Patrick Robinson – VP of Government Affairs,
ODG (an MCG Health Company)
Patrick Robinson has worked in workers’ compensation for almost three decades. A U.S. Army veteran, he cut his teeth as an attorney, workers’ comp judge, and regulator in the Louisiana workers’ compensation system. In his current role as vice-president of government affairs with ODG by MCG, he works with regulators and stakeholders across the country to improve workers’ comp outcomes through evidence-based medicine. In this interview, Patrick talks to me about his journey in this field and his vision for its future.
Building A Career In Workers’ Compensation
Patrick began his legal career in Shreveport, Louisiana. At the time, the workers’ comp system in Louisiana had witnessed significant reforms and changes to the court system. Being aware of the new workers’ comp court and as the newest attorney in the firm, Patrick was the popular choice in the firm when a workers’ comp case came up. This was the start of his journey in the field where he has grown over the past 30 years.
Patrick initially represented primarily insurance companies and businesses involved in civil litigation. After several years, he moved to Baton Rouge to accept a position with the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation. Over the following years, his practice focused increasingly on workers’ compensation, first with LWCC and later with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.
After representing employers for many years, Patrick opened his own office, representing injured workers. This new experience was a sharp contrast to his prior work and provided valuable insight into the unique concerns of injured workers and their families.
‘As a claimant’s attorney, dealing with an injured worker experiencing their first time through the system and dealing with their family, is a different dynamic.’
Working with the injured workers was enlightening for Patrick. He realized that unlike the claims professionals he dealt with as defense counsel, injured workers were new to workers’ compensation and unfamiliar with the system. They needed to be guided through the process Additionally, Patrick had to not only learn about their injuries but understand how they impacted other aspects of their life. This period as a solo practitioner was relatively short but has remained a valuable experience.
‘That experience was an important addition to my view of how the system worked and how it should work.’
Patrick was appointed as a workers’ compensation district judge in 2011, covering the northwest portion of Louisiana for the next four years. In 2015, he was appointed as the Director of the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation by Governor Bobby Jindal. The opportunity afforded him the chance not only to lead the agency in Louisiana but to network with regulators from across the country.
After leaving government service in 2016, he worked as a regional director with WCRI [Workers’ Compensation Research Institute]. The company researched and compared metrics from state to state, analyzing the workers’ comp system across the country. After briefly returning to practicing law, Patrick realized he enjoyed the policy side of workers’ compensation more than the legal practice. In 2020, he joined ODG as the Vice-President of Government Affairs.
His current role allows Patrick to combine his long experience in workers’ compensation with his love of public policy discussions.
‘I enjoy traveling around the country, seeing how different comp systems have developed, and talking with people across states about evidence-based medicine and how it can improve outcomes in the workers’ comp system.’
The aspect that keeps him drawn to the industry is the shared goal everyone has of providing effective medical treatment for injured workers, helping them recover, and getting them back to work. The faster an injured employee can get good healthcare, recover, and get back to work, the better that is for everyone – not only for the employee but for the employer as well.
Current Business Structure And Organization
ODG is well known in the workers’ compensation industry. For more than three decades, the company has served a wide range of clients across the workers’ comp system, including state agencies, claims professionals, attorneys, and healthcare providers. ODG’s goal is to provide evidence/data-based solutions that restore injured workers to health, expedite their return to work, and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.
As the government affairs director for ODG, Patrick’s job is to work with regulators and stakeholders in jurisdictions that either currently have ODG or are considering and/or may benefit from it, and to provide them with information about the positive impact of properly devised, evidence-based guidelines can have.
Standout Moments As A Business Leader
Patrick recalls his time as a regulator when he had the opportunity to serve as the Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation in Louisiana, under the direction of the Executive Director for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the late Curt Eysink.
‘Curt was singularly focused on putting Louisiana to work, helping our citizens find good jobs that benefitted out state. When I arrived at the agency as the Director of OWC, I wanted to create a mission that aligned with that focus.’
Patrick recalls attending a panel discussion where several different state regulators discussed what the purpose of workers’ comp should be. This is when it clicked for Patrick that the mission of his office and the purpose of the industry generally should be expediting injured workers’ recovery and return to work.
