Readers' Choice winner: TeksMed Services

TeksMed Services — a Readers’ Choice winner for 2022 — spoke with Canadian HR Reporter about their competitive advantages, corporate culture and innovative approaches to disability management.

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Sarah: [00:00:17] Hi there. I'm Sarah Dobson, editor of the Canadian HR Reporter Group. And I'm here today to talk to Readers Choice Award winner Teks Med, a leader in disability management. Joining me today are Tony Culhane, President Martin Paquette, vice president of Innovation and Growth, and JD McCauley, vice president of operations. So welcome to all three of you.

JD: [00:00:40] Hi. Yeah, thanks for having me.

Martin: [00:00:42] Thanks so much for having us. Really appreciate it.

Tony: [00:00:45] Thank you, Sarah. Thanks for having us. We're delighted to have been chosen as an award winner in the category of best disability management consultant.

Sarah: [00:00:52] So to get started, what makes Teks Med so unique and gives it a competitive advantage? I'll go to Tony.

Tony: [00:00:59] Okay. I think any organization is only as good as the people who represent them. So at Tex, we believe we have a very special team. Our team is very passionate about the work that they do and the difference that they make for our clients and their employees. When it comes to disability management, it's crucial in order to achieve the right outcomes that you have a team that really cares about disabled employees, that they're trying to assist and or to develop trust and to build a supportive rapport. Passion and the willingness to go the extra mile is actually one of our core values that we look for when recruiting people into our team and something that we try and encourage and nurture within our team once we have people on board. Our core values of family, respect, service, excellence and innovation give us a blend of having a fantastic work environment with a team of people who strive to meet and exceed our clients needs when working with our clients. We believe in collaboratively working together in the spirit of true partnership. We don't charge by the hour for, but for what we do, we charge one set monthly fee based on our clients needs, the volume of claims that they have and the level of assistance that we need that they need. We have designated personnel that we that we allocate each of our client's accounts. They get to become familiar with the nuances, the nuances of our client's business and their unique needs and challenges, which is crucial when developing a return to work plans. We get super excited when we help an employer to reduce the financial burden and impact that that can come from from disability. So by lowering their premiums and these financial costs that really our team finds that very rewarding and we really consider that our client success is our success. I think one of the things that that flows from the partnership that we establish with our clients is our ability to be nimble, unlike some of our competitors. Disability management is all that we do. This makes us able to be very nimble and agile to rapidly respond to our clients needs and implement customized programs and support wherever they're required. So a recent example, this would be during that during the pandemic, we received a large influx of COVID claims that we had to sort of quickly pivot, to adapt, to make sure that we could cope with that volume. But even more challenging is requests that came from our clients to assist them with face mask accommodations and vaccine accommodation. So this was new to us, so we had to adapt very quickly to make sure we had processes and systems in place to do that. And I think what really helps in that respect is that where we're not a bureaucratic organization, we can we can turn and pivot very quickly to in order to help our clients. But really, one of the one of the crucial aspects of what we do that really sets us apart from the competition and perhaps is our secret sauce, is that we look to medically fix the problem. We don't lose sight of the fact that we're helping human beings with their own unique problems and challenges and barriers that are preventing them from returning to work or progressing to full fitness. We don't shuffle paper or try and deal with things from a legal perspective. Our slogan here at TeksMed is seeing the ability and disability. So with that we really focus on what disabled employee can do and not what they can't. And then we go from there and provide them with support and injury management plan that caters and accommodates their restrictions. And what's really cool about what we do is we look for ways that we can reduce an employee's claim, duration and recovery by waiting unnecessarily in the health care system. So we step in and we provide expedited health care for things like MRI scans and specialist appointments to ensure that individuals receive the right care at the right time. And we do that all at no extra cost that's built in within our monthly fee.

Sarah: [00:04:41] Very impressive for sure. Well, so going on to your core values, one of them, of course, is innovation. So can you talk about why that's important and how you continue to innovate? And I'll go to Martin for that.

