Insurers Need to Rethink How They Process Documents

Between a global pandemic, economic upheaval, volatile weather, and rising fraud concerns, insurance organizations had their work cut out for them in 2020. To meet these new challenges and maintain a positive customer experience, insurers need to get smarter about how they acquire and use their information, and more importantly, how they manage the documents that run their business.

office with technology insurance

How insurers process, optimize and leverage their documents and unstructured content can make or break their customer experience and bottom line. Between First Notice of Loss (FNOL) related forms, customer emails, contracts, ID cards, onboarding paperwork and claim forms, documents are what drive business forward. As such, insurers need to generate optimal value from their content.

The time is long overdue for insurers to advance their document processing strategies. Organizations need to rethink how they integrate document capabilities directly into mission-critical processes. Leveraging advancements in AI technology that make content-centric processes more intelligent, insurers will be better positioned to revitalize customer experience, retain loyal customers, and gain market share in the new hyper-competitive and digitally savvy market. 

Stop putting document processing in the basement

Document processing has historically existed as a separate, if parallel, business function to content-driven processes. Document capture was typically relegated to batch scanning and data entry housed in basement-level mailrooms or outside service centers. Or, if it is part of a critical process, it’s been a series of tasks that get done at the back end.

Claims document processing was also typically a separate business function from claims management. It wasn’t uncommon for claims representatives to pull up a PDF document from an email after interacting with a customer over the phone and then key this data into their systems — all manually and after the fact. 

With digital transformation, this notion is being replaced with the idea that document processing should be at the point of customer engagement. Today’s digital transformation landscape demands that insurers re-imagine document processing as a capability in customer service as opposed to simply a function running parallel to it.

When an insurance adjuster receives a claim, it contains essential documents that are critical for adjudicating the client’s loss and maintaining the relationship between the insurer and the insured. A claim can contain a number of documents that provide context and meaning to the situation, such as police reports, ACORD forms, statements, images, estimates, follow-up activities and client communications. Rather than thinking about these documents simply as data entry chores to be completed after the transaction, what if document processing happened as soon as the insurance agent or claims representative interacted with a customer?

Demand more from your data

Many younger, more agile insurtech firms have already begun spearheading this new approach to document processing. Traditional insurers, however, are lagging behind. Leading analyst firms have already predicted that embracing automation and intelligent technologies will be the difference between insurers who fall behind and those that get ahead. Forrester holds that “as legacy technology becomes outdated and less effective, automated underwriting will determine which life insurers will be market leaders.” They affirm that organizations that provide smarter decision-making capabilities and integrate new technologies position themselves well to provide better customer experiences.

Insurance organizations need capabilities and technologies that enable them to understand each document in a greater context. A claim form, as one example, is not simply a document containing data to be entered into another system. It’s a document that can be a triggering event or a piece of content that provides valuable information for better decision making, fraud prevention and claims management.

Leverage AI to augment human intelligence

Content is not simply material for data extraction. It’s rich information that helps knowledge workers make decisions. When you read a document, you are not simply identifying data, you are understanding that document. This is what AI technologies enable when used for document processing. AI provides the context for data that helps drive decision-making. 

Artificial intelligence technologies can be leveraged to transform critical insurance workflows, from underwriting to claims management, and from onboarding to customer service. Forrester recommends that insurance organizations “bring greater intelligence to underwriting with AI capabilities … It’s no longer good enough for the underwriting decisioning engine to be rule-based. To make the process faster, simpler, and hands-free, incorporating smarter technologies such as AI to make applications faster — and more accurate — will be critical for vendors.” 

With content intelligence capabilities, AI becomes a digital assistant that can read, understand and interpret a document – such as an accident report or claim form – while the agent is engaged with the insured. AI is able to read, understand and extract data from the document then have it ready for the claims representative to use at the moment of engagement, rather than after the interaction. It’s a modern approach that provides knowledge worker assistance using advanced AI technologies.

