Insurance is a paper-intensive business and handling paper has long been one of its largest operating expenses. However, digitalization in the industry is creating a shift towards electronic documents. This allows information to flow more freely, increases productivity by reducing manual processes, and allows companies to save on paper and physical storage. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, electronic documents also enable distributed and remote working. But no innovation comes without its own challenges. For insurance agencies, it is how to integrate various electronic documents from carriers with their AMS (agency management system).
To facilitate fast and accurate data exchange, ACORD (Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development) provides standards for the electronic delivery of policy documents and messages between insurers, brokers and agencies. Another common form of data exchangeis eDOCS, which replaces documents previously handled via email, fax or the post, with a secure way to communicate while also ensuring data quality and consistency. eDOCS uses an ACORD XML data standard to allow carriers to generate auditable and secure messages and documents which can be sent to agencies.
An insurance industry study reported that 69% of agencies use eDOCS, and 65% of insurers send them (2020 Digital Connectivity Technology Adoption Survey). The study pointed out several benefits of using eDocs and Messages.
· Significant time and cost savings over handling paper
· Improved workflows through automatic routing of documents
· Enhanced customer service due to faster responses to queries and issues
· Increased efficiency and productivity due to reduced manual intervention
· Accessing documents faster and easier
· Improved security of documents
· Reduced cycle time to deliver a policy from weeks to days or even hours
While eDOCS offer definite benefits, there are also challenges that agencies must address when adopting them.
1. . While some AMS will process eDOCS, for many insurance agencies this still means that implementing a system to integrate eDOC into their AMS is complex.
2. Each message contains an XML header that identifies the type of the message. Depending on the header, an agency will often have to set up different workflows to route a message to an AMS.
3. The adoption of the technology is not yet universal, and different carriers support different transaction types. This leaves agencies burdened with both electronic and paper documents.
4. eDOCS do not have the ease of bi-directional interaction that an email has. Because of this difficulty, agencies forego eDocs and continue with emails and manual work.
The impact of these challenges is that companies continue to use manual methods for inputting data, which equates to more money and time spent on these activities by staff.
What is needed is an automated way of processing eDOCS to:
1. Identify what type of message is received.
2. Extract the contents of the message into a format that any AMS can accept.
3. Allow agencies to make eDocs messages bi-directional.
With the Synatic Hybrid Integration Platform (HIP), eDOCS can be identified, the contents extracted and translated into an understandable format, and then routed to an AMS. A HIP also enable eDOCS to be created using the appropriate XML standards.
Getting eDOCS to work with an AMS is a data integration exercise, albeit with some unique issues. It is simple to build a Synatic flow that interrogates an eDOCS XML file and is able to identify what type of message it is from the header of the eDOC. Then using a mapping function that has patterns for each type of message, the contents can be extracted to a standard format such as JSON. This can be done for each eDOC message individually or sequentially and if needed, the eDOCS can be batched and processed as a group.. The data within the eDOC is then stored in Synatic's in platform data store and can be formatted to fit to any AMS data input specification..
According to research by IVANS Insurance, using eDOCS can save agencies about 20 minutes per manual transaction. By automating a bi-directional flow, agencies can achieve greater efficiency and improved customer service, which will bring in more revenue.
But because of inconsistencies in the insurance industry regarding which systems supports what eDOCS, agencies have rejected the technology and stayed with paper. However, carriers that decide not to embrace this new form of data exchange risk losing business to those who make it easier for agencies already using eDOCS.
Synatic's Nimble, Simple and Powerful Hybrid Integration Platform eliminates the complexity of integrating eDocs into an AMS. This helps agencies reduce the time spent on manually re-keying in data, and prevents errors associated with manual data entry. If you want to automate the integration between eDocs and the AMS to improve your agency’s efficiency and productivity contact Synatic today.