Martin: [00:04:55] Yeah. I mean, disability management is ever changing landscape. So being problem solvers at heart here at TeksMed, innovation is truly embedded in everything we do. So and what's really important about adapting to our clients need being nimble, being flexible as well. So one of the things we always say is looking for opportunities to remove barriers to access to care, ways that we've already innovated in the past and we've been doing so for over 25 years now, is incorporating expedited health care in our approach and our our health care protocols when managing claims, which means MRI, CT scans, specialist appointments, all of those, we can do much quicker than what the public system would would be able to do. And in doing so, then employees can return to work significantly faster and looking at getting better themselves. We also have incorporated documentations that we refer to as passports when it comes to disability management, something that we put at the forefront many years ago that a lot of people have now imitated and recreated as well. But it's really the the important documentation that focuses on an offer of modified duties as well as suitable duties from an employer standpoint that are customized and personalized functional assessment forms for the doctor, everything in one easy to use documentation booklet. And then of course, we've been utilizing things like cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT for many years now incorporated. It's come to the forefront as a very popular method these days and effective clinical based method as well to treating mental health. And we've been using it for some time. So those are ways that we've innovated in the past. But more and more actually, we're consistently innovating. Again, like I said, removing barriers and access to care is really important. Changing the way that employees and valued employees access that care, things like virtual care and virtual assessments in order to be seen quickly and leveraging that technology in order to do so. Also being able to have instant access to valuable data so that our clients can make better and quicker decision on their business, which is crucial and very important in the landscape that we work in and the industry, and then building algorithms within our technology in order to identify and trigger notifications so that we can make better decisions as well from from kind of our vast national health network that we have right now. We always look to grow it. So go beyond those MRIs and CT scans and specialist appointments and looking at different treating services for health care providers that we work with when it comes to mood disorders, substance use, addiction treatment, anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, panic disorders, those are all things that we can gain quick access to. And again, it makes such an important difference for the employee, the employer as well, that return to work to be able to kind of go back to work, be a productive member, get their full salary. That means a lot to them. That means a lot to be able to kind of bring money back for their family and themselves. So all of those things are for us is about breaking down those barriers and access so that we can leverage our strategic partnerships and be innovative on how we can do that. We have a growing mental list of or growing list of mental health services that we currently use as well. So either in person or virtually as well. And we've actually appointed a chief mental health officer. His name is Dave Phillips, who himself does research on advances and innovations when it comes to psychedelic treatment or psychedelic assisted therapy for treating treatment, resistance, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. So really excited when we're working with him on those innovative fronts. When it comes to also mental health first aid, which is an important piece of how employers can help themselves these days when dealing with mental health. We've incorporated things like pharmacogenomics when it comes to being able to actually identify potential mutations and genes so that we can have the effectiveness of medication and reduce the side effects to it as well. We have also incorporating with our chief mental health officer the science of happiness work that is being done at UC Berkeley. Also psychological safety being an important piece of what employers can do to support themselves and help in creating a safe environment. Things like Gardening Minds at Work is an important tool that they can use to measure and track how they're doing from a psychological, safe standpoint. And then prevention from we have what mental wellbeing applications that we've offered our clients so. So many different innovations. We're constantly, constantly looking for those. An innovation goes beyond us to what we can offer to our clients, but what we're doing internally as well. So we look at ways to innovate for our team. Our people are so incredibly important. They're what we do are people, business dealing with other people. So we find ways to innovate internally for providing programs when it comes to flex days and flex hours for our employees and hybrid workplace, which has been talked about a lot these days with the pandemic when it comes to allowing for remote workers and giving them the ability to work as a team across Canada and various provinces, as we are a nation wide company, it's nice to have that presence and that representation across the country, in each province, and giving them personal and mental health days as well, so that they can themselves have those days so that we can prevent things from occurring. When it comes to mental health issues, so one of the things that we also kind of get excited about is we provide things like MRI, CT scans, specialist appointments and mental health services, but we also provide those services back to our employees as well so they can access the same benefits that our clients are benefiting from as well. So those are all things that the ways that we innovate here at TeksMed for our clients, for our team internally, so that we can stay innovative and adaptive and nimble as well.

Sarah: [00:11:20] Right. That's very impressive. On the innovation side, touching a lot of areas both internally and externally. That's very interesting. So in terms of your people and culture, can you talk about how that has shaped the company again to go to Tony?

Tony: [00:11:38] Well, yeah, I think that's something that's very close to my heart, is fostering a family environment and culture within our company. I want our employees to truly love coming to work and to feel respected and valued. So this became very important to us as we navigate our way through the pandemic. Like many organizations, we've not been immune to the great resignation. So I quickly brought in an experienced and skilled operation expert in JD to help us reinforce our values and our people retention strategy. So I'll let JD speak to that a bit more.