Let technology detect fraud

Infusing content intelligence capabilities into document-centric workflows enables insurers to understand claims in context, and therefore adjudicate claims more intelligently and provide quicker, more efficient customer service. 

Artificial intelligence can also help spot fraud that may be challenging to detect manually. Some fraud can’t be easily identified by simply looking at one document. There might be indicators of fraud that are only spotted when reviewing multiple documents across different activities and workflows. Insurers need extra intelligence to detect patterns and find suspicious activity.    

Artificial intelligence does the work of a skilled expert by reading data with an eye toward unusual patterns. Claims adjusters that manually review documents may not be looking for indicators of fraud or may simply be unsure exactly how to spot it.

Analysts have been espousing the importance of AI in preventing fraud and fueling digital transformation initiatives across core insurance workflows, with Forrester asserting that “machine-learning technology underpins digital transformation, improving underwriting and claims processing, differentiation through personalized coverage, and enhanced fraud detection.”

Starting your digital transformation journey

The benefits of intelligent document processing are far-reaching, but sometimes knowing where to start can be daunting. This is especially true for insurers with well-established processes and legacy technology stacks. The good news is that it’s easy to get smart about document processes. These three steps offer a simple path forward. 

1. Evaluate which workflows are prime candidates for automation

If your organization hasn’t already begun leveraging automation, now is the time to do so. Many global insurance organizations have already started automating key processes to strengthen competitive advantage. According to Forrester research, 37% of global insurance analytics decision-makers cite better customer experience as the rationale for automation investments, with 27% also citing deeper data insights.

Identify which workflows are the best candidates for automation by taking a holistic look at your organization’s processes. Process intelligence technologies can help prep insurers for automation by revealing a birds-eye view of how processes are performing, enabling organizations to pinpoint workflows that offer the best opportunities for automation. Claims processing is a prime candidate for automation, as is customer service, subrogation, underwriting, and customer onboarding. Automating core workflows, especially content-centric ones, enhances efficiencies, saves time, reduces costs and frees knowledge workers to focus on more valuable tasks. 

2. Integrate content intelligence skills into automation platforms

Any automated workflow that handles documents should leverage content intelligence capabilities. Document skills can easily be integrated into automation platforms. There’s no need to retool and re-integrate. Complement your automation platforms with advanced content intelligence technologies that leverage natural language processing (NLP), OCR, AI and machine learning to transform documents, even unstructured ones such as emails or invoices, into actionable and valuable information that can be further leveraged.

Insurers that use an RPA or BPM platform should ensure that not only are they integrating content skills into their automated workflows, but that document processing activities don’t exist as separate and siloed functions outside of these processes. 

3. Choose accessible low-code technologies

There’s been an emergence of skills marketplaces that make easily consumable content skills readily available on demand for the business user. These solutions don’t require significant IT involvement and can empower users to access these capabilities at the point of engagement. With easily consumable content skills, business users – from the insurance agent to the claims representative – can use document processing skills as they need them, rather than having to create a big document capture process that runs in parallel to, and is siloed from, core workflows.

It’s time for insurers to change their mindsets

Digital transformation in insurance is about getting intelligent about processes and content. The old approach of simply capturing and extracting data from documents after the point of engagement doesn’t empower knowledge workers to make better decisions. It’s long overdue that insurance leaders shift their perspective from viewing a document as something from which to extract data to something that contains important knowledge and insight that can be leveraged to make better customer service decisions.

Equipped with content intelligence, insurance leaders are empowered with the tools to spot fraud, make better choices, and engage in customer service more effectively. This creates paths of opportunity for greater operational agility and more loyal and long-term customers. 

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Reginald J. Twigg, Ph.D., is director of product marketing for data capture at ABBYY, a Digital Intelligence company, where he helps global organizations leverage Intelligent Document Processing and Process Intelligence to transform productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.