How Leveraging Innovation and Automation Can Help Streamline Insurer Operations

To meet business challenges that seem to shift every day, organizations are doing everything they can to adapt. One way to achieve this goal is by leveraging innovation and automation. The best companies continually use the latest approaches to build a resiliency into their operations that can enable them to thrive in the current business environment and succeed in the days ahead.   

In this article I will focus on one enterprise that exemplifies this idea. A leading insurance company saw an opportunity to significantly advance its current BPO program. The company had been working with a managed services provider that was delivering a variety of document management services. Over a period of years, the program had grown dramatically but lacked important controls. For example, the services vendor was not providing the insurance company with any meaningful visibility and insight into what services were actually being delivered, including costs and number of employees working in the program.

Consequently, the insurance company wanted to gain greater command of the program so that it could improve performance currently and in the future. This meant obtaining access to such vital information as what work was, in fact, being delivered; how many employees were under contract and working at the company’s numerous sites; and what the insurance company was actually paying for the program. Additionally, the insurance company wanted a BPO program that was less concentrated on just providing labor and more focused on the theme of this “Workflow” issue: leveraging innovation and automation to advance the business.

It was time for a change. The company decided to team with a new managed services partner that offered the expertise to transform the program and over time, deliver innovation enabling the insurance leader to be better prepared for the future. There were many elements required by the winning bid, but three were critical. One was a detailed services implementation timeline, based on visits to all of the site locations in order to determine, as accurately as possible, the scope and complexity of work being performed. The research enabled the creation of an efficient implementation plan and established appropriate service level agreements.

A detailed services implementation timeline, based on visits to all of the site locations in order to determine, as accurately as possible, the scope and complexity of work being performed. The research enabled the creation of an efficient implementation plan and established appropriate service level agreements.Click To Tweet

The power of a phased approach

The plan entailed implementing services in a phased approach. Essential steps included taking over existing document management processes — spanning such areas as mail, print and office services — at numerous sites across the country within a few months. This involved completing knowledge transfer (documenting responsibilities and workflows) as well as developing and finalizing standard operating procedures and statements of work.

The next phase, about six months into the program, would comprise exploring automation opportunities in areas such as document imaging and leveraging digital technology to digitize and distribute mail electronically so that the company could virtually eliminate fine mail-sorting and distribution costs.

The third phase, to be implemented in about 12 months, included considering such innovations as robotic process automation (RPA) and consolidating operations into regional hubs, potentially utilizing the flexible onsite/offsite/offshore service delivery capabilities of our business processing centers.

Visibility into critical program data

The second important element of the overall plan was providing visibility into all of the critical program information that the insurance leader needed; data that had previously been unavailable. This included open book pricing, which enables the company to understand exactly what it is paying for today and into the future. An ideal situation is for the company contracting the services to have the ability to audit the service provider’s payroll system and determine how much they are paying an employee and how many hours that employee worked. These and other vital details should be visible on every invoice. With this type of arrangement, the insurance company’s program evolved from one in which it had virtually no visibility into services and costs into a partnership that is about as transparent as any can be.

The third important feature of the implementation plan was that it addressed how the program would reduce risk, easing any fears the insurance company might have about transitioning to a new services provider. This included offering a new hire bonus that would be designed to help retain the best employees from the previous vendor.

A comprehensive solution

The comprehensive solution currently spans a wide range of services that includes providing claims processing and underwriting support. Claims processing involves managing data entry and related activity for hundreds of processing tasks that include indexing medical bills, scanning and indexing claims, and processing explanation of payment (EOP) statements and W9 forms.

Other services include mail and print management as well as office services such as reception and conference room coordination. One special project in progress involves moving the insurance company from its current arrangement of numerous desktop printers to a centralized printing system managed through four regional print centers that serve multiple company locations. The regional centers will be focused on printing specialized documents such as claims and underwriting files. Because the files are large, often comprised of thousands of pages, employees will have the ability to submit them digitally via an online portal.

For another current project, site assessments will be implemented to measure the feasibility of implementing a digital intake center solution. This would enable the insurance company to leverage the benefits of a digital mail system.

The need for this is being driven by the company moving to a more agile work environment, in which seating and desk space are often unassigned, provided as needed when employees are in the office. The goal is to attract the best talent, encourage collaboration, provide an engaging work environment and improve efficiency. One challenge of an agile workspace is managing mail for employees who may come into the office only a few times during a span of month. Digital mail helps solve that problem.

In addition to these projects, a performance reporting system will also be launched that leverages a unique analytics and reporting tool. The system provides the capability to monitor a variety of metrics such as volumes and trends. This is critical information for the insurance company to track so that, together with the managed services team, it can initiate improvements and make informed decisions. Additionally, a scorecard was put in place for 90-day implementation KPIs (key performance indicators) and the same has been done with the ongoing management of the program. This includes regularly reporting on the progress of the project to groups within the insurance company, including the company’s information governance unit.

Operational excellence and continued growth

With these and many other initiatives in play, the insurance company and the managed services team have worked together to forge a new path to operational excellence and continued growth. Projected cost savings are expected to exceed millions of dollars annually due to workforce centralization and optimization approaches. Improving the efficiency of business process workflows has yielded such results as significantly reducing a claims process cycle time as well as cutting the document processing cycle time for many insurance activities. Transparency is now a reality. The insurance company has visibility into the services it is receiving, projects it has approved, costs it is paying, the number of people working at its sites, and much more.

Based on improved cost efficiency and operational effectiveness, the insurance company is now better able to ensure that it will be there when its customers need it most — now and in the days ahead. 

is a certified enterprise content management practitioner (ecmp) and director of corporate communications for Canon Business Process Services, a leader in managed services and technology.