Claims Management

Payers Benefit From Newer Claims Technology

The shift from legacy to cloud-based systems is unlocking new benefits and new possibilities for employers and other claims payers.
By: | March 7, 2017 • 5 min read

The retirement of baby-boomer age computer professionals is helping drive more workers’ comp claims payers to abandon older, legacy-type claims management systems for nimbler software as a service (SaaS) technology.

The shift is occurring as the aging computer professionals, along with claims adjusters who spent their careers working with the assistance of the older legacy claims systems, are replaced by millennials accustomed to newer, smarter technology.

Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions, Riskonnect

“The people who have been maintaining these legacy systems, as well as your adjusters who are used to using those systems, are getting older and exiting the business,” observed Shahin Hatamian of Mitchell International Inc. “You are bringing in younger people who don’t know how to use that legacy system and they want something that is easier to use, more configurable, and a little more automated. That is where newer systems come into play.”

The newer technology also accommodates a younger, less-experienced adjuster workforce with automation that eliminates more of their decision making.

Several other equally pressing reasons are pushing claims payers to continue a migration away from legacy systems to SaaS platforms. For one, more services now developed to improve workers’ compensation claims outcomes are created on these platforms, allowing for easier data interchange between claims payers’ systems and other services the claims payer uses.

“You would be hard pressed to not want to take advantage of the benefits of SaaS,” Hatamian said.

Legacy systems typically rely on in-house server technology for information storage and often were developed to meet a specific company’s needs. Their ongoing use, modification and maintenance usually requires the expertise of people familiar with that system.

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“There are a group of legacy systems that have more attractive, contemporary user interfaces, but they are still built on architectures that are fairly rigid and require a lot of custom coding,” said Aaron Shapiro, executive director of sales, marketing and legal at Origami Risk.

By contrast, SaaS systems are cloud based and accessed via a web browser. While much of their updating can be done simultaneously for many customers, they also allow ease in customization, according to proponents.

“From a claims management standpoint there are so many moving variables at any point in time. … There are a plethora of people involved in the whole claims process.” — Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions, Riskonnect

The newer technology’s flexibility allows easier configuration to meet a purchaser’s unique workflows, rather than requiring the purchaser to flex their operations around the technology, Shapiro added. It can ease risk managers’ connection with other company departments, such as safety, and with their company’s operations managers for quicker action on data revealing workers’ comp claim drivers.

“That leads to much higher engagement in the operational field,” Shapiro elaborated.  “Where you have a risk manager that has a collaborative relation with field operations and safety there is an opportunity to automatically trigger workflows the second there is a report of injury.”

Shahin Hatamian, Vice President, Product Management and Strategy, Mitchell International Inc.

Similarly, information can be more easily shared with outside parties such as third party administrators, nurse case managers and other workers’ comp service vendors relaying information that may prevent a claim from growing more expensive.

“That is what SaaS products do,” said Nicholas Toal, vice president of business development and sales at JW Software. “It’s a solution that tries to make the workflow seamless,” eliminating challenges claims payers frequently encounter when attempting to connect older systems with third party claims services.

Factors driving the shift away from legacy systems to SaaS also include ease in updating the newer systems with state regulatory changes and less disruption when employees leave a company employing the technology, said Tim Davidson, director of return to work solutions at Riskonnect.

The most pressing reason for moving to SaaS, though, is the ability to connect with many sources of information — including industry trends and service provider data — impacting a claim, Davidson said.

“From a claims management standpoint there are so many moving variables at any point in time,” he elaborated. “It is not just the injured employee or employer. You are dealing with medical providers, you are dealing with bill review, you are dealing with nurse case managers, independent medical examiners. There are a plethora of people involved in the whole claims process.”

Multiple Benefits

Improved integration of information from all those sources can help adjusters and other end users make better decisions, Davidson said.

