You no doubt have seen ads from property/casualty insurers that promise fast results when disaster occurs. While customer satisfaction equates with continued revenue, a more pragmatic reason for mobilizing claims adjusters is economic.Carriers are in the risk business and therefore tend to be risk averse-and rightly so. Careful scrutiny should always be paid before deploying new technologies or making large IT expenditures.

Carriers have increasingly begun outsourcing many functions such as call center operations, damage estimating and adjustment functions. While designed to streamline efficiencies, there still is room for improvement.

A January 2001 report by Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, "The Virtual Claim," highlighted that auto insurers require a minimum of three weeks to process a claim, from the time the loss was reported to the return of the repaired vehicle. Worse yet, there can be as many as six hand-offs to assign an adjuster when a claim is reported.

Road warriors

Claims adjusters are true road warriors: They are armed with laptops and mobile printers to help service customers who are in an agitated state. Despite this automation, adjusters frequently spend several hours completing necessary paperwork.

To truly realize the benefits of technology, field staff must have access to the same resources they have in their offices. This can be achieved through the use of laptops or hand-held computers using wireless connection cards and some middleware that extends the corporate environment to the field.

Using these tools, adjusters can complete more of the claims on-site, speeding the process and eliminating time-consuming paperwork.

Carriers should be aware that some application integration work is required to achieve this ideal scenario. However, there are many reputable middleware providers that can extend the corporate environment to mobile devices.

Insurers should identify middleware providers that enable claims processing software to be intelligently extended to the field. Some mobile solutions require the presence of a wireless signal for the end-user to access forms and data.

However, at times, an adjuster may want to work offline to complete forms and verify data before synchronizing with the corporate back-end system.

The December 2003 issue of Mobile Enterprise notes that one well-known carrier receives measurable benefits by equipping its claims agents with mobile technology that uses a wireless data network and grants them access to forms and tools they need. The insurer has experienced an increase in claims agent productivity and a decreased amount of after-hours paperwork by the adjuster.

The company has also streamlined claims agents' travel through the use of scheduling software that efficiently routes adjusters from one site to the next. In sum, through intelligent technology usage, adjusters are able to arrive on time, have more effective tools available and are able to be more responsive to their customers-all of which improves customer satisfaction.

Security issues

Security is always an issue with enterprise mobility. There are plenty of services that ensure security of data traveling across a wireless network. Through a virtual private network (VPN), users can securely connect to a corporate LAN using encryption technology.

Insurance carriers should identify service providers and wireless network carriers that can mobilize the corporate environment through the implementation of these three essential security ingredients:

  • Authentication: Ensure that network users are who they claim to be based on certain credentials and verifies that data sent between two users has not been altered by a third party.
  • Encryption: Encryption enables sensitive information to traverse a public network without compromising the confidentiality of the data.
  • Access control: This concept focuses on blocking unwanted users from gaining access to an internal network. Access control is typically achieved through authentication for IP security (IPSec) traffic. An IP VPN is an IPsec-based VPN that uses encryption and authentication to offer the appearance and functionality of a private data network over a shared IP network such as the Internet.

Despite modernization and integration of disparate systems, it is speculated that claims and the expenses associated with managing them are still around 80% of the operating ratio for property and casualty companies.
If those estimates are even partially correct, it calls for further scrutiny as to how current technologies can be utilized to further reduce costs.

Device security, durability, portability, affordability and reliability have improved dramatically, making it a ripe time to mobilize the industry.

This makes scaling for the future easier through enterprise grade solutions that enable the carriers to deploy the necessary environment to adjusters using a variety of devices and operating systems without having to re-tool the solution.

Laura Mildon Xideris is segment solutions manager for Sprint Business Solutions, Overland Park, Kan.

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