New technologies are changing the way claims data is sharedPosted On: Oct. 21, 2012 12:00 AM CST
As the digital universe expands and evolves, makers and users of claims management systems will need to adjust to an increasingly heterogeneous mix of claims data, experts say.
Just as Web- and mobile-based technologies added distribution channels and altered the manner in which insurance is sold and policies are processed, the technologies eventually will alter the mix of formats in which insurance companies receive information about claims.
Ben Brantley, chief technology officer for Foster City, Calif.-based Guidewire Software Inc., a maker of core system software for the property/casualty insurance industry, said his company has been working to expand the capabilities of its product line to handle mobile technologies.
“The challenge for us is to give insurance companies mobile ability without burdening them with a second system with new business logic that has to be managed,” he said. “CIOs have already gone through a lot of effort to get their processes nailed down.”
Karlyn Carnahan, principal at New York-based insurance advisory firm Novarica, a unit of Novantas L.L.C., agrees that mobile- and Web-based claims reporting present a challenge to many members of the insurance industry.
“Many carriers have a certain way of receiving claims that really works,” Ms. Carnahan said. “While they would like to ensure that other avenues are available, it's not always easy for them.”
Even some insurers that give the outward appearance of enabling Web- and mobile-based claims reporting are in fact offering a cyberspace version of a Potemkin Village facade.
“Many insurers have a Web-based intake, but it's often just smoke and mirrors,” she said. “The input turns into an email that is still handled by the claims department in the old-fashioned way.”
Mr. Brantley said his company had worked to make products such as its Web-based claims management system, ClaimCenter, highly configurable on the back end so that users could add new information input channels without having to tinker with the coding of the software. “The ability to adjust is probably more important than any individual capability,” he said. “We try to put our emphasis on the building blocks.”
Even with the proper technology infrastructure and systems in place, insurance companies will face other hurdles resulting from the influx of Web and mobile technologies into the claims process.
One problem will be with delivering a consistent experience for claimants. Insurers that have invested heavily in call center technology may be hard-pressed to recreate the same quality of interaction if the first notice of loss is delivered through a mobile app.
“When you are talking about mobile channels and insurers, the challenge is not so much can I take in the data, but whether you can ensure that the information and experience going back to the claimant is at the same level of customer service,” Ms. Carnahan said.
Yet mobile technologies ultimately offer the prospect of improved customer service in claims, said Michael A. Costonis, executive director of the insurance practice for North America for Dublin-based Accenture P.L.C. The cameras, GPS and date-stamping abilities of mobile devices make claims adjusters more efficient, he said. Even cellphones give insureds and adjusters the ability to record video and submit it with ease, he said, adding that the once clear demarcation between mobile and desktop technologies is blurring.
“The notion of separating computer from mobile may go away because of the way applications are now being built,” he said. “We are also seeing radical changes in the potential (utility) for mobile technology because devices are improving so quickly.”
K.C. Agrelius, assistant vice president of Orem, Utah-based Xactware Solutions Inc., said mobile capabilities have improved the claims management tool he oversees, XactAnalysis. The sooner an estimator can inspect the site and return an accurate estimate, the better, Mr. Agrelius said.
“Tying claims management to the use of mobile technology further streamlines the process by reducing or eliminating delays between sending and receiving assignments, contacting policyholders, inspecting losses and returning estimate reports,” he said. “Mobile technology can also have a positive effect on productivity by allowing estimators to complete more assignments in less amount of time.”