‘If the Workforce Commission’s job was to put people to work, then OWC’s had to be putting people back to work. That has to be the point of everything people do as lawyers, claim adjusters, regulators, and everybody that’s involved in this system. If you focus on return to work, everyone wins, and you accomplish the purpose for which workers’ compensation was set up.’
Talking about ODG, Patrick states that ODG strives to link the science of medicine with the art of medicine, recognizing how important it is to keep those two things connected. Evidence-based guidelines help healthcare providers avoid bad medical care, treatments that don’t correlate with good results, by identifying healthcare that works well, that has been tested, and studied, and proven to produce good outcomes.
‘ODG strives to get people healed and back to work faster by identifying good treatment and good medicines that work, that improve outcomes so that providers and patients don’t waste time on care that doesn’t further that goal.’
Overcoming Business Challenges
For a system that was born out of a great compromise, Patrick believes workers’ compensation stakeholders can be overly adversarial. There are so many different stakeholder groups– employees, employers, insurers, lawyers, and physicians, among others — that are unnecessarily pitted against each other, producing a constant battle of regulations and laws that are perceived as favoring one side or another.
This distracts from what should be the common goal, return to work. The vast majority of doctors, lawyers, claims adjusters, etc., want the same thing – to get the person healed and close this claim. When we as leaders focus only on the outliers among the different stakeholder groups and their individual interests, the shared objective sometimes gets lost.
Business Plans For The Future
ODG is well-established in the workers’ comp community and well known by stakeholders across the country. The organization already has a huge portfolio of products, with the newest being ODG for Auto Injuries. There is also an ODG for Disability that is unrelated to workers’ comp. The goal is to expand the evidence-based approach that has been so successful in the workers’ compensation arena to other fields that can similarly benefit from it.
Top Philosophies And Core Values In Business
As a veteran, Patrick believes that the team approach he learned in the military can be successfully applied to all business organizations. Throughout his career, he has tried to find “the smart people in the room,” and listen to what they have to say.
‘I am seldom the smartest guy in the room. But if I surround myself with a good team of people and trust in their abilities, we expand our collective intelligence and expertise exponentially.’
The national workers’ comp system benefits from having a lot of smart people across the country trying to solve similar problems. It is valuable to be able to look at another state or another jurisdiction, share information and ideas with other regulators, and see how they are addressing the same problem to build a better system.
Advice For Newcomers Entering Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ comp is a people-centric industry. It is important for people entering the field to understand they are dealing with people’s lives and livelihoods, as part of a system that touches almost everybody in one capacity or another, either as an employee or an employer.
For lawyers entering the field, Patrick suggests they educate themselves as comp is a niche industry that requires a certain amount of expertise to be effective in defending one’s client on either side.
‘The lawyers in this industry that are effective for their clients are the ones that focus on it, learn it, and understand the people side of it.’
Key Benefits Of Services By ODG
Patrick believes the key benefit provided by ODG is improved outcomes that benefit all stakeholders in the workers’ comp system, in the form of better medical care, faster recovery and return to work, and lower system costs. Identifying the treatment that works and has been proven to be effective keeps healthcare providers from wasting their time on questionable treatment that does not work, and in some instances, may actually harm the patient.
Vision For The Future Of The Industry
The industry has substantially evolved in the past few years. 10 years ago it would have been almost inconceivable for workers’ comp to cover a communicable infection that produced a global pandemic. And yet, the industry has demonstrated amazing flexibility and creativity in addressing COVID-19.
Additionally, with the gig economy, remote offices, a new generation entering the workforce, Patrick sees the work environment is constantly changing.
‘Workers’ comp has been around for a hundred years. But there’s always the potential that a state, or multiple states, or the entire country will ditch the whole idea in favor of some new innovation. I think the key for workers’ comp to remain viable is to stay flexible and ready to accommodate the changing workplace and workforce.’
For companies and professionals aiming to remain successful in this domain, Patrick states that successful workers’ comp programs start even before a work injury. Employers should create a workplace that people want to return to, that people feel they are an important part of. In those cases, when they get hurt, they have a reason and a desire to recover and return to their job.
Leadership Lessons Learned In Life
As a leader, one of the most important lessons Patrick has learned is to trust his team and give subordinates the authority and opportunity to fail. Oftentimes, people learn more from their failures than their success. As they learn and become stronger leaders, that allows the organization to grow and move forward.