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Do You Know Where Your Insurance Documents Are?

Among the challenges the insurance industry is currently facing perhaps the least talked about, yet one of the most critical is the increasing complexity of the document lifecycle. All users—internal business users and policyholders—have high expectations and are becoming more demanding about how documents are created, produced, managed, delivered and, how the information they capture is returned to you.

Without documents—forms, policies, premium notices—it would be impossible to do business. But it’s not like the old days when data went in one end of the mainframe and policies came out the other, printed and ready for delivery.

Where print was once the only option, today documents are produced and delivered by an ever broadening variety of technologies. The evolution of documents in insurance is much like the evolution of TV programming. Not long ago, TV viewers had a choice of a handful of channels.  Today, viewers are able to choose from hundreds of channels; often with options of when and where to see their favorites.  Printing of insurance documents is similar to having access to the major networks—an expected option, but only one of many. Sure, printing of insurance-related documents is important, but users now want a choice of how, when, and where when it comes to insurance document production and delivery.

The pressure to provide policyholders with options of print, email, web, smart phone or tablet may come sooner than you think. Once a priority, the organization will be faced with challenges to ensure all forms and documents delivered via various channels are compliant with both corporate and regulatory standards, as well as ensuring that you know exactly where each document is in its lifecycle.

Consider the development of the new forms and documents necessary when you’re planning to expand the types of policies offered or looking to move into new markets. It would be helpful to have a robust collaborative process that allows everyone from all lines of business who have some level of ownership in the document or form to participate in its design or approval.

While design might be the purview of experienced designers, these specialists generally aren’t knowledgeable about insurance compliance. While marketers may also not be up on current regulations, they are concerned about having forms and documents comply with corporate standards for fonts, images, and other branding guidelines, while ensuring consistent messaging across all delivery channels. Sales wants to know with certainty if a new form or document will be ready to begin selling new insurance products or open new territories in order to make forecasts.

Perhaps of equal importance to ensuring compliance, consistent messaging, and effective timing is the need to track and report the status of forms and documents in all phases of their lifecycle, whether under development, in production, in an archive or being viewed on a website, smart phone or tablet.

An historical analogy lies in the fairly recent past. Not long ago the people who ran your in-plant or outsourced print operations couldn’t tell if the documents produced were accurate until actually printed. Even more troubling is they also couldn’t tell whether the documents printed contained accurate data or had been printed in their entirety. An increased focus on document accuracy began in the late-80s and early-90s when insurers realized their potential exposure to risk as well as increased customer service complaints.

In response to the lack of document governance, several vendors began the development of what became known as the Automated Document Factory (ADF).  An ADF solution is comprised of camera and scanner-based technologies that read barcodes, OCR and other symbologies to verify the proper pages have been printed and, in some cases, validate the accuracy of the printed information. It is quite common to find these technologies in today’s high volume insurance printing operations.

Unfortunately, even with the benefits an ADF solution offers, barcodes can’t tell you anything about how documents and forms were created; who or what departments participated in the design, review, approval and assembly of documents before production and delivery; or if a policyholder viewed an application change form on their iPad or whether they filled it in and signed it.

In the future, the ability to track and report on all activities involved in the development, handling, delivery, and return receipt of documents and forms via the various channels will become imperative. Without a fully tracked and audited process that monitors the entire document lifecycle, insurers are opening themselves to significant risks, added costs, and increasingly dissatisfied customers.

While the technology required is different, insurers can employ the same logic that drove the development of the ADF, applying it to tracking the design, assembly, approval, production, and delivery and receipt of electronic documents.

Organizations might consider integrating audited upstream systems with existing ADF technologies to enable managers to view real-time status reports for all documents, whether under development, in production, or being delivered electronically. Acting now will help insurers avoid future chaos.

Scott Bannor has held sales, marketing and product management positions with a number of industry leaders prior to joining OBRIEN in December 2012. He has been a frequent speaker at industry events. He can be reached at or 708-434-5323.

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