Four questions for WCRI’s Dr John Ruser

I (virtually) sat down with WCRI CEO John Ruser PhD last week to catch up on his first year at the Institute and get a preview of next month’s WCRI Conference. (Registration is here)

MCM – Talk about the last year and WCRI’s accomplishments.

Dr Ruser – We are working to maintain and build on the momentum Rick [Victor, former CEO] created – a rigorous approach to our research agenda, addressing a series of issues in workers’ compensation. One we are focused on is the worker outcome surveys. This can add considerable value to the industry; it addresses access to care, satisfaction with care, Return to Work, Return to Functionality, and earning history post-injury.

We are excited about what’s coming up. We want to provide information in a more readily accessible fashion. We will be launching a new website; the current one is functional but it’s time to refresh. We will go live soon with a site that is visually appealing; the new website allows us to experiment with a blog and video and provides more readily accessible content that is easier to search.

MCM – Can you expand on that [making information more accessible]?

Dr Ruser – Our work is very scholarly; it is hard to digest sometimes, so we are focusing on producing new products to reach a broader set of stakeholders that aren’t researchers. These will be written in layman’s terms that are more approachable.

MCM – The annual conference is set – what are you most looking forward to?

Dr Ruser – The theme is Persistent Challenges and New Opportunities: Using Research to Accelerate the Dialogue. There have been lots of challenges and questioning of workers’ comp over the last few years. Is workers’ comp fulfilling its obligation to injured workers? We will address some of those issues, as well as discuss what the election means for healthcare in general, labor regulations and workers’ comp. We’ve invited veteran politicians and other experts to talk about what they see down the road.

We’ve been talking about opioids for years. Are we making progress, defined as reducing new pts and reducing duration? Our people have looked at this and we see lots of variation across states, but in many states there have been fairly dramatic declines in opioid dispensing (pharmacy and physician) even back in 2014.

We will also be focusing on alternatives to opioids, a variety of solutions to control pain aside from opioids – excited about this – research on marijuana and pain and biochemistry of that. Apart from sharing our latest opioid research, we will have a panel that talks about about a variety of different approaches, including mindfulness, and we have some policymakers will discuss medical marijuana and complexities involved [in dealing with marijuana].

There is a session on grand bargain and we are really excited about it.  Among the speakers are Dr. David Michaels now at GWU, who was behind record keeping changes and is the former head of OSHA is there, Northeastern’s Prof. Emily Spieler, Dr. David Deitz, and former AIA Workers’ Compensation executive Bruce Wood.

MCM – What’s been the biggest surprise in your first year?

Ruser – [The] amount of support and respect that WCRI gets from the industry and our broad base of stakeholders, the recognition of the value and independence of our work, [we are] filling a void, [stakeholders have been] very supportive in general. Some disagree, but when they do they are respectful due to WCRI’s reputation.

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