For Insurance Companies, These 5 Truths are Self-Evident

With President’s Day coming up, we’re stealing Thomas Jefferson’s words from the Declaration of Independence about self-evident truths.

176_thomasjeffersonThe truth is, insurance companies must upgrade their systems to take advantage of technology advances to eliminate paper once and for all. Customers are looking for an “Amazon-like” experience as manual, or outdated, processes are inefficient and costly. Moreover, they shut out insurance companies from winning new business.

So, thanks, Mr. Jefferson, for the lead-in. Here are our five self-evident insurance truths.

Insurance Truth #1: Digital document management is a must.

Companies must automate their document management, for several reasons: customers want information access and control. New business opportunities demand an enterprise content management solution that is flexible and can streamline all document handling. A single enterprise platform for managing content, processes and cases will result in additional opportunities for insurance companies.

Using technology to redesign insurance propositions for customers is fundamental to an insurer’s survival, profitability and ability to thrive in a competitive marketplace. Imagesoft knows that adopting technology to increase efficiency while staying compliant is the key to success.

Insurance Truth # 2: Documents come in varying formats.

Insurance companies deal with various formats of documents, photographs, claims reports, quotes, etc., and need a software solution that can handle these document formats. Paper-driven processes mean too many expensive copies, rising storage and copying fees, a lack of confidence in the integrity or timeliness of content changes, filing compromises and document misplacement. Enterprise content management is the answer.

The right-fit integrated ECM solution efficiently manages scanned documents, faxes, print streams, application files, electronic forms, Web content, multimedia files, emails and industry standard files such as ACCORD XML. Moreover, it eliminates the costs and vulnerabilities of manual and legacy, patched-together systems.

Insurance Truth # 3: Document management needs to be available across devices and be completely mobile, with Cloud compatibility.

Efficient customer service demands a mobile presence with the advantages of Cloud compatibility. Customers are becoming more adept at online transactions and expect online interactions with enterprises of all kinds – they demand a responsive experience that is available 24/7.

Insurers need the right tools to provide a consolidated view of information and documents with critical tasks identified, due dates assigned, and priorities identified. With an integrated enterprise content management solution available across device types, insurers can quickly access customized views, for example, by priority, policy type or due date. Increased visibility results in better customer service from the very beginning of the relationship.

Insurance Truth # 4: Modern enterprise content management systems help insurance companies deal with security issues.

As one of the most regulated industries, insurance companies must be compliant with industry regulations while protecting confidential customer data. Legacy systems and paper-based procedures are vulnerable to security breaches while automated enterprise content management systems add layers of protection to secure data.

Insurance Truth # 5: Insurance companies live or die by communication.

Today that communication is happening by text, email, fax, Skype, and even real phone calls. When it isn’t clear if a document has been updated, or the most recent version is on someone else’s desk, it’s time for improved communication via automated document and content management.

Insurance companies thrive when there is a single platform for document collaboration with access rights, commenting options, handling and timing rules, audit trails and time stamps, and more versioning and editing options. In this way, agents, brokers, the insured and all other related employees can move documents quickly and efficiently.

ImageSoft’s Truths for Insurance Companies

Industry leading ECM solutions for insurance include automated workflows, improved speed and efficiency, reduced costs and proper compliance. ImageSoft is ready to help your company reap the benefits that an integrated ECM solution can provide.

Look for more information about our solutions for life and property and casualty insurance, plus workers’ comp.

Which truths are you grappling with?

Follow ImageSoft’s Insurance Solutions LinkedIn Showcase page, and receive all the truths you need.

Funding eFiling: Calculating the Cost

This is the conclusion of Part 3 of 10 in the eFiling Blog Series. Check out the first half of Part 3 here.

fundingefiling2Handling of indigents in an eFiling system will be profoundly affected by the chosen funding model. In a fully court-funded model with no user-based fees, it’s simple: indigents can be handled the same as any other filers. However, any model deriving funding from user fees or service charges, both policy and procedural considerations are highly significant. On the policy side, there are access to justice considerations. Any model basing fees on total cost divided by number of filings must, in order to avoid major underestimation of real revenue, fully account for the portion of eFiling attributable to indigents.

A number of courts have made the mistake of calculating costs based on number of filings, only to later realize that filings by indigents comprise a large portion of the totals; and those must be “carried” by the rest. Then, the system must be able to identify and appropriately process those who are exempt from fee payments (which may occur in many places during the filing process; not simply where “filing fees” are typically collected).