JD: [00:12:10] Thanks, Tony. Yes. So as Tony says, we pride ourselves in identifying as a family where everyone has a voice and feels supported through we. We strive to be more than a team. We we feel like we're in this together. So we laugh. We like to have fun. We celebrate our successes together because we believe that if you take care of your people, they'll take care of the business. So if you care about them, they'll care about the work that they do and their passion is going to come through on a daily basis. And I'm sure as your readers and viewers know, that people are the fabric of your business and the strength of that fabric is a direct result of the culture that has been created within. So as a leader of of this business, my primary responsibility is to be focused on the people that make us who we are. And I know in order to build that exciting, engaged, passionate, caring team and culture, I needed to include the team in the solution. So quite simply, I asked and they answered, and then I got to work. So from there we've implemented a plethora of people focused initiatives ranging from semiannual development meetings to town halls to employee surveys. But we continued on from there to introduce enhanced training programs and increased social events. We took a good, hard look at our compensation and benefit programs as well to ensure that we are at or better than the marketplace as well. Plus, we've made significant investments in our overall leadership structure to ensure that the ever growing team around us has ready access to the support they need. And that on a daily basis. And then in recent surveys from the work that we've been doing, we've received exceptional scores in our culture with a reading of 93% positive overall, 94% rating from the team in employee well-being and 84% in professional development programs that we've implemented, plus a 90% overall communication score. This is all an example or some examples of the feedback we've received from the team. And as a leadership team we're very proud of these results. Now I say all this, but I know that the job is not finished, so we just continue to move forward and work hard with the people. First focus.

Sarah: [00:14:30] That's great. Okay. Some really impressive scores there for sure. Okay. Well, so in looking at some of the services from TeksMed, but can you talk about personalized recovery at work solutions and why those are so important both for employers and employees?

Tony: [00:14:46] Personalized solutions are crucial for both employers and employees alike. Each organization that we deal with has its own set of workplace. Challenges, barriers and nuances. And it's vital that we recognize, though recognize those when developing a customized return to work strategy for an injured or ill worker. What we come up for, come up with with one worker in a particular work environment and may not be appropriate for for another equally for an injured employee. You cannot take a cookie cutter approach. We're dealing with human beings who each have their own unique set of barriers and issues that may be impeding them from returning to work. Our approach in this respect is based on the biopsychosocial model. First of all, we seek to understand from each employer the actual medical condition and diagnosis that's affecting them. And we then try to understand what psychological issues could be at play for that individual, for how they feel about their condition and inability to work. Sometimes when we're building a return to work plan, a graduate return strategy on modified GE's, you may have one employee that is afraid of hurting themselves and to push themselves. Whereas on the other hand, you may have another employee that is completely overzealous and is at risk of doing too much. So we have to we have to carefully consider that, personalize the psychological impact for each of the employees. And we're navigating our way here. And then finally, we also consider what social factors may be at play within that employee's home environment that they may need support with to help them to to move back and to progress through work. So our team aims to build a collaborative and supportive rapport with each of the injured or ill employees that they're helping. They pretty much become an advocate for each employee, and they develop an individualized injury management plan based on that employee's needs and their restrictions and limitations. And so as part of that personalized plan, our team asks, I think seeks to reduce the employee's recovery time and time duration by providing them with access to expedited health care so they are not needlessly waiting for the diagnostics or to go and see a specialist, that type of thing.

Sarah: [00:16:54] That's great. That makes a lot of sense. I'm sure you see some great results. Well, so in other area, of course is in health care and decreased wait times. Can you talk about how TeksMed works to ensure those are reasonable? And I'll go to Jade.

JD: [00:17:11] Yeah, thanks. So we we like to approach every, every claim that we receive from the perspective of family. So if this was my family member or a family member of mine, what can I do to access or get them access to health care quickly? We know that if we can provide this access, it will reduce the overall claim duration and enhances the worker recovery, and it results in a much quicker return to work. So this focus has led to many innovations over time, as I mentioned, in expanding our network of health care providers, from everything for assessments to diagnostics, specialist consultation surgeries and as well as all across Canada and all locations. So the Fraser Institute's 2020 report on wait times. It mentions that the average wait time could take up to 10.2 weeks for an MRI, whereas we're able to to facilitate one in as little as 2 to 3 days to see a specialist consultation. It's averaging just over 11 weeks, according to the Fraser Institute. We're able to facilitate one in as little as five days. So in addition to this, we've made great strides in sourcing and partnering with virtual health care providers. So we're location or access to in-person support may pose a challenge. We found another solution that we can provide here. We're able to support people in a safe and speedy return to work through focusing on medically fixing the problem. This is why we continue to grow our network of health care providers, and it remains a paramount priority of ours into the future. And it's all because we empathize with all of the individuals that need health care but are having to wait. The time spent between the knowledge of meeting and then the actual receiving of medical attention can be filled with mental health related challenges, ranging from anxiety to stress and on from there.

