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Michelle Buckman – one of work comp’s good people

Ok, I’m biased. But there’s no question Michelle Buckman is one of the really good – and very talented – people in the industry.

Not only is Michelle a fellow Syracuse University grad, she’s also COO at MedRisk, a long-time HSA consulting client.

Michelle started out in MedRisk’s marketing department before she moved into operations. That’s where she made her mark – and continues to do so. A little history is needed here.

Responding to customer concerns, MedRisk decided to internalize ALL customer-facing functions just after Michele joined the company. While Michelle, a graduate of Syracuse’ famed Newhouse School of Public Communications, didn’t have much in the way of formal business training, she most certainly understood interpersonal relations and communications. She put that expertise to good use, building a department with 165 highly trained and very motivated college graduates focused solely on helping each and every patient, provider, employer, adjuster, and case manager they work with. (Lots more detail on this here.)

Michelle worked very closely with IT under Vic Pytleski to develop applications, programs, and technology that would enable quick access to lots of information – and a way to report and monitor activity critical to continually improving results.

Regrettable Turnover (losing people you’d like to keep) among MedRisk’s Customer Advocates is 9 percent annually.

9 percent.

After the Customer Advocacy Program went into effect, duration of PT care decreased 15 percent.

Michelle and her colleagues have built a department staffed with highly trained, well paid, happy employees doing a really good job and materially improving results.

And all these folks are located here – in Pennsylvania, to be precise. Instead of “keeping expenses low” by outsourcing or offshoring jobs, Michelle et al viewed this from the customer’s perspective.  By approaching it from that angle, they were able to focus on what’s most important to any company – serving each and every customer as well as you possibly can.

The focus is NOT on “how can we squeeze another nickel out of operations?” but rather “what can we do better to make our customers’ lives easier and our patients healthier?”

That focus was the easy part. The hard part is to operationalize it, to make it real, to keep that tight focus, to recruit, train, incentivize, motivate, measure, and manage the people who make it work. It’s easy for consultants (and I am one) to talk about what organizations need to do.

It’s a whole different thing to actually do it – and not only keep it going year after year, but to continue improving.

What does this mean for you?

What’s really needed is not a degree or experience or training, it is a deep understanding of what’s important, and the passion and dedication and persistence to deliver.

One thought on “Michelle Buckman – one of work comp’s good people”

  1. Joe, I have to agree 110% with your comment and truths shared…”Response is everything!” I look forward to other insurance companies and businesses of Workers’ Comp to follow this model as we begin to embrace …integrity…and above all…”Right Care, Right Provider, at the Right Time!” Thank you Michelle and thank you Joe for a twinkle star to make my day bright in HOPE…to at least try to Help One Person Everyday! It has been said if you can reach/touch one….you have reached/ touched a 1000!

    God bless and many thanks for this posting today!

    Paula Mallory, RN, MA, CCM, WCCM

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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