By VINEET JAIN, the CEO and founder of Egnyte, which provides on-demand file servers and other IT services to small and midsize businesses
Many insurance brokers and underwriters have failed to leverage technology to streamline the employee
benefits process. Arcane practices, such as a reliance on fax and e-mail for document transmissions, result in costly redundancies that directly affect the bottom line.
The time-sensitive benefits process, however, requires efficiency, accuracy and a rigorous adherence to protocols that ensure data security. Given the number of steps, and people involved, the potential for failure is high. For client companies, the number of employees exponentially multiplies the process and risk potential.
THE PROCESS AS IS
Data are collected, shared, reviewed and processed by the employer, insurance benefits broker and the underwriter. The multipage application is completed, signed and transmitted to the benefits broker. The insurance benefits broker has the task of reviewing it for completion, clarity and signature before passing it on to underwriting. Brokers may also identify potential issues that need to be resolved prior to forwarding, leading to additional data collection and revisions from the client.
The underwriter receives and reviews the application and communicates decisions in another round of paperwork to the benefits broker. At the underwriting stage, there are often questions or items that require clarity, generating revised applications or additional documents that the broker must obtain from the client and forward to the underwriter. Lengthy underwriting cycles delay the time from application to receipt of cash, increasing competitive pressure and affecting profitability.
Many brokers and underwriters continue to rely on fax transmission to transmit and share the data throughout this entire process. This method of document sharing and collaboration results in missing pages, unclear transmissions and lost applications that require follow-up calls, e-mails and further fax transmissions.
When there is a failure and a looming deadline, some employers and brokers take the desperate measure of e-mailing applications, risking violating HIPAA standards of secure transmissions of health information.
In absence of automation and process checks, failure functions as the alert system.
WHAT IT COULD BE
These inefficiency and security issues can be resolved by leveraging cloud computing technology. A cloud file server can streamline the application process, and provide secure document sharing and storage.
Cloud computing delivers hosted services or applications through the Internet. It is distributed across a network of computing resources, rather than a single location or machine. This capability enables end-users to access on-demand resources and to scale as needed without IT programming, maintenance costs or additional infrastructure.
With the file server hosted in the cloud, there is no equipment or software to purchase, install and learn.With a cloud file server, insurance brokers and underwriters can leverage innovative technology to streamline and secure the benefits installation process without a large investment of time, money and IT resources.
Employing a cloud file server (also called an on-demand file server) for document storage and collaboration eliminates the inefficiencies and risks associated with fax and e-mail. Brokers and underwriters can control access and permissions, so there is less risk of cross-client data sharing.
HOW IT'S DONE
A broker that utilizes a cloud file server would create a secure file for an employer client and grant permission to access it to designated company representatives. The broker can grant access to specific files or the entire folder. The employer would log in with a unique security access provided by the broker and could upload all employee applications.
The broker and underwriter could then log into the cloud file server and retrieve the necessary data.
This solution allows multiple parties to access data without transmitting them through e-mail or fax. Each party simply logs into the server and retrieves the data they need. The system can also track versions so that changes are automatically recorded and can easily be retrieved. The risk of lost or unclear documents could be eliminated.
The use of cloud computing technology also improves the security of the entire application process. Required data is uploaded directly to the secure server, in a secure client file. There is no risk of misdirected transmissions, ensuring HIPAA compliance and data privacy.
Clients benefit from improved service levels and a shorter application process. Brokers would no longer have to ask clients to resubmit applications or pages that are missing or lost. The server functions as the document control portal, and all parties involved in the process have access to documentation and timelines.
Eliminating the redundancies and risks involved in the application installation can significantly improve operations and cash flow.In a time of reduced resources and mounting economic pressure, it is hard to ignore how the deployment of innovative technology can help achieve operational efficiency and cost improvements.
November 1, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications