For many carriers, the savings from standardizing data transfer to reduce paperwork represents a quickly demonstrable ROI stemming from XML-based standardization."The insurance industry has the most to gain from XML because of the paper intensity companies deal in every day," says Lloyd Chumbley, assistant vice president of standards for ACORD. "A lot of industries have already been slowly ridding themselves of some of that congestion. But insurance companies have not done this to date."

Boston-based OneBeacon Insurance Group, for one, estimates that it is saving up to $535,000 a year from a newly implemented XML-enabled automated claims processing solution. Most of the savings is calculated based on administrative time no longer spent re-keying or manually routing documents around the company.

Previously, OneBeacon's agents would fax claims forms to OneBeacon's offices, where they would be re-keyed into the company's mainframe-based system, explains Dave Ostermeyer, assistant vice president of IT claims for OneBeacon. "They faxed it in to us, and we would manually process it and route it to the individual working on the specific claim."

Areas were XML can be deployed effectively include services that require interfaces with outside parties, such as auto repair dispatch, fraud detection, agency or producer integration, medical bill pricing, care management, state reporting, and vendor management, says Matt Foster, senior manager for the insurance industry services practice of Accenture.

"These are good examples of where carriers are breaking down their four walls and looking to outside service providers to provide business value," he says.

Many companies are moving to a hybrid of older paper-based approaches and new XML-enabled interfaces. OneBeacon, for example, chose a third-party firm, EasyLink Services Corp., to convert its high monthly volume of faxed ACORD first notice of loss forms into ACORD XML data. Forms containing about 140 fields of information are faxed to EasyLink, where they are read into an OCR system and converted to ACORD XML and forwarded to OneBeacon's claims system.

"We bring that XML data in-with image attached-and load it into our claims database, and attach it," Ostermeyer explains.

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