Magazine Article | December 20, 2006

Document Imaging Yields Processing Efficiencies

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Deploying a document imaging and management solution allows an auto insurance company to streamline business processes and eliminate much of its paper costs.

Integrated Solutions, January 2007

Esurance, a direct-to-consumer auto insurance company headquartered in San Francisco, promotes itself as "committed to taking the hassle out of shopping for, buying, and managing auto insurance." But the company — through which insurance coverage is available to 80% of drivers in 24 states — wanted to make handling claims documentation equally hassle-free, while better serving its customers, reducing costs, and following through on its commitment to help protect the environment.

"We considered document management our best option because of the speed and savings it would provide and for its potential to reduce the amount of paper we use," says Mark Hofmann, claims technology manager. "That last point was very important, as we support several conservation activities and our environmental friendliness is heavily promoted in our advertising and on our Web site."

Beginning in mid-2003 and through mid-2004, Hofmann and a team of other individuals from various Esurance departments (including IT) evaluated numerous document management solutions. Some of these applications had been designed specifically for the insurance vertical, while others were more generic. The team eventually chose the DocFinity document management solutions suite from Optical Image Technology, Inc. Implementation of the solution began in late 2004 and wrapped up by the middle of 2005.

Hofmann cites several rationales for selecting the suite. "Flexibility and modularity were key in our case," he states. "We needed to be able to take certain pieces of a system to start and then add other modules or capabilities down the road, as growth or other factors indicated. We also needed the option of first using components in a limited way and then moving to a more enterprise-wide approach, at our own speed."

The solution resides at Esurance's data center in Sioux Falls, SD. It comprises several components of the DocFinity Enterprise Core, including Native Client (Imaging), a Windows-based image scanning, indexing, and retrieval tool, and IntraVIEWER, which permits claims department personnel to retrieve stored documents from inside Esurance's network. (IntraVIEWER also facilitates document retrieval from outside companies' networks through a Web browser, but Esurance does not utilize it in this fashion.) Paper documents pertaining to claims are scanned into the system using Canon scanners, while electronic documents, like e-mail and JPEGs, are uploaded.

Esurance also has integrated several add-on modules into the system configuration. One such module, the DocFinity Barcode Server, reads bar codes placed on scanned documents. These bar codes tell the system how to automatically index and store the documents. Esurance also utilizes the bar codes as "separators" to indicate where one batch of documents ends and another begins. Other modules include DocFinity Print/Fax Server, which allows stored documents to be sent to a printer or fax machine directly from storage without being opened, and HSM (hierarchical storage management), which moves, backs up, and deletes files based on age, category, and any other user-specified parameters.

According to Hofmann, the new system has sparked multiple improvements in document management efficiency. Notably, it has streamlined the process of accessing claims information by eliminating the need to search through file folders and piles of paper to find necessary documents, as well as the task of physically bringing paper documents to the fax machine or printer before transmitting them to a recipient.

Indexed images can be located online in a few seconds, versus the several minutes or more it took when people had to leave their desks, walk to the filing cabinet, and go through a drawer or drawers to find what they needed. Fax and printing requests, including multiple requests, are handled with similar speed. Additionally, the direct routing of items between the storage device and print server reduces network traffic, in turn bolstering the efficiency of every user on the network.

In drastically limiting the volume of printed documents Esurance generates, the solution also yields savings on such materials as paper and ink while allowing the company to exercise more environmentally-friendly record-keeping measures. "While we still do print out certain documents in certain situations, we aren't using nearly as much paper or ink," he asserts. "That has been good for our bottom line and good for the environment."

Hofmann adds that Esurance will reap additional benefits from the implementation within the next 6 to 12 months, when it expands its use of another system component called Workflow to encompass more departments. "With Workflow, we'll be able to move documents from department to department or person to person," he explains. "It's another way of taking document management to the next level and providing better service in the process."