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Selective’s Claims Reps Go Mobile

Insurance adjusters gain flexibility and improve customer service with PDA Software's Mobile Claims Application.

Getting claims reps into the field increases quality of service to both claimants and agents. But when adjusters spend hours transcribing notes or cutting and pasting onto green screens, service suffers and claims expertise is wasted on busy work.

So it was when Selective Insurance Co. ($2.5 billion in assets, Branchville, NJ) transitioned from handling claims over the telephone to field-based operations in the mid-'90s. Its claims management specialists spent a significant portion of their time transferring claims information from one source to another.

"When we put our adjusters in the field, we gave them laptops, but they didn't have mobile capability and had to use mainframe technology" when in the office, says Debra Wilber, assistant vice president, claims operations. Specialists would visit claimants and, depending on the reps' work style, would take notes long-hand or directly into a Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Word file. Once back at the office, the adjuster would log on to the home-office policy system and either transcribe or cut and paste onto code-heavy green-screen fields.

"They fired up a connection to the home office and had to deal with response time over the telephone line," Wilber says. And if that wasn't onerous enough, reps ran the risk of losing all they had inputted. "One of their biggest complaints was a dropped line," Wilber says. "It was just a high level of frustration and sometimes doubled work."

Increased Mobility

However, as part of the transition, Selective planned to incorporate mobility for field-based operations. "We knew we needed to replace our current claims system, so we had to ask ourselves what we wanted," Wilber says. "You need the tools, and one of the things that was missing was claims automation. We didn't think they should need any kind of a phone line to do their job; we wanted to 'cut the cord.'"

Selective searched for a vendor to help construct a system that would work in both office and field environments, and ultimately settled on Overland Park, KS-based PDA Software. In what seems an impossibly large development window today, Wilber says, Selective started working on the claims system five years ago. "We thought we had a great idea, and decided there could be a market for it as well," she says. During the course of the collaboration, Selective bought PDA Software, which remains a subsidiary today.

The collaboration resulted in Selective's Mobile Claims System (MCS), which uses an AIX/Oracle (San Mateo, CA) 8 database and Claims Application Server, with a front end developed in VDI (virtual device interface, an ANSI standard format). It runs on Windows NT and 98 and is Windows 2000 compatible. It uses Microsoft (Office and supports Microsoft Exchange. Laptops run on a personal Oracle platform.

Selective piloted the system in its workers' compensation line in 1999. The laptop roll-out commenced in February 2001, in Selective's Southern region of operations, comprising the Carolinas and Georgia.

Claims adjusters using MCS download policy information prior to visiting claimants. After entering claims information on-site, the system calculates coverage on the spot. Reps log-in and send the results to the home office at a convenient time, following the visit.

Laptop As File Cabinet

"In the former environment they could spend two to three hours inputting. Now it happens in 15 minutes," Wilber says, noting that, even if there is a line disconnection, no organized information is lost. "The laptop is now the adjuster's filing cabinet."

Under the renovated claims system, the central servers, in fact, become everybody's filing cabinet. All changes logged in by the field reps can now be accessed by the customer's agent through the Internet and by all relevant Selective personnel. "We created a Web-based viewer or inquiry system," Wilber says. "There's not a person in the company that hasn't benefited by the data being here."

Selective plans to have MCS running in 20 states by September. The technology is available commercially through PDA Software as


Case Study Closeup


Selective Insurance Co., Branchville, NJ, ($2.5 billion in assets).


Personal and commercial lines P&C.


Proprietary Mobile Claims System built with PDA Software.


Enable mobile claims adjusting to improve customer service.

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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