“Where are these millions of customers now?”

Leading actuary and member of the NDIS Board, John Walsh AM, highlighted how much insight is lost from past participants in schemes, and the need to better translate operational knowledge into policy and outcomes, at the recent IDSS.

In keeping with the theme ‘Insights and Outcomes’ at the 2019 Injury and Disability Schemes Seminar (IDSS), John considered the outcomes of our systems through the lens of the various actors: policyholders, funders, regulators, insurers, providers, advocates and participants who’ve sustained an injury or disability.

In a candid and inspiring Keynote Address, John (pictured above) acknowledged how far we’ve come since the first Accident Compensation Seminar, which was held in the late 1980’s.

“At the time there was not a lot of talk on outcomes… in the 30 years since, prices to policy holders have reduced significantly for the most part in real terms and workplaces and road transport are generally safer…

the role of actuaries has been validated and consolidated [and] the sophistication of models has changed enormously,” said John.

In the same amount of time, John estimated several million individual people have sustained an injury significant enough for them to lodge a claim for treatment or compensation.

He challenged the audience to consider where are these millions of customers now.

“Did their injury recover or are they permanently impaired, did they return to work and stay at work, continue their education? Was their health outcome sustained, did their personal and family life suffer through the trauma of bringing a claim, which we know in many cases is a greater insult than the injury itself? Do we know anything at all about them after their last compensation payment?” John asked.

“Did they end up on the disability support pension or other social welfare, or homeless, or in jail, and if they did, has the system been so successful after all?” John asked.

Most organisations in today’s digital world are pouring money and time into understanding and better targeting customers. Various IDSS 2019 presentations showcased new net promoter scores, survey responses and datasets. But John’s reflection has cause to question the depth of relationships, and the extent to which schemes follow through to understand the true picture for injured participants – what becomes of their hopes, dreams, family lives, career, emotional wellbeing and welfare.

Jason Lardelli (pictured left) from the TAC highlighted in Plenary One that schemes must work harder to listen to and better understand the experiences of customers, especially quiet customers ‘who often have the most to say’.

“We must find the balance between protecting the system and reassuring and protecting those who the system is designed to help,” said John.

While recovery and return to work remain important goals for people with an injury or disability, progress towards goals in different areas of their lives is increasingly being measured and valued.

For cattle musterer Jamie Manning, who suffered burns and amputations following a car accident, it wasn’t about completing 12 months in rehab as the system prescribed. For him, success was returning home to Dubbo as soon as possible, commuting to specialist appointments in Sydney, and getting back (literally) on the horse.

“Have a bit of flexibility, I know we’ve got our guidelines – this is the rules, regulations, how it works – but not everyone can fit into that,” said Jamie, in Plenary One.

Linking operational feedback to policy

Another key point John Walsh raised was the importance of reducing the separation of operational feedback loops and policy making.

“Even with perfect information how do we translate this knowledge into implementation and outcomes?” he said.

As message to the next generation of young actuaries who seek to work in areas of wider field and public policy, John strongly recommended imparting wide applications of the actuarial control cycle model.

“Identify the forums, journals and publications attended by policy makers and highlight the successes of prudential governance type models in linking directly to operational outcomes,” he said pointing to the Australian and New Zealand School of Government as a starting point.

“Look at wider publications of operational implementation in recognised peer reviewed journals, tedious and costly as it is. Although there is still no guarantee of policy implementation, at least it makes specific actuarial philosophies and potential solutions more public and differentiates us from economists and data scientists,” he said.

“The study of implementation science or knowledge translation is becoming increasingly acknowledge as a legitimate form of study and provides a fruitful opportunity for the control cycle framework to sit alongside it.”

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