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21 Dec 16 23:21

I recently attended the International Forum of Disability Management conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as an invited speaker on the topic of disability managers using behavioural insights to improve interactions with doctors. Although, I was also fascinated by the other sessions delivered over the three days by speakers from around the world. Some speakers provided detailed explanations of a particular initiative they had implemented with success in their jurisdiction while others tackled broader topics such as the future of disability management, emerging medical developments or incorporating culture and religion into disability management.

Three themes emerged for me from the plenary and breakout sessions I attended:

1. Mutual benefits of insurers partnering with academics and universities to develop disability management projects that have research backing and establish a credible evidence base of efficacy.
Employers' Mutual, an Australian disability insurer working in both the life and general insurance markets, provided insights into several recent projects where they had collaborated with Australian universities. These included developing best practice guidelines for managing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in emergency responders, and creating claims triage tools that account for psychosocial factors to inform the plan of action for the case. John Selander from the Mid Sweden University described his formal research paper in the Journal of Disability Management (2015) which highlighted the benefits of employers maintaining regular and genuine contact with employees who are absent due to injury or illness. Aligned to these insights Swiss Re Life & Health Australia will again engage in a number of partnerships with Australia's leading research universities to bring thought leadership insights and research to our clients.

2. Best practice disability management involves addressing the person and their psychological and social factors rather than simply the biomedical condition.
Dr Mohammed Ranavaya, an Occupational Physician from the USA described neuroscience theories of repetitive negative self-talk, rehearsing and adoption of a new 'disabled' identity that leads many claimants to experience a 'web of disability'. He encouraged disability managers to break this cycle early and boost the individual's resilience. Dr Riana Rahim, a Rehabilitation Psychiatrist working with the Malaysian social security department described her success in assisting people with mental health conditions to return to work by measuring the psychosocial factors with formal assessment tools. A questionnaire to measure the client's stage of 'employment readiness' proved particularly useful in ensuring the rehabilitation activities were aligned with the client's motivation.

3. The similar philosophical journey that most disability management settings around the world have travelled; from a culture of transactional payment of financial benefit or compensation to an imperative to actively assist the ill/injured person to get back into the productive workforce or an improved quality of life.
The Malaysian social security department is very proud of the return to work case management resources it has developed over the past five years. They currently provide case management to 2,000 citizens, however it is estimated that over 17,000 Malaysians would benefit from the outcomes of these services. Mr Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA), spoke to the future of disability management, highlighting the challenge to improve access for informal workers; I suggest this as an important area where income protection insurance can cover those not entitled to statutory support.

I also hosted the two winners of Swiss Re ANZ's 2016 Excellence and Innovation in Return to Work Award where their prize included a trip to the Malaysia as attendees of the conference. You can read all of the fantastic Award submission papers, including the winners, here. It was great to see that several of the disability management themes of these return-to-work initiatives were consistent with those of the international conference speakers.
Also in line with offering best practice rehabilitation services to our disability insurance claimants, Swiss Re will launch its major publication Rehabilitation Watch 2016 early next year- our biennial industry survey with insights into the strategic and cost-effective use of vocational rehabilitation support in Australia so stay tuned!


Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine, Social contract

Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


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