Tom Ryan, market research leader, Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence

Meanwhile, newer technology companies have emerged offering risk management information systems with “a broader platform of service capabilities,” said Tom Ryan, market research leader at Marsh’s Workers Compensation Center of Excellence. Those capabilities include data analytics and the conversion of data into highly customized reports and dashboards for workers’ comp claims management.

Simultaneously, employers are increasingly knowledgeable about the data management capabilities of risk management information systems, Ryan added.

“So a lot of employers are looking for more customized dashboards and tools to manage workers’ compensation,” Ryan said.

RMIS systems, and their dashboard technology for managing claims, have improved significantly over the past two to three years, added Duane Pifer, senior consultant and data analytics lead in the integrated casualty consulting group at Willis Towers Watson.

But the systems typically provide relatively stagnant information, Pifer added. Employers and other claims payers could benefit, he said, should the next generation of technology products allow claims payers to receive more interactive claims information delivered in smaller, more frequent, notifications, like those that social media sites push out concerning a user’s network contacts.

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In that way alerts pushed-out to cell phones or tablets, for example, could inform employers of organizational changes — such as increased employee turnover in a specific production unit — that would likely impact claim filings, Pifer said.

Similarly, information could alert claims payers when claims are nearing a certain status point, such as a specific expense level.

“It is that kind of information, in small chunks, that Is intuitive that the user wants to see,” Pifer said. “I think the technology is beginning to get there and I know some RMIS have apps that provide that. But it is not widespread yet.”

When it comes to both RMIS and claims management systems, however, there is widespread agreement that the newer platforms are much simpler to use.

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Property

Insurers Take to the Skies

This year’s hurricane season sees the use of drones and other aerial intelligence gathering systems as insurers seek to estimate claims costs.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 6 min read

For Southern communities, current recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey will recall the painful devastation of 2005, when Katrina and Wilma struck. But those who look skyward will notice one conspicuous difference this time around: drones.

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Much has changed since Katrina and Wilma, both economically and technologically. The insurance industry evolved as well. Drones and other visual intelligence systems (VIS) are set to play an increasing role in loss assessment, claims handling and underwriting.

Farmers Insurance, which announced in August it launched a fleet of drones to enhance weather-related property damage claim assessment, confirmed it deployed its fleet in the aftermath of Harvey.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now,” said George Mathew, CEO of Kespry, Farmers’ drone and aerial intelligence platform provider partner.

“The current wind and hail damage season that we are entering is when many of the insurance carriers are switching from proof of concept work to full production rollout.”

 According to Mathew, Farmers’ fleet focused on wind damage in and around Corpus Christi, Texas, at the time of this writing. “Additional work is already underway in the greater Houston area and will expand in the coming weeks and months,” he added.

No doubt other carriers have fleets in the air. AIG, for example, occupied the forefront of VIS since winning its drone operation license in 2015. It deployed drones to inspections sites in the U.S. and abroad, including stadiums, hotels, office buildings, private homes, construction sites and energy plants.

Claims Response

At present, insurers are primarily using VIS for CAT loss assessment. After a catastrophe, access is often prohibited or impossible. Drones allow access for assessing damage over potentially vast areas in a more cost-effective and time-sensitive manner than sending human inspectors with clipboards and cameras.

“Drones improve risk analysis by providing a more efficient alternative to capturing aerial photos from a sky-view. They allow insurers to rapidly assess the scope of damages and provide access that may not otherwise be available,” explained Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy at JLT Specialty USA.

“The pent-up demand for drones, particularly from a claims-processing standpoint, has been accumulating for almost two years now.” — George Mathew, CEO, Kespry

“In our experience, competitive advantage is gained mostly by claims departments and third-party administrators. Having the capability to provide exact measurements and details from photos taken by drones allows insurers to expedite the claim processing time,” he added.

Indeed, as tech becomes more disruptive, insurers will increasingly seek to take advantage of VIS technologies to help them provide faster, more accurate and more efficient insurance solutions.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh

One way Farmers is differentiating its drone program is by employing its own FAA-licensed drone operators, who are also Farmers-trained claim representatives.

