Mergers & Acquisitions: Coping with Change in the WC Industry

| | Technology & Integration

As firms grow and larger companies buy smaller companies, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) will continue to create concerns in the workers’ comp industry. Clients of utilization review (UR) companies, worry about being forced into technological changes they may not want – changes that can affect cost, processes, timeliness and trust. They also worry about losing the human touch and their sense of teamwork, which can impact patients’ quality of care. Fear of the unknown is a barrier to accepting any change, and clients typically experience uncertainty during M&As. UR companies can take action to reduce anxiety for clients concerned about changes in technology or patient treatment as a result of M&As. These actions can ease the stress of the transition and keep the company productive during the process.

The Major Changes that Clients Face

Clients are accustomed to certain technologies used to process treatment requests. When the company a client works with is bought by another, the client may be concerned with how this will affect the technology they use. What procedures will stay in place? What procedures will change? Will the new company know how to properly handle the requests clients send? Similarly, clients want assurance that an ownership change has no adverse effect on patient treatment. They may be worried about changes to treatment protocols. Which company’s protocols will prevail? How will treatment decisions change? How will confidential patient information be handled? Overall, clients are concerned about how their existing agreements with companies will change. Will the new parent company respect their processes and procedures? Does the new parent company plan to make unwanted changes to contracts? Will they deliver the same level of service?

M&As Are Inevitable – So Now What?

M&As will continue to happen in UR as they do in any other thriving industry. UR providers involved in M&As must take steps to instill trust in their clients and deliver the same level of service as they delivered before the merger or acquisition. Information is key. UR providers need to stay in contact with their clients as M&As proceed. It is important that clients not learn about changes in technology or treatment guidelines after the merger has already created the changes. UR providers need to take the initiative to send advanced notice of any changes, explain them in clear, specific and understandable terms, and most of all, be available to respond to any questions or concerns. In addition, M&As may offer some advantages for clients. More financial leverage, for example, could lead to more or improved services in some areas. When this is the case, companies should make clients aware of the upside. Clients can also take an active role in the transition. They can bring their concerns directly to their UR provider, who can then address each one. Clients should also inquire about the integration of previous services with the new company’s services. How will old technologies and processes be adapted to new ones, and vice versa? A good UR provider will readily supply this information to their clients and help them navigate the changes as smoothly as possible. Otherwise, clients may be driven away by the chaos and upheaval that can happen during M&A transitions. What is your level of concern with potential M&As in the UR industry?

Stacey Jefferson

Stacey Jefferson, Vice President of Client Solutions for UniMed Direct, is a strategic leader responsible for the company’s software accounts and implementations. Guiding the implementation of innovative technologies to support medical management processes, including utilization review, physician peer review and case management, Stacey is focused on continuous improvement, accuracy and compliance, and the usability of software and technology.