Sarah: [00:19:08] Great. Well, that's sounds really impressive on the health care side. And so finally, you touched on this earlier, but when it comes to mental health, how can workers be supported in the area of disability management? And I'll go to Martin for that.

Martin: [00:19:23] Thank you. Mental health is so incredibly important. One of the largest issues right now concerning disability management is mental health, especially coming out of the pandemic. And every single workplace can can really benefit from additional support and additional resources that they can implement in order to help their workers. You know, when it comes to dealing with the various conditions, like if it's anxiety or depression, which again being on the rise with the pandemic. And what's great is as a society, we are doing great strides when it comes to breaking down the stigma attached to mental health. And there's still a lot of work to be done. And employers do play a very important role when it comes to that. And so when it comes to helping employees, what else can they look for? Well, prevention is extremely important, as they say. One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So there's different things that they can put in place when it comes to prevention, if it's wellbeing, applications, informations that they can actually post, if it's posters or information they can discuss through meetings or the beginning or end of meetings, really important things that they can do and, and whatever they do from a prevention standpoint will have positive ripple effects on the person's professional abilities as well as their personal lives being able to go home, spend time with their family. So incredibly important and crucial. And really what employers can do right now is education for their leaders. Anybody who is in a leadership position needs to work towards creating a psychologically safe workplace for their employees. So finding different ways to do that. There's resources and tools like gardening minds at work that can assist with that and measuring and understanding where there's areas for improvement. Again, signs of happiness at work from UC Berkeley is really interesting on how happiness can play an important role within the workplace in this thing. If it is a psychologist, a counselor or any other mental health practitioners to develop a more compassionate business and safe business to work in as well. Mental Health First Aid is at the forefront right now where we're used to dealing with scratches and bumps and shoulders and physical injuries. But there's ways really that we can actually help individuals when it comes to being actually mental health first aids implemented at the forefront to help them before they even actually go and seek treatment. And then workshops and seminars for those education pieces for those leaders. So encouraging them to take the time to go to workshops. Our Chief Mental Health Officer, Dave Phillips, often hosts these types of workshops and seminars to help build compassion, gratefulness, all sorts of different topics, other ways to it when it comes to benefit and expanding and reviewing the benefits that are available to employees, not only just the amount of benefits, but the amounts that can, the amount of money actually that's available to them in order to spend. So if it's more money available for clinical based treatment, that's really, really important. So there's tons of different resources and available. And just to name a few, like pharmacogenomics being an important one. Mental wellbeing application, cognitive behavioral therapy. I'll be either in person or virtually. Employment assistant programs and employment family assistant Programs. Addiction treatment. Critical Incident Stress Management, which can significantly reduce post-traumatic stress if an incident occurs at work within that crucial 72 hours of when it happens substance use treatment, personal mental health days, short term disability programs, as well as long term disability programs. So many different resources available to employers that can help workers improve. And what's really important is once you've put those in place, is to remind your employees that they exist, they are there, they're accessible, it's confidential to safe place to access them, because too often employers put them in place and then walk away. So they have to take the time to communicate over and over to their employees what benefits are available to them. Understand they're valuable resources that are available confidentially as well. And and if there is a mental health issue that's occurred and there is a disability, really employ empathy and compassion when working on that. Right. And employers should not be afraid to ask for help. You know, third party companies like Tech Summit can assist, can help when dealing with those sensitive cases so that this way the employee and the valued employee can really, truly be taken care of. So there's a. Lot of resources available out there to help employers deal with mental health. And it's such an important topic these days.

Sarah: [00:24:16] Awesome. Yeah. Definitely a very important area, especially coming out of the pandemic. Well, thank you all for your time today and showcasing the expertise and award winning efforts of Teks Med. Much appreciated.

Tony: [00:24:31] Thanks so much, Sarah. Much appreciated.

Martin: [00:24:34] Thank you so much, Sarah. Really appreciate it. And hopefully we continue this conversation as well.

JD: [00:24:40] Thanks, Sarah. Have a great day.

Sarah: [00:24:43] And also thanks to our viewers. Be sure to tune in for future videos.