grill kind. The humans called the smoke “forest fire.” We were a little scared.

Then one day a month or so ago, the cold, white stuff started falling from the sky. We’ve observed this phenomenon before, but never to the point where the frozen fluff covers everything and sticks around for days and days. A little tough on the foot pads.

We weren’t the only ones who were thrown for a loop by the strange weather. We’re doing our sniffing thing one afternoon when we come across a giant footprint in the snow. Way bigger than any dog’s. One whiff and we knew: Bear! So back inside we’re sitting there telepathically pleading with the humans to please step away from the window, bears are dangerous! Instead, they go outside, and they’re all, “Look, Boo-Boo is heading down the ravine!” and “OMG, he’s crossing the street!” (Boo-Boo? Freals?) And get this. One of them actually says, “He looks skinny. Maybe we should go to Albertson’s and get him some salmon.” (Have we mentioned that these humans are on the dim side?)

A couple weeks ago, we were a little worried that the world was coming to an end, seeing as how the days kept getting shorter and shorter. However, the cycle has magically reversed itself, and now, as the days slowly begin to lengthen, we turn our concerns to more pressing matters. Is the office being kept at a comfortable temperature? Are the cushy chairs in Norm’s office available for our napping pleasure? Is there anything in the trash worth chewing on? Life is pretty darn good down here, on the floor at NPA, and we wish all our friends (human, canine, and yes, even feline) comparable good tidings in the New Year.   

NPA Visitor Welcomed with Open Paws

NPA Visitor Welcomed with Open Paws

Bodie Hollingsworth, center, enthusiastically greets a recent visitor to the NPA offices, while Tucker Hollingsworth, left, observes the younger boxer’s ridiculous antics with dismay.

Presentation: Controlling Workers’ Comp Costs with a Carve-Out or MPN

–An invitation from the president of NPA, Norman Peterson

Featured Speakers:  Jim Libien, attorney specializing in Carve-Outs, and Stu Baron, expert attorney in MPN creation

When:  Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where:  Oakland Unified School District Offices: 1000 Broadway, 3rd Floor, Suite 300, Oakland, CA (Our co-host is Jerry Johnson, Risk Manager for OUSD.)

RSVP:  Reply to ntoutjian@returntowork.com by December 6th

Why:  It is the consensus of most of the workers’ comp professionals I have met with that the most effective way employers can control their workers’ comp problems is either to establish a Medical Provider Network (MPN) or to create a Carve-Out. Both solutions have strengths and weaknesses, and both promise to provide more control and save a significant amount of dollars.

Since our experiment with paying doctors to enumerate the physical capacities of the workers was deemed a failure (the ROI was fabulous; however, only three out of 300 doctors responded to the offer), I have been looking at alternatives. Carve-Outs and MPNs appear to be the way to go.

I encourage everyone to attend this presentation on MPNs and Carve-Outs, and please feel free to invite your colleagues.

Looking forward to seeing all of you on December 11.

Sincerely,

Norm

1-800-497-1368, ext. 101

Norman Peterson & Associates

Spring wrap-up

Whoa! Spring? Since we have been hitting the upper nineties here in Ashland, Oregon, for the past four weeks, springtime seems like a distant memory. Nonetheless, it was a happening time for NPA, and the highlights are still fresh in our minds.

First and foremost, we’d like to welcome some new members to our family of accounts: Municipal Pooling Authority of Northern California, City of Hayward, City of San Leandro and Westside Union School District. We’re glad to have you on board, and our team looks forward to helping you all reduce your workers’ comp costs! But alas, never a rest for the weary. Esteemed leaders Norm Peterson and Sandy Hollingsworth are on the road at this very moment — driving Norm’s new toy, an appropriately-hued electric-blue Volt — to meet with longstanding and potential proponents of the OUR System return-to-work program.

Speaking of road trips, RTW Specialists Manager Erik Peterson recently met with our friends at Truckee/Donner Recreation and Parks District, as part of a comprehensive implementation for California Association for Park and Recreation Indemnity (CAPRI). See how dedicated we are? It’s May 13th and here’s Erik, working, on his birthday. Poor baby! Unbeknownst to Erik, Michelle Wels, our bookkeeper and intrepid prankster, felt compelled to take matters into her own hands. She roped the Truckee/Donner staff (not that it took any effort whatsoever — great sports, those folks!) into surprising Erik with a healthy array of birthday hats, blowers and goofy eyeglasses. He was thrown for a loop, and a good time was had by all.

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In closing our springtime wrap-up, allow us to share some recently received comments. We take great care in finding modified work that is both appropriate to the injured worker and helpful to the department in which the worker is placed. In the three cases below, injured workers were placed outside their home departments, and here’s how the staff responded:

“I’m very happy to see that B. is better. However, I will miss him greatly! He has become part of our family, a very important member of our team. He helped us with campus security and worked with the students during recess. As their supervisor, he even purchased soccer balls for the students, and he helped us counsel them. The staff here will miss B. greatly. Grounds is lucky to have such a team member.”

— and —

“I can’t put into words how proud I am of this group of people for going above and beyond in making serious, positive changes out in the parking lots. It’s like night and day. We always have available parking now, for out-clinic patients and our visitors to the main hospital. It’s been awesome. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from employees, wondering why they have flyers on their cars warning them of a ticket. That only means our modified duty folks are really making a difference.”

And lastly, yet another positive take on placing injured workers outside their home departments:

“We experienced an unexpected by-product of utilizing injured workers in Bridge Assignments outside of their department. Previously there was a divide and some animosity between our field maintenance crews and administrative staff. Since utilizing Bridge Assignments in the office for some of our Maintenance workers that cannot be out in the field, some misconceptions about each other have been dispelled, and both divisions have a greater understanding of what the other does and how we can work together to become a much more cohesive and productive department.”

In closing, everyone, keep cool, have fun and make it your best summer ever!

Reassessing your workers’ comp bottom line

Following is a link to a helpful, informative article about analyzing and reducing your workers’ compensation costs. It’s written by Peter Cheney, fomerly the risk manager for Nevada County, California, and a long-time advocate of NPA’s early-return-to-work services. The article is being published in the April 2013 issue of PM Magazine:

Improve Your Workers’ Compensation Bottom Line by Peter Cheney in PM Magazine

Holding down the fort

As you probably know, most of our Return-to-Work efforts originate in our offices in Ashland, Oregon, which makes it difficult for you to casually drop by and check up on us. So just in case you’re worried that we’re running amok and out of control, with no sense of leadership or organization, we thought we’d send you proof that every move we make is closely monitored and microscopically managed. Allow us to introduce Bodie Hollingsworth, Chairman of the Chair, Supreme Leader and Great Decider of all Decisions. From his green wingback throne in Norm’s office, pictured below, Bodie holds forth over all that is NPA. Sure, management has some say, but Bodie has the final say. Will it be a hot dog Friday? Ask Bodie. Are we out of dog biscuits? Ask Bodie. Is it time to go for a walk? Ask Bodie. Yes, it’s a little nervewracking to be hounded by such an evil despot — I mean, look at that face — but we do it all for you, our clients.

Oh wait! Are those four-pawed footsteps coming down the hall? Gotta go. Listen, don’t worry about us. We’ll be okay, and we’ll keep doing what we love: taking orders from our salmon-breathed, coffee-cup-chewing canine commander in order to help you bring your injured workers back to work.

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