High-speed anywhere/anytime wireless communication may still be an elusive goal, but P&C companies such as Ohio Casualty Group (OCG, Fairfield, Ohio; $1.4 billion in 2003 net premiums) are using available wireless technologies to reduce claims cycles and achieve significant efficiencies, according to Chad Hersh, a Boston-based analyst with Celent Communications.
In "Wireless Technology for P/C Carriers: Ready for Prime Time?" Hersh reports that OCG has improved response and cycle times through an implementation of wireless card-equipped laptops combined with digital cameras and San Diego, Calif.-based Mitchell International's eClaim Manager applications, running over Sprint PCS' (Overland Park, Kan.) cellular wireless network.
"The adjusters are able to run the claims on the laptop, and once a claim is completed, it's more or less immediately uploaded [to OCG systems] via the wireless connection," Hersh relates. Cellular wireless communications only allow for about half-DSL speeds, at the best of times, but that is acceptable, given the design of the system. "The way OCG views it is, 'So what?' -- because the communication trickles up when the laptop is not in use," Hersh explains. "So if the adjuster is driving to the next location, the system is busy uploading."
The transmission speed OCG uses is faster than the first-generation of the technology, thus enabling direct uploading of digital photos. That means saving the two to four days traditionally required for developing film and sending it to claims handlers at the home office, Hersh notes. As an adjunct to the claims system, OCG home office personnel sends assignments directly via the Web, which reach the adjusters as text messages on their cell phones, Hersh reports. The result has been a 12.5 percent increase in field appraiser productivity.
Overall claims cycle times have been reduced by 50 percent, which in turn has proportionately slashed car rental charges. "Car rental savings alone have topped $1 million so far, and total savings on other advance charges, such as towing and storage, have exceeded $2 million, or nearly $150 per claim," says Hersh.
Wireless brings other advantages too, according to John Kellington, OCG's senior vice president and CTO. "Had we not had wireless, our alternative was to introduce some kind of replication facility where adjusters could work off-line, write up the reports, collect all the digital information and replicate it throughout the day," he says. "Technically it's hard to get that stuff working very well, so wireless gave us the best of both worlds: adjusters can work disconnected, but from a technology standpoint, we didn't have to change our applications that dramatically."
Most important, the technology gives customers the right impression, Kellington submits. "It shows policyholders that we can provide the service that they would expect from any modern industry," he says. "That makes OCG easier for agencies to do business with, because they understand that we're investing in the technology needed to support their customers and ours."
For more on this topic, see "Emerging Wireless World," on page 30 of Insurance & Technology's August print issue.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio