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Q&A with Pharmacists Mutual CTO Barrie Parker

Barrie Parker, Pharmacists Mutual, discusses paperless and self-service content management initiatives.

I&T: What are some of the content management challenges Pharmacists Mutual faces?

Parker: We have three primary companies: a P&C operation, a life insurance operation and an agency that we use to place business that doesn't fit in one of our operating lines. Our core niche is pharmacy business, but we also have home medical equipment and home healthcare [lines]. As you might expect, with all of the regulations and changes in the healthcare industry, there's a lot of information based on those customers that we support. The agency is a different animal altogether -- since we deal with a number of different carriers, we can't use, say, a Hartford form for the customers we've written with Travelers.

You have been building an enterprise data warehouse, converting stand-alone IBM Lotus Notes databases to integrated Microsoft SharePoint applications and creating a customer portal for Pharmacists Mutual's website. How do these efforts fit into your content management strategy?

Parker: We want customers to be able to come in and get claims information, policy information, certificates of insurance and auto cards, for example, without having to call us and go through the switchboard. The enterprise data warehouse, nightly, can populate that customer portal with updated information from our processing system. We can also get daily updates from our processing system to our [Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft] SQL database so that we can extract up-to-date information -- it's only, at the most, one-day old -- to better manage our business and predict outcomes.

How will a central data warehouse imrove the company's content management?

Parker: You have to get some good statistics on how many customer inquiries you're getting on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and do a unit costing of the inquiries you're handling through customer service reps and switchboards over a month or a year. Then you have to determine based on your customer base how much you can offload from the phones, the faxes and e-mails to a customer service/self-service portal. It's good for the customer and also for the business to eliminate as much as possible those paper inefficiencies.

What does this paperless trend mean for the internal enterprise?

Parker: We have, in-house, our own document management system that provides for scanning and electronic filing of paper documents. The paper is shredded right away. We also electronically distribute work tasks rather than pushing paper around, so we don't have any real paper files to speak of.

You need very clear document-retention policies put in place in case of any e-discovery [demands]; you have a policy that you adhere to so if [a document] has been purged in following the policy, you aren't in jeopardy of being deemed that you purposely got rid of it. Decide when to archive things and when to purge things, and stick to it.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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