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State launching new automated workers' compensation system

One of the most frustrating aspects of Maryland's workers compensation claims system is its slowness. Claims must be reviewed and approved by several individual workers, and each step in the review process slows down the overall process.

The state has just announced a comprehensive replacement for the current workers' compensation claims system that uses a combination of digital process automation, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence.

The development of the system, known as Comp Hub, began in 2018. The current rollout marks completion of about 20 percent of the total system. One of the automation experts working on the system described the system as a "kind of holistic workflow with machine-assisted decision-making." The basic idea is to shift certain manual tasks to work done by robots or computers. The shift of certain processes to robots frees up time for human workers to perform work that can only be done by the human brain. One improvement cited by the developers of the system was the removal of the requirement for a notary public seal on all documents relating to a workers' death. The new system drops the notary requirement and uses a computer to move the forms through the system.

The Maryland workers' compensation system processes more than 100,000 injuries per year. Those injuries produce about 35,000 workers' compensation claims. The new system is intended to substitute automated processes for routine tasks that were formerly handled by human workers.

The big question, of course, is whether the new system will live up to expectations. Any system that attempts to combine IT, robotics and digital processes is almost certain to produce significant glitches before it begins to operate as its designers envision. In the meantime, claims will be delayed, misprocessed or denied. Anyone who submits a claim for workers' compensation benefits under the new system may still need the help of an attorney experienced in workers' compensation law to cut through the new bureaucratic tangle.

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