View from The Helm

Tools for Extraordinary Empathy

Tools for Extraordinary Empathy

Under normal circumstances, the Claims Analyst position can be stressful between meeting tight deadlines, client performance guarantees, and being the direct contact for the insured who is ill, experiencing financial hardship, and struggling to understand how to navigate the disability world.

In addition to the daily challenges of disability claim administration, Claims Analysts have been thrust into the trenches of the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff have transitioned from onsite to a remote work platform. Like many parents, they may be struggling to balance their work responsibilities while supporting their children with online learning. Others may be single parents or have loved ones who are essential workers.

As the world copes with the pandemic, it is understandable that the disability industry will play a critical support role for the foreseeable future with an increase in claim applications and extended durations. 

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly half of Americans feel that the coronavirus pandemic is harming their mental health. Nearly one in five say it has had a major impact. Mental health experts believe this psychological trauma will linger even when the government lifts restrictions on daily life.

To compile some tools around how we can care for ourselves as well as the insured, I interviewed Susan Casey, LMSW, MFA, the clinical coach and implementation lead for Mirah, a Measurement-Based Care Organization and author of the book “Rock On: Mining for Joy in the Deep River of Sibling Grief”.

Casey said, “We work with behavioral health organizations all over the country who are exhausted and concerned about their clients. Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, domestic violence, and substance abuse have spiked since the onset of COVID-19.2.

People who provide support to others as their vocation are not great at taking care of themselves. Our team at Mirah has been focused on supporting leaders to think about what steps they are taking to care for themselves and their clinical teams."W

Susan offers the following recommendations for claims analysts during these challenging times:

Practice self-care:

  • Ask yourself each day, “How will I take care of me today?”
  • Initiate debrief meetings to download emotions after challenging interactions:
    • Identify someone (team lead, teammate, spouse) who will listen and support you with workplace and home challenges.
  • Be gentle and kind with yourself and others when encountering unexpected frustration or irritation is voiced by those around you.
  • Allow yourself to be honest and authentic about your feelings.
  • Take breaks to breathe deep, get fresh air, and clear your head to disengage after an emotional interaction.

Support the insured:

  • Pause and listen empathetically.
  • If you feel they are in crisis or a heightened state of anxiety, you can ask the following questions based on the caller’s responses:
    • “Do you have a support system in the home?”
    • “What do you need right now?”
    • “Do you need me to contact anyone on your behalf?”
    • “Are you physically and emotionally safe?”
    • Offer resources for the insured to access (see this list of crisis organizations)
    • Before terminating the call ask, “Is there anything else you would like to tell me?”

The current situation is truly unprecedented, and proactively seeking the support of those around us will facilitate a healthy mind and body. Acknowledging that emotional strain can create interpersonal challenges with both teammates and the insured will allow us to expand our empathy and understanding. Leveraging tools like those we’ve shared can help us navigate those emotionally charged interactions with those around us, developing a deeper understanding of each individual’s unique experience during the global pandemic.

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great LOVE."~ Mother Teresa

For additional thoughts about how Claims Analysts can practice empathy, download our e-book.