In any event, any system that is collecting fees from filers (whether eFiling fees, or other statutory fees) should have a mechanism to handle indigents. The most common mechanism is to allow the user to file an “application for waiver” document which the court can approve on a case by case basis and thereafter the user can file to that case without cost.

A major consideration with Pro Se litigants, particularly in a “mandatory” eFiling system, is making the system easy to use for those who have never used it before. Consider: in the paper world, one could mail a document to the court. Courts didn’t have to help people figure out how to use the postal service. With eFiling, people are in a completely new and unfamiliar world. Will the interfaces be simple enough; and how much will the support (including real-time, “live” personnel) cost? A related topic is the “morphing of what used to be court law libraries into staffed media centers which, among other things, can support pro-se litigants.

Again, aside from a fully court-funded model, a seminal question is “What ARE other government agencies?” Clearly prosecutors, but how about indigent defense providers? Executive agencies? Private contractors on government contract? And so on. Then, how and how much should each various class pay?  And to whom? In the paper world, the court never bore the cost of postage for incoming filings; does this imply the court should have no responsibility for the cost to submit a document to a private filing portal? Politically, the court’s partners will undoubtedly notice the cost if they are required to bear it, even if the actual “filing convenience fee” is waived. Models could include, for example, a “purpose-built” EFSP for use by partner agencies to streamline the filing process.

Refer back to Rule 1. eFiling is NOT free. For example, because we are not used to thinking of credit card processing fees as an additional “cost” when we shop, we forget that the merchant has to “eat” those costs. With eFiling, the court is the merchant.

Up front and on-going user support can be easily overlooked or, worse, vastly underestimated. Pro-se litigants (not to mention out of town attorneys, occasional users, and so on) will need support; and a court underestimates the amount and cost at its peril.

Depending on the implementation and strategy, there are any number of cost and expenses that are not obvious. Absent rigorous due diligence, many of the costs may be overlooked until too late.

Two key points to remember about filer payment systems, be they credit card, escrow accounts, billings, or other system: 1) Every payment collection system has a cost; and 2) Someone is going to pay that cost. A related point is that avoidance by the court of the costs (say, for example, by arranging for “face amount” payment by a credit card processor) may very well result in substantially higher costs to the filer than if the court simply figured the credit card processing fee into the amount it sets as the charge.

eFiling entails costs for both implementation and ongoing operation. Some costs are direct and obvious; others are indirect and/or not easy to spot. A number of different strategies exist for funding these costs. Determination of both the nature of the costs and the funding model, as well as the nature and type of ongoing responsibilities the court and its partners must assume requires rigorous due diligence to develop and execute a solid, cost-effective, sufficiently funded eFiling system.

The good news is that an experienced eFiling vendor can help identify analyze the court’s situation, the available opportunities, the true costs, and the realistic choices, enabling the court to build its eFiling solution using a solid financial model.

Coming up next: Blog 4  of 10: eFiling Blog Series – CMS Integration

When Reasonably Accessible is Practically Inaccessible: Digital Stores of Public Records

Many records, including a vast proportion of court records, are “public” records, and must be maintained and made available for reasonable public inspection.  As we see in many aspects of society today, the definition of “reasonable” continues to shift.

Recently the Encyclopedia Britannica announced it will no longer produce a printed edition.  Though I well understand the business reasons behind the decision, I confess to feeling pangs of nostalgia, remembering the innumerable times I went to it over the years, from grade school through college, law school, grad school, and in my professional life.

Encyclopedia Britannica is not going away.  The publisher denies that the end of printing hard bound volumes is due to Google or Wikipedia.  No; the reason is that most users find the digital version of Britannica much more powerful, more current, and easier to use.  And the primary reason is: Full Text Search.  Despite the Encyclopedia Britannica having arguably the best indexing system ever devised for the printed work, Full Text Search provides faster, more direct, and more complete access to document information.

Return to the subject of public records and the changing standards of what constitutes “reasonable accessibility”.  Suppose a court made its records accessible like this:  The records are stored on an island 500 miles off the coast.  There is no airstrip, and no harbor for access.  The records are dropped onto the island by parachute.  To view them, one has to paddle out, and sort through the boxes to find the desired document.  While technically “public”, for all practical purposes the records remain completely inaccessible.

