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Q&A: Great-West Life Crafts Mobile Service Solutions for Group Benefit Customers and Plan Members

Brad Fedorchuk, VP, Group Marketing, talks about the opportunities and challenges of mobility, and how Great-West Life has created a strategy to complement its existing online and and call center capabilities.

Brad Fedorchuk
Brad Fedorchuk, Great-West Life
Great-West Life (Winnipeg, Manitoba), a group benefits market leader serving more than 32,000 plan sponsors and handling over 50 million group health and dental claims transactions annually, recently released its GroupNet for Plan Members, which provides secure mobile access to personalized coverage information, allows online submission of healthcare claims, and provides the location of the nearest healthcare providers with access to Great-West Life's Provider eClaims through a built-in GPS-based mapping tool. Brad Fedorchuk, VP, Group Marketing, The Great-West Life Assurance Company, recently talked with Insurance & Technology's Executive Editor Anthony O'Donnell about a mobile strategy that complements the insurer's existing online and call center service capabilities.

Insurance & Technology: What is Great-West Life's mobile strategy? How does the company think it must cultivate the channel and why?

Fedorchuk: Great-West Life is committed to developing useful and innovative technology that helps group insurance plan members manage their healthcare benefits and prescription medication. This includes responding to the growing number of smart phone owners who use their devices to manage healthcare and other personal information. With ever-increasing and competing demands on their time and attention, plan sponsors and plan members expect providers to connect with them in their preferred manner, whether through traditional means or new media, while providing immediate and convenient access to benefits and their benefits information.

What kinds of communications and functionality does Great-West Life believe need to be available through the mobile channel?

Fedorchuk: GroupNet Mobile was designed to provide mobile access to the features most frequently used on GroupNet for Plan Members. As an example, the GroupNet Mobile app allows plan members to submit online claims, securely access personal coverage information and securely view member card information "on the go." The app will also enable them to locate approved eClaims providers using GPS technology — a Canadian industry first among group benefit plans.

How does Great-West Life see mobile in relation to the company's existing e-commerce strategy?

Fedorchuk: GroupNet Mobile is seen as a complementary service option to existing website and call center services, and will help plan members access their benefits program information more easily and conveniently.

How do you see mobile as differing from other channels, both technically and in terms of concept and vision?

Fedorchuk: Mobile offers technical challenges in terms of platforms, screen resolutions, and additional phone-native functionality (such as GPS) that other platforms don't offer. These challenges become opportunities, as we have not simply created a link to a mobile website, but have re-designed the navigation of GroupNet mobile to achieve our vision of the best customer service as defined by the channel our customers want to use. The GroupNet Mobile app runs in a secure environment, so another website or app can't access data from it. iPhone mobile digital devices offer a variety of features that users can access to help ensure information they download to their devices is secure.

Tell us about the resources and time required to creating the GroupNet Mobile app.

Fedorchuk: Many existing internal technical skills were used; however, design consulting expertise and iOS expertise were sought out to deliver an outstanding application. Great-West Life drew on the experience of its call center operations and feedback from GroupNet for Plan Members, our market-leading group plan member website (with over 700,000 active members registered, and an average of over 480,000 visits per month) to build an app that speaks directly to many common questions the call center receives from plan members.

The development was a mix of recycling existing databases and program logic, and harnessing unique characteristics of the platform (such as GPS and Mobile navigation protocols). Because most of the emphasis was on design rather than creation of databases, an agile development methodology was used and the app was developed in approximately six months.

What other mobile apps has Great-West Life released?

Fedorchuk: Great-West Life's recently introduced DrugHub, the first mobile health application from a Canadian group insurer. DrugHub for iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad is available to all Canadians, free of charge, on the Apple App store. A virtual medicine cabinet in your pocket, DrugHub can be personalized with the user's prescription information to help manage their prescription medications. We are now working on GroupNet Mobile for the BlackBerry and Android platforms, and plan to have both of these versions released before the end of the year.

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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