The question of digitization of the insurance industry has been on the agenda for quite some time. The innovation work has developed substantially, not least during the past few years. But where a lot of money and effort is put into property and liability insurance, personal insurance seems to fall behind. Vigorous joint efforts need to be taken to make sure personal insurance takes part in the technological transformation. There are numerous untapped opportunities that would generate both a safer and faster handling as well as higher confidentiality. The obstacles to development lie foremost with the public sector as well as with regulations. To this end, digitization of the information exchange between the insurance industry and the healthcare system is vital, according to the authors of this article.
The digitization implicates considerable changes and offers vast opportunities for improvement for the insurance industry. It is the driving force behind the development of companies, products, and services in a way that profoundly changes both the behavior as well as the expectations of consumers. Furthermore, the consumers are increasingly involved in, and often the driving forces behind, the technological advancements and, thus, creating pressure for change.
To a large extent, the insurance industry has responded well to both the opportunities and the challenges that are brought on. Especially during the past few years, we have seen a considerable acceleration in the pace of innovation. However, our view is that one segment of the insurance industry is lagging behind, namely personal insurance. In Sweden, a significant part of the correspondence, when regulating a personal claims case, is still being made via traditional channels, such as regular mail, telephone, or e-mail. For example, today, information from the injured party is usually retrieved via standard forms and often filled out by hand and then sent via the postal services to the insurance company. Our view is that too much time is spent administrating the manual process – scanning medical records, then printing them, and then, once again, scan them – including monitoring and uploading of pdf documents, etc.
The whole process is expensive, time-consuming, and unsafe – and a sometimes frustrating experience to everyone involved and, at the end of the day, leading to a considerably inferior customer experience that affects the injured party in a negative way, in that he/she has to wait unnecessarily long for his/her outcome.
The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) has also observed the need for an increase in digitization in personal claims and points out in a promemoria dated April of this year, addressed to the Swedish government, that the manual work steps are still too many. They also point to a report from 2017, which states that the insurance companies themselves identify the increased demand from the consumers for simplification and speed in some insurance claims processes as a real challenge for the industry.
To obtain personal data requires a letter of authorization from the injured party. A digital exchange of personal data provides greater integrity with regard to the data sent.
Today, medical records are sent by mail. That means that they are printed at the healthcare facility, picked up from the printer and then put in an envelope, then sent via PostNord, which usually but not always deliver it to the right addressee, then some employee working in the mailroom of the insurance company opens the letter and scans the document and files it with the correct claims case. During this process, several things can go wrong, which also sometimes happens. A digital solution where medical records are encrypted and sent directly to the person who has requested the information, with a letter of authorization, would substantially lower the risks for unauthorized people to see the medical records’ contents.
Furthermore, a digital solution would also benefit the environment by lowering the climate- and environmental impact of letters, envelops, transportation, and scanning leaves. Both the healthcare facilities, as well as the insurance companies are today working in a paperless environment, i.e., in digital systems. Why not take advantage of this for the sake of the climate?
Yet another consequence of continuing to work with analog processes is that it makes it much harder, or even impossible, to work with structured data. By using data, entirely new opportunities arise for the insurance industry; according to calculations made by Mavera, approximately 25% of all cases could, in the long run, be automated – time that could instead be used for more qualified and customer-oriented work.
Thus, it is about time that both the Government and the insurance industry collectively take on responsibility in this matter. We, who are working with personal injuries claims, must be allowed to make the same digital leap as other industries have done before us. That will make us both more efficient and more in tune with the customers’ expectations – that which in the long run will benefit customers, the healthcare facilities and the insurance industry alike. Digitization offers incredible opportunities. As a minimum, let’s put an end to handwritten notes sent by snail mail.
Olle Svensson, MD and Professor Emeritus at the University of Umeå
Staffan Moberg, lawyer, Insurance Sweden (Svensk Försäkring), the industry organization for insurance companies in Sweden
Gustaf Neander, MD and President of the Assocation of Medical Advisors (FMR, Föreningen för Medicinska Rådgivare)
Mario Pereira, founder of Mavera, the leading supplier of medical claims assessments in the Nordic region