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?Q&A

Doug Grant
Partner at Insurance-Canada.ca

Please give a bit of background on how the insurance industry has embraced a digital transformation.

Digital technologies – including data analytics, machine learning, AI and voice – have long contributed to a more efficient workflow for the insurance industry, but a key goal for deploying them has always been to enhance the engagement with customers.

From “anytime and anywhere” communications and self-service to better product development, pricing, underwriting and rating, and digital marketing automation for broader product awareness, the customer experience has been central to the industry’s efforts to advance technology capabilities.

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However, all the related planning, investments and innovation have created a foundation from where insurance organizations were able to adapt to new conditions shaped by the coronavirus pandemic and continue to deliver their essential services with little interruption.

What are some of the impacts of COVID-19 on the insurance industry?

First of all, it meant that everybody had to work from home. The majority of insurance organizations had already been working with collaboration and communication platforms, which offer functions like video meetings and support tools to improve teamwork, but the shift to remote work was still a monumental effort that had to be done in very quick order.

An important consideration was the safeguarding of customer data, and insurers had to make sure adequate protection was in place, for example, when employees were using their own laptops or home computers, which increases the potential for introducing cyber issues into the network.

How are digital capabilities helping customers during the pandemic?

Even before COVID-19, the deployment of AI, data and technology has supported efforts to make it better, faster and easier for consumers to get and manage their insurance. What used to be a 30-page paper form that people had to complete to qualify for health insurance now is likely a digital – or even a smart – form with significantly fewer questions, with both data from other sources and predictive analytics informing the underwriting.

All the digital tools – including paperless communications, e-signatures and tele-interviews – eliminate the need for person-to-person interaction while enhancing the adviser’s role, which meant customers can access insurance-related services even when physical distancing advisories are in place.

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Can you please give an example of an innovation enhancing health outcomes for Canadians?

There are many examples, such as insurance organizations collaborating with their health-care partners to create resources for patients like comprehensive and up-to-date directories of care providers. Other efforts include improving access to mental health supports – and making some of them accessible virtually.

Crowdsourcing tools have also found their way into the insurance space and can be used to evaluate medical and dental service providers, with customer feedback potentially influencing recommendations from insurers and increasing the value for users. When I recently submitted a dental benefit claim, for example, I was asked to rate my experience with the dentist.

How will some of the changes inform the way forward?

The capacity of the insurance industry to rapidly adapt to new conditions bodes well for its ability to meet the changing needs of Canadians, and many analysts expect that digital transforming will advance at an ever-faster pace.

For the people employed in the industry, we will see how many of them will go back to working in an office in a traditional way and what that office will look like – this is a question to which we may not know the answer for a while.

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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