Sound extreme?  Granted, but it  illustrates the principle of “practical inaccessibility”; even though it may be theoretically possible to find information in a record, as a practical matter the information remains completely inaccessible.  If “practical inaccessibility” constitutes failure to comply with requirements for making records public — and recent rulings and trends indicate that is becoming the rule — then the days of paper-based, hard copy court files are numbered.

Already, rules and case law concerning discovery in litigation are well down that path.   Making records available only in hard copy, or even in non-searchable electronic format, does not comply with the discovery requirements if the records can be made available in searchable format.

Think Sarbanes/Oxley.  Can a business shield itself from practical disclosure by printing hard copies and deleting the work copy?   It’s not a long walk to the proposition that rendering documents that at one time were searchable to be no longer easily searchable (say, for example, printing out e-filed documents, then printing them and discarding the electronic, searchable version) would be destroying evidence.

And where the private sector rules are today, public records laws cannot be far behind.  At first we can expect that only the most interesting and valuable public records would be affected.   Oh; by the way: court records are arguably both the most interesting AND the most valuable of all public records.  Just ask the news media.

If you want to avoid these issues, then best practice for Courts is to go digital and stay digital.  If you can’t avoid receiving paper, then turn it into digital content as close to the reception point as possible.  For the paper lovers in the group, printed copies can be provided on demand.  This is what we refer to as the “paper-on- demand court”.

If Courts don’t get out in front of the rule and policy considerations surrounding electronic public records, someone else is liable to do it to for them.

Helpful Hints to Get Judges to Use (and Like) ECM in Courts

I recently read Ken Follett’s historical novel A Dangerous Fortune, about English bankers in the late 1900’s.  Follett’s novels are always well researched and full of really cool contemporary technology. 

A few days ago, while discussing judicial use of digital documents with a judge, I observed that many judges are deeply concerned that they cannot easily navigate and use digital documents and files.  Interestingly, their areas of concern — finding the correct document(s), grouping needed documents together, finding information within documents, opening and reading multiple documents simultaneously and switching between them, making notes, etc., — can  be handled better using digital documents within an effective ECM system than by using hard copy files and documents.  The judge laughed, and commented that she drives a car with so many technological features that she doesn’t even know what half of them are, much less how to use them.  Her analogy hit the nail on the head:  A lot of judges simply do not know what today’s ECM systems can let them do.

As we continued talking, I recalled something from the Follett novel.  The difference between the technology being available and people being able to use it has always and probably will always exist.  In A Dangerous Fortune, a young banker, in the aftermath of an embarrassing error by his boss involving a mislaid letter, conceives of and implements a radical new solution:  He takes two boxes, marks one “IN” and the other “OUT”, and places them side by side on his boss’s desk.  The point being, up until then, the technology to order things existed; but no one had figured it out.

The technology of paper documents — arranging them in files; left-side/right-side documents, file tabs, case numbers, color coding, sticky notes, tickler systems — these uses of the “paper” technology were not developed over night; they evolved over a long period.  Eventually, what we use becomes not only familiar, but necessary.  You can bet that at the bank, within a year, no one could operate without IN/OUT boxes.

In the early days of electronic documents, navigation and manipulation presented formidable challenges.  But electronic documents have been around for over fifty years –TWO GENERATIONS.  In the beginning, things as “obvious” as IN/OUT boxes were unknown.  But today, those decades of experience, together with more powerful technology, as well as dedicated design involving judges as core participants, have enabled implementation of electronic document interfaces for judges that are better than paper.  What remains is to show it to them.

Judges and Doctors share a somewhat unique and sometimes counter-productive trait. They are expected by society to know everything, and therefore they find it difficult to be put in situations where they are not the experts.  This keeps them from using technology, and it sometimes keeps them from getting trained.  Zen Buddhism has a term called Shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind”.  “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”.

Courts moving to ECM are well advised to find out, from the most techno-adverse judges, what capabilities and features are most important to what they do with files and documents.  And here’s a hint (as if you didn’t already know it):  They don’t really know how to tell you.  Do yourself a favor and utilize qualified Business Analysts who are experienced in helping judges articulate what they don’t know they know.

Another hint:  Arrange for the judges to SEE how a well-designed and implemented ECM system will be easier and more powerful for them to use, because as much as you talk about it, they will not believe it until they see it. Then provide top-notch training, because they won’t REALLY believe it until they DO it.