Keith Daly, E.V.P. and chief claims officer for Farmers Insurance, said when launching the program that this sets Farmers apart from most carriers, who typically engage third-party drone pilots to conduct evaluations.

“In the end, it’s all about the experience for the policyholder who has their claim adjudicated in the most expeditious manner possible,” said Mathew.

“The technology should simply work and just melt away into the background. That’s why we don’t just focus on building an industrial-grade drone, but a complete aerial intelligence platform for — in this case — claims management.”

Insurance Applications

Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader at Marsh, believes that, while currently employed primarily to assess catastrophic damage, VIS will increasingly be employed to inspect standard property damage claims.

However, he admitted that at this stage they are better at identifying binary factors such as the area affected by a peril rather than complex assessments, since VIS cannot look inside structures nor assess their structural integrity.

“If a chemical plant suffers an explosion, it might be difficult to say whether the plant is fully or partially out of operation, for example, which would affect a business interruption claim dramatically.

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“But for simpler assessments, such as identifying how many houses or industrial units have been destroyed by a tornado, or how many rental cars in a lot have suffered hail damage from a storm, a VIS drone could do this easily, and the insurer can calculate its estimated losses from there,” he said.

In addition,VIS possess powerful applications for pre-loss risk assessment and underwriting. The high-end drones used by insurers can capture not just visual images, but mapping heat, moisture or 3D topography, among other variables.

This has clear applications in the assessment and completion of claims, but also in potentially mitigating risk before an event happens, and pricing insurance accordingly.

“VIS and drones will play an increasing underwriting support role as they can help underwriters get a better idea of the risk — a picture tells a thousand words and is so much better than a report,” said Ellis.

VIS images allow underwriters to see risks in real time, and to visually spot risk factors that could get overlooked using traditional checks or even mature visual technologies like satellites. For example, VIS could map thermal hotspots that could signal danger or poor maintenance at a chemical plant.

Chris Luck, national practice leader of Advocacy, JLT Specialty USA

“Risk and underwriting are very natural adjacencies, especially when high risk/high value policies are being underwritten,” said Mathew.

“We are in a transformational moment in insurance where claims processing, risk management and underwriting can be reimagined with entirely new sources of data. The drone just happens to be one of most compelling of those sources.”

Ellis added that drones also could be employed to monitor supplies in the marine, agriculture or oil sectors, for example, to ensure shipments, inventories and supply chains are running uninterrupted.

“However, we’re still mainly seeing insurers using VIS drones for loss assessment and estimates, and it’s not even clear how extensively they are using drones for that purpose at this point,” he noted.

“Insurers are experimenting with this technology, but given that some of the laws around drone use are still developing and restrictions are often placed on using drones [after] a CAT event, the extent to which VIS is being used is not made overly public.”

Drone inspections could raise liability risks of their own, particularly if undertaken in busy spaces in which they could cause human injury.

Privacy issues also are a potential stumbling block, so insurers are dipping their toes into the water carefully.

Risk Improvement

There is no doubt, however, that VIS use will increase among insurers.

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“Although our clients do not have tremendous experience utilizing drones, this technology is beneficial in many ways, from providing security monitoring of their perimeter to loss control inspections of areas that would otherwise require more costly inspections using heavy equipment or climbers,” said Luck.

In other words, drones could help insurance buyers spot weaknesses, mitigate risk and ultimately win more favorable coverage from their insurers.

“Some risks will see pricing and coverage improvements because the information and data provided by drones will put underwriters at ease and reduce uncertainty,” said Ellis.

The flip-side, he noted, is that there will be fewer places to hide for companies with poor risk management that may have been benefiting from underwriters not being able to access the full picture.

Either way, drones will increasingly help insurers differentiate good risks from bad. In time, they may also help insurance buyers differentiate between carriers, too. &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]