We recently had the pleasure of talking to one of our members ─ Jeffrey Austin White, former senior vice president and product manager for workers' compensation at Gallagher Bassett (GB) ─ about how he came to know WCRI. At GB, he was largely responsible for advanced analytics, digital technologies, and product development efforts for GB’s global operations.
Jeffrey began his career as an aerospace engineer and has since worked with diverse organizations including the Food and Drug Administration, National Science Foundation, Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, Environmental Protection Agency, and Naval Surface Warfare Center.
1) How did you first learn about WCRI?
I entered workers’ compensation back in 2009 with a background in engineering and clinical research. The idea of pursuing a career in workers’ compensation was not something that ever entered my mind, rather it found me. Until this day, I am still intrigued by the complexity of this business and I am constantly seeking to make sense of it. Upon learning that my employer at the time, AF Group (Lansing, Mich.), was a member of the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), I approached my boss and asked how I could get involved. As WCRI is dedicated to making sense of the industry, I was eager to join the WCRI Research Committee to hobnob with the experts and to participate in the selection of research topics. Six years later, I am still a member of the Research Committee but now employed by Gallagher Bassett as the product manager of workers’ compensation.
2) What value do you derive from being a member of WCRI?
There are a variety of benefits that are attached to the WCRI membership that I take advantage of on a regular basis. The WCRI events and committee meetings throughout the year offer the opportunity to meet with members and thought leaders throughout the industry, representing all aspects of the business from carriers to risk managers and TPAs. The collaboration with the university professors, PhD economists, and analytics teams on staff offers deep insights into workers’ compensation trends and national issues. The WCRI’s Annual Issues & Research Conference is a highlight of the year and one of the top events in the industry, where research findings are summarized and shared with the attendees. Additionally, participation in the Research Committee provides an opportunity to focus research efforts and offers a front row seat to the findings prior to publication.
3) What is your favorite WCRI study/research area?
Ironically, my favorite WCRI study/research area is not what you would think it might be. Ramona Tanabe, executive vice president and counsel for WCRI, would tell you that I get jazzed mostly about the Workers’ Compensation Medical Cost Containment National Inventory publication. This is an updated reference providing state-by-state comparisons regarding regulatory support for a variety of medical cost containment initiatives including initial provider choice, change of provider, fee schedules, utilization review, and treatment guidelines. I have a particular interest in the adoption of treatment guidelines as this is something that is gaining significant traction in our industry. My interests are fueled by my passion for scientific research and clinical research as a means to inform our industry on best practices and expectations for delivering quality care.
4) Can you describe a moment when WCRI’s research was really helpful?
In 2012 and 2014, I published two papers in collaboration with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. This research aimed to quantify the negative impacts of opioids and physician dispensing on claims outcomes. The findings were controversial at the time and met a considerable amount of criticism, not only within the industry but also within my current employer. It was not until Dr. Vennela Thumula, policy analyst at WCRI, started publishing her research on pharmacy trends that I felt vindicated. Dr. Thumula and her research colleagues continue to put out a litany of publications each year that serve as a reference and ruler for measuring the impact of state regulatory changes on our industry. It is fantastic to have a third-party non-bias reputable research organization in our backyard to help us navigate the complexity and challenges endemic to the workers’ compensation industry. WCRI’s work continues to keep me informed and helps me make sense of it all.
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