Insight: An Agent Resource

Industry Featured: Hospitals

This is the sixth in a series of articles that highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Texas Nonsubscription Option.

Hospitals have unique exposures for on-the-job injuries due to the complex nature of their operations and due to the fact that they employ everyone from minimum-wage workers to high-paid professionals. They have all the exposures that you would expect to find in a nursing home, a hotel, restaurants, laundries, property management, electrical and mechanical maintenance, pharmacies, landscaping/groundskeeping and more, all operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, much like a small city. All of this is compounded by the fact that employees must deal with contagious diseases, infections and blood-borne pathogens, along with overworked emergency rooms and often an atmosphere often of drama and crisis.

There are ways that employers can limit employee exposure to hazards, however. Some exposure can be controlled with protective equipment designed especially for hospital usage. Other exposures, such as slip, trip and fall injuries, strains and sprains, lifting exposures, etc., are not unique to hospitals and can be controlled using the same methods as non-hospital employers. Because non-subscribers have a heightened focus on workplace safety, those employers have lower-than-average workplace injury rates. In fact, historically, employers who become non-subscribers see work-related injury losses reduced by 20-80 percent of what they were in the traditional workers' compensation system.

As for the exposures specific to hospitals, specialized approaches to safety can be implemented. For example, special filtration systems can be installed to reduce the spread of contagious pathogens, which is beneficial to both patients and employees. However, these systems and other safety measures can be expensive. So the dollars saved through lower premiums for non-subscriber insurance, along with reduced claims costs, can provide hospitals with the funding needed to invest in increasing safety for the employees and patients.

Hospitals face the ongoing challenge of being able to hire and retain qualified professionals such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners, inhalation therapists, etc., as the demand for these highly trained employees greatly exceeds the supply. Therefore, once hired, it is very important for the hospital to retain them in their employ. A properly structured non-subscriber program can have a very positive impact on employer/employee relations. This is due to non-subscribers' focus on favorable medical outcomes for injured workers and the inefficiency of the Texas Workers' Compensation System.

Additional advantages for employees can be seen in the manner in which they may be compensated following an injury. In non-subscription, an injured employee who is off of work will continue to receive a paycheck (even though it may be smaller) from his or her employer - a benefit employees greatly appreciate. Conversely, in workers' compensation, the injured employee has to rely on an unfamiliar insurance carrier or TPA for their check, and typically involves an uncertain timeframe, particularly for the initial payment.

Hospitals also have the opportunity to gain positive employee feedback through use of modified duty programs. The breadth of a hospital's operations and the range of functions required to support it provide extensive opportunities for an injured employee to continue working in some capacity while fully recovering. This dynamic presents a "win-win" scenario, as the employee can receive full pay, and the employer can have productive work accomplished. While modified duty programs are helpful in the traditional workers' compensation system, the flexibility inherent in non-subscription makes them especially effective due to a non-subscriber's ability to obtain an approved physician's opinion as to what the employee can and cannot do. In workers' compensation, the employee has free choice of treating physician (with whom they may even have had a previous working relationship), and the format of the DWC physician's report does not allow as much flexibility for describing the injured employee's limitations.

Naturally, there is greater opportunity for the abuse of medications and controlled substances in the hospital setting, making an enforceable substance abuse and drug testing policy essential. Many believe the model in the Texas Workers' Compensation Act is ineffective, impeding enforcement or disciplining of the violating employee. Effective non-subscriber programs and ERISA plans deny claims of any kind whenever the injured employee tests "positive" for illegal substances.

The wide range of jobs in hospitals, from minimum wage to very highly trained along with the complex nature of hospital operations and the 24/7 schedules of these operations, makes controlling employee injuries very challenging. Non-subscription provides hospitals with a greater ability to reduce workplace injuries, focus on medical outcomes of injured workers, utilize modified duty opportunities, and reduce the overall costs of their occupational injury programs. For these reasons, some of the state's leading hospitals are utilizing the non-subscription option.

Best Times for Insurance Agents to Post on Social Media

You've made the commitment to start posting and engaging with your community, loyal customers and potential clients on social media. You've decided which social networks are best suited to reach your target audience. You've even got some impressive messaging ready to post. But now what? There are 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week - how do you decide when to post your material?

Timing is everything on social media. Not only are you competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other individuals and organizations trying to get the attention of the people in your target market, you're also competing with time itself - the average social media post "disappears" surprisingly quickly.

According to a 2014 study by Wiselytics, the half-life of a Twitter post (tweet) is only 24 minutes. A Facebook post's half-life is better, but not by much - it's 90 minutes. According to their analysis, "For Facebook, a post reaches 75 percent of its potential engagement in five hours. A median tweet reaches this 75 percent mark in less than three hours."

Don't let these statistics overwhelm you, though - social media experts and data firms have done the work for you to determine (approximately) the best times to post, depending on the platform you want to use.

Social media management software company Hootsuite analyzed over 40,000 tweets to determine that the best time to post on Twitter is between noon and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Inbound marketing and sales software organization HubSpot agreed with Hootsuite's time assessment, but others, like The Huffington Post and web analytics company Kissmetrics, targeted between noon and 5 p.m. as the ideal times.

Despite Facebook's nonchronological ordering of posts on its newsfeed, Hootsuite's analysis determined that the best times for posting to the social media giant is between noon and 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and between noon and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Microsoft mostly corroborated Hootsuite's findings, though it placed more of an emphasis on Thursday and Friday posts.

It would appear that a lot of people use their lunch hour to peruse Instagram, as Hootsuite found noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday to be the optimal posting time on the image-focused platform. Marketing firm Mavrk disagrees, however. Their research found that 6 a.m. to noon is the ideal block of time for posting.

Test Your Posting Schedules Remember that for all of the data and analysis, it's a good idea to try posting at different times and measure your results to nail down the best times for you. Your audience and your location are unique, so the times presented here or those that work for another insurance agent may not be perfect for you. An older audience may start checking their feeds earlier in the day, while those in urban areas may not log on until the evening hours. Use a social media scheduling service to facilitate your testing phase, and soon you'll have the winning formula that's just right for you.

ALL ABOUT YOU: Proactive vs. Reactive - Do You Know the Difference?

Stress is an inevitable part of life. It is coming one way or another, and sometimes when we least expect it. Many people are reactive to stress. But what does this mean, exactly?

Stress means a very specific thing for our brains and our bodies. When we are under stress, the brain sends out messages to our bodies to be ready to respond. Our heart rate increases. It is harder to sleep. We stop eating or we overeat. Sometimes our voice shakes or we sweat. Adrenaline takes over.

The physical response to stress is unavoidable and out of our control, but our emotional response is not. People who are reactive to stress often lash out. They are rude or make rash decisions. Meanwhile, proactive people are in tune with their reactions. They know how to breathe and think before they act. They prepare ahead of time so that they have a game plan when stress finally catches up to them.

Challenge: Think about how you respond to stress. Write a list of your responses that you can control and the ones that you can't. Read about your stress responses and learn coping mechanisms, such as breathing exercises and meditation, that will serve you well in the future.