Opioid Epidemic: The Hartford’s Quest to Make a Radical Difference
Kathleen Galia, Assistant Vice President, Health Services
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse
- Years with The Hartford: 10
When Kathleen Galia graduated from Villanova University with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, she never imagined working for an insurance company. Her career as a registered nurse began in a hospital pediatric and medical surgical unit, but when Kathleen had children of her own, she wanted a more flexible schedule. That’s when she discovered nurse case management – and the world of insurance.
Kathleen coordinated medical care for The Hartford’s workers’ compensation and auto customers for years, first as an outside consultant and then as a full-time employee. This involved helping customers with catastrophic injuries return to a productive life as soon as possible. Then Kathleen moved into leadership roles, advancing to assistant vice president of Disability and Medical Strategies and more recently as AVP of Health Services for workers’ compensation and disability insurance.
Her Specialized Focus on Minimizing Opioid Use
As a leader in Disability and Medical Strategies, Kathleen brought her years of field experience to bear, overseeing the strategies that advance The Hartford’s mission to deliver excellence in medical care and claim outcomes, and help the patients she once served directly.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet our customers face to face,” Kathleen said. “They’re always in the forefront of my mind in the work we do and the decisions we make.”
One of Kathleen’s top priorities was The Hartford’s pharmacy strategy, with a special focus on minimizing excessive prescription of opioids, which has presented an ever-growing crisis in the United States in recent years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, 8 to 12 percent go on to develop an opioid use disorder, and an estimated 4 to 6 percent transition to heroin. The crisis has become so serious that the White House declared it a national public health emergency in 2017.
The Hartford’s opioid prevention strategy has met with great success.
“Since 2014, we’ve experienced nearly a 40 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions associated with workers’ compensation claims,” Kathleen said. “There’s been an overall reduction across the insurance industry; however, we’re outperforming industry benchmarks.”
Kathleen attributes this success to several factors.
The Hartford’s 360-Degree Approach to Help Prevent Addiction
“We’re proactive,” Kathleen said. “As the industry leader in workers’ compensation and disability insurance, we leverage our unique data insights and strong collaboration with our clinical and pharmacy partners to recognize those at risk from day one. We also promote awareness and education regarding the safe use of opioids and the warning signs of addiction. We want our injured workers and medical providers to be fully armed with information on responsible prescribing.”
It takes a village to make it all happen, Kathleen indicated, from the work of her own team to the nurses who are managing cases and performing drug reviews to the clinicians who are executing prevention strategies. The Hartford also has programs to address social and psychological issues, and provides coaching on things like stress management and pain control – all with the objective of helping injured workers return to an active, productive life as soon as possible.
“I’m beyond proud of The Hartford for making it a priority to unite on all fronts, both handling internally, advocating for change at the state and federal level, and for partnering with nonprofits that make a difference,” Kathleen said. “I’m glad The Hartford has taken a stand against this epidemic and is using their influence to ignite change.”
Nursing Opportunities Abound in the Insurance Industry
On a more personal level, Kathleen has taken the cause into her local community of Cape May, New Jersey as a volunteer for Cape Assist, a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing and treating substance abuse. Kathleen lends her expertise to the coalition group as both a nurse and strategist.
It’s work Kathleen finds fulfilling on all fronts, and in her new position, she’ll be further strategizing ways to enhance the company’s workers’ compensation and disability insurance products with services that promote employee health and prevent injuries.
“I love my job,” Kathleen said. “The Hartford is a wonderful company to work for. It’s been nothing but a positive experience for me, and I’m excited about where my nursing career path will continue to take me.”
For nurses considering a career in insurance, Kathleen said the opportunities are abound.
“If you have a passion for business, medicine, and helping others, this is the right place to be. Medical care directly impacts claim outcomes, so having the medical background to apply to claims and strategy setting is very valuable. It’s a new way of delivering nursing care, and an exciting and rewarding field for nurses.”