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Analysis Gives Insurer Competitive Advantage

Time lost to disability is a drain on productivity, especially during a labor market shortage.

Time lost to disability is a drain on productivity, especially during a labor market shortage. Providing disability analysis and strategic advice as a value-add supplies a powerful weapon to both employer/customer and carrier in their shared battle against higher claims totals. It also cements customer loyalty, giving the carrier a competitive edge.

Phil Bruen, vice president, product management, group income protection, Unum-Provident (Portland, ME), says that among the questions employers need to ask when evaluating loss-of-work costs are, "'Who are the people not at work, and how do they interact with each other? What are the patterns and trends by location or manager that I need to pay attention to?'"

Unfortunately, providing meaningful answers to such questions has traditionally been difficult. A few years ago, when UnumProvident was still "in a mainframe, paper-based world," such information was "either out of reach, or done on very much an ad-hoc basis," says Bruen. "You'd almost have to have someone come in and run a query against the mainframe, run a paper report and then send it to the customer."

However, Bruen adds, that is not the kind of thing you could do with 1,000 employer customers, running 150,000 reports a year. "It was all we could do to provide static paper reports," he says.

In late 1997, UnumProvident acquired applications service provider Options & Choices, Inc. (OCI, Cheyenne, WY), which had developed a Web-based platform for reporting integrated claims information to employers. "OCI does analysis, using Ph.D. statisticians, to single out variables driving lost-time cost and productivity," Bruen says.

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

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