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Physicians Mutual Centralizes Customer Data

Physicians Mutual has worked with IBM to create a customer information management system.

Having shifted $15 million in premium collections online and increased first-call resolution with policyholders by 15 percent, Physicians Mutual, an individual health and life insurer, is already realizing the benefits of its massive Greenfield initiative, a strategic program established in 2006 to refocus the carrier's technology and business processes on a customer-centric model.

A key component of the Greenfield program is what the company calls its "customer information management [CIM] system." Implemented in July 2008, the CIM system acts as a centralized depository of customer data for the Omaha, Neb.-based carrier, says Dan Simpson, Physicians Mutual's CIO. "We needed to improve the quality, the accuracy and the consistency of our customer information," Simpson explains. "We wanted to enable our deduplication processing and really set the foundation for the replacement of our policy administration systems."

At the heart of the CIM system is Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's Master Data Management (MDM) Server, a software that, Simpson says, provides the company with a single consolidated source of customer information and ensures the high quality of that information. The MDM implementation process largely consisted of integration work — connecting the MDM product with the carrier's legacy customer data environments.

"Essentially we implemented what is right now a one-way data integration between our legacy data environment into MDM," Simpson says. "That's an ongoing integration. There are jobs every night that sync those up."

As IBM and Physicians Mutual's IT team worked together to establish that integration, business teams from both companies teamed up to identify rules to be embedded within the MDM product to support data maintenance, such as those pertaining to existing customers and deduplication.

"In order to really enable the services of the purchased product, and to allow integration with the rest of our systems, we had to put a component layer above the product that provides front-end services that can be utilized to gain access to the underlined MDM product," Simpson says.

The Bigger Picture

The MDM product was selected in part because of how well it fit in with the rest of Physicians Mutual's technology environment, Simpson says. As part of the larger Greenfield program, the carrier sought to modernize its technology infrastructure and move to a service-oriented architecture. In addition to that infrastructure work, the insurer has also implemented a new billing and collection application and distribution management system.

In doing so, the carrier implemented other IBM solutions, including much of its Websphere product stack. "This seemed to be a fit from that perspective, such that it could be implemented with a lower degree of effort because of some of the support and pre-integration [achieved] as a result of a consistency in vendor," Simpson relates.

Currently Physicians Mutual is working to leverage the CIM system in various parts of its business. Already the carrier has enabled representatives in its call centers and other pertinent areas to access customer billing and marketing history, says Roger Moeller, assistant vice president and enterprise architect at Physicians Mutual. "Those kinds of things can be valuable in having that relationship with a customer and knowing what products we could offer them going forward," Moeller suggests.

More cross-channel uses of the data, Moeller says, are forthcoming. Also the carrier is poised to look to the MDM Server solution in early 2009 as part of an effort to replace outsourced deduplication services. "[It] will give us more control over our customer information and save us significant money," Moeller asserts.

Simpson adds that in the future the carrier hopes to use the CIM system to support more customer-facing online tools, specifically mentioning recurring online payments. "[When customers] enter their name and address, we need to be able to recognize that they are a current customer," he says of the possible recurring payment sign-up process. "This technology allows us to do that by receiving the information they've filled out in an [online] form and comparing it to information we have in MDM and determining that the information really matches an existing customer. We can then find all the policies and other information we have about them and provide them with a greater level of service."

Case Study Profile

company: Physicians Mutual Insurance Co. and Physicians Life Insurance Co. (more than $2.6 billion in total assets).

lines of business: Individual health and life.

vendor/technology: IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) Master Data Management (MDM) Server.

challenge: Improve quality, accuracy and consistency of customer data.

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