Automated and artificial intelligent processes are being put to work in Maryland to smooth the flow of workers’ compensation claims.

This new system is a “transformation,” said Art Hebbeler, program manager for Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission Five-Year Enterprise Modernization Program.

More than 100,000 injuries are processed by the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission annually, generating 25,000 to 35,000 claims. Not all injuries result in claims. Some 70 percent of these reports, however, come in the form of paper submissions, officials say. The new system automates much of what were formerly manual processes and offers a streamlined system for everyone ranging from commission officials to employees filing claims to insurance companies.

“The new system is a single Web browser enabled application. The basic look and feel is the same way whether you are the chairman of the commission, a claimant representing him or herself as an injured worker, an insurance company, an employer, the look and feel of that interface is the same across the system,” Hebbeler said.

Development for the new system, known as Comp Hub, began in 2018. The rollout of the full system is about 20 percent complete, with Hebbeler noting that as they bring new pieces on, they are turning old pieces off.

Comp Hub revolves around a concept called “Intelligent Process Automation,” which is the merging of digital process automation, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence.

“It’s kind of a holistic workflow with machine-assisted decision-making. And then you get rid of some of the manual tasks by turning them into robotic functionality,” said Drew Jaehnig, an automation expert with Bizagi, a maker of intelligent process automation technology that is involved in the workers’ comp modernization project in Maryland.

Letting robotic processes take over frees up workers to perform tasks that “are more mindful and more involved, as opposed to just churning through the paperwork,” Jaehnig said.

Some of the other processes and workflows ripe for streamlining via intelligent systems could be the processes guiding requests for public documents, or managing ethics investigation filings. There are other benefits too. Rebuilding the Maryland workers' compensation system allowed officials to review a number of processes and streamline the workflows, often resulting in less red tape for filers.

“We had one form in all of workers' comp that required a notary on it,” said Hebbeler, pointing to the form related to the reimbursement of funeral expenses when a worker dies as the result of a workplace accident. It was determined that the need to notarize the document served no significant purpose, and the notary requirement was dropped.

“Sometimes you need to change regulations in order to make the more streamlined process more elegant, operate better, with more efficiency,” said Jaehnig. “And in the end, serve the taxpayer better with a less bureaucratic process.

“Change is sometimes hard,” he added. “Change is sometimes frightening. But in the end, you can’t argue with the results: much higher productivity, faster processes.”

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