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September 13, 2016

Some Things Are Too Important for Paper

Summary:

One technology -- the ubiquitous paper form -- is dragging down the industry's efforts to digitize. It's time to declare paper D.O.A.

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A little while ago, my 92-year-old mom said that she was tired most of the time and was taking more and more naps. After several doctor visits and tests, the diagnosis was that her pulse was around 40 beats per minute, as opposed to a normal rate of 60. Her cardiologist recommended a pacemaker to improve her heart function and quality of life.

When she checked into the hospital, it had all her records, history, blood work, EKG printouts, etc. Everything was correctly recorded on physical and digital paper.

The staff still hooked her up to an EKG and blood pressure cuff to get moment-by-moment readings.

You see, some things are just too important for paper.

Before she went into surgery, her pulse was 42, and her blood pressure was very high. The staff gave her two courses of blood pressure meds, which brought it back into range so the surgery could take place. When they wheeled her back into her room after surgery, her pulse was 60. Her blood pressure was starting to creep back up, so they continued with some additional meds that brought it back into range. They kept her on the EKG and blood pressure cuff until she was discharged.

I am so thankful that she went home and is back to her old self; out of the house at least five days a week, playing bingo three of those days. My 95-year-old dad still drives them to doctor appointments and worship on the weekends, followed by McDonald’s. To celebrate special occasions, my dad drives them to Chick-fil-A or the Olive Garden.

While having all documentation, forms and information available in paper or electronic image is helpful to a point, it’s just not good enough. The hospital staff needed something more. They needed to continually monitor my mom, checking her pulse, watching her blood pressure and other vital signs.

See also: New, Troubling Healthcare Model  

Some things are just too important for paper.

Now that she’s back to living a full and active life, a technician has come to her home to set up a device that communicates with her pacemaker. It monitors information on her, the pacemaker and her vitals. On a daily basis, this information is collected and forwarded to her doctor via a secure website.

D.O.A

The insurance industry has invested untold billions in technology, and who knows where hand-held devices, wearables, wireless high-speed communications, etc. will eventually take us? But there is one boat anchor of a technology that is dragging down speed, accuracy and efficiency while adding cost and waste.

That technology is the ubiquitous paper form.

Like any form, certificates of insurance are D.O.A. (dead on arrival). Now this might sound harsh, but the reality is that forms are created with information as of a point of time. Because the form is cut off from any possible changes or updates, the cert is potentially out of date by the time it’s delivered.

A host of possible changes and informational updates can invalidate the cert. Mid-term endorsement, renewal, changes in limits or forms, cancellation for non-payment and AM Best rating downgrades are but a few of the possible changes that can nullify the cert.

It makes absolutely no difference how the form was created (agency, company or third-party software and service providers), everyone creates D.O.A. forms. The delivered method is also irrelevant: Paper, fax, web address link, mobile phone, table, PDF and other digital images all have exactly the same problem.

The fact that forms are not plugged into and alive with information pronounces them D.O.A. There is no continuing re-verification of the policy status in conjunction with the needs of the insured and the third-party that needs verification of coverage.

Islands of Misinformation

There are four stakeholders involved in any proof of insurance, and they are isolated on individual information islands. The carrier, agent, insured and third party are involved with the certificate, yet no one can monitor or have control over the entire process. Each organization has its own needs and desires and its own email system. There are also no controls, follow-ups or monitoring of the process. Everyone hits the ubiquitous “reply all” email command, creating an unintelligible spaghetti string of text that is unmanageable and unintelligible.

Business and insurance islands are not known or documented at the beginning of the process. Requirements normally leak out during the process, wasting precious time and money while raising frustration.

I’m familiar with an agency that diligently and professionally worked to get a cert out for a client. Everyone was happy when the process was finished — then the third party sent out yet one more notification, saying the use of “N/A” for “Not Applicable” was not acceptable and needed to be changed to “N.A.” Time and good manners do not permit me to retell the loud and colorful commentary that was heard throughout the agency for a good 15 minutes.

Disruption

It will take significantly more than a smart mobile device or cloud-based system to solve the systemic problems once-and-for-all. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way the industry thinks about proof of insurance.

See also: Customers’ Digital Expectations  

We need to declare the certificate D.O.A. and move toward a data-driven digital solution of the sort we have developed at GAPro: a single source where insurance information is automatically housed, updated on a daily basis and integrated with data from all stakeholders in the insurance ecosystem. Carriers send electronic versions of policy transaction data and attached forms for new, renewal, mid-term change, cancellation, reinstatement and billing status to GAPro. GAPro stores and matches policy and form information with data from other insurance-related resources, including AM Best, agency licensing and other sources. Risk profile information describing the insurance business and content needs of agents, insureds and third parties is collected and integrated on a per-policy basis.

See also: Can Risk Management Even Be Effective?  

It’s time for continual monitoring and notification leveraging 21st century technology and insurance-specific capability, wrapped in an easy-to-understand interface.

Insurance conformation and compliance verification are too important for paper.

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About the Author

Chet Gladkowski is co-founder, CMO/CIO for GAPro, the global, industry-wide solution for proof-of-insurance and compliance verification. He is recognized as a leading insurance/IT executive, providing both strategic and practical insights across all P&C lines of business.

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