How Insurers Are Digitizing Claims with Apps, Photos, Videos, E-Payments and More

The digital transformation of the insurance industry isn’t just for insurtech startups any more.

At Allstate, 60 percent of claims are now filed with a cell phone application that allows policyholders to take photos of the damage, Chief Claims Officer Ken Rosen said.

Farmers Insurance is beta testing a product that uses high-resolution photos to create “a shell” of a repair estimate that can be fined-tuned by a claims adjuster, Senior Vice President Frank Carni said.

And CSAA Insurance has penned a deal with Owl Cameras Inc. that will allow it to place video cameras in policyholders’ vehicles to record crashes and jump start the claims process.

Consumers are demanding this movement toward high-speed claims resolution and improved customer service, said Andreas Kleiner, chief executive officer and president of American Modern Insurance Group during the opening day of Insurance Nexus’ Connected Claims USA Summit in Chicago recently.

“It’s right here, right now,” Kleiner said during his opening keynote address. “Amazon has changed the rules. The entire insurance value chain will be disrupted. What was truly advanced three years ago has become table stakes.”

One of the latest advances comes to the industry through Owlcam, the product of a Silicon Valley startup that sells smart video cameras for cars. When a crash or break-in occurs, Owlcam instantly sends a video clip to the driver’s cell phone, which can be shared with the insurer and police. The Owlcam app also allows the policyholder to file a first notice of loss that includes the videoclip.

Owl Cameras was launched in Palo Alto, California in March 2018, according to a press release from CSAA. In 2019, the company added new features and began selling the product through major retailers and through business-to-business fleet sales.

During the conference, Cal Hankins, CSAA’s vice president of claims, showed a video of 17-year-old driver named Ana who collided with a minivan when the other vehicle cut into her lane and abruptly stopped. Hankins said without an Owlcam in the car, Ana would likely have been found responsible for the accident because of her inexperience as a driver and the lack of evidence proving that the other vehicle darted in front of her car.

Another video displayed a thief stealing a Porsche. The owner of the car used the Owlcam app to take a high-resolution videotape the criminal, which he shared with police. The car was recovered within hours, according to the video.

Hankins said video cameras are becoming ubiquitous in automobiles. Tesla puts six cameras in its vehicles. Volvo is experimenting with a video system to deter drunken driving.

“It means we are going to get a mountain of crash videos real soon,” Hankins said. “We are already getting some, but it’s going to become much more prevalent. The good news is that our customers love videos. They love to show us their side of the story.”

Carni, the Farmers executive, said while automation of the industry will reduce the number of workers needed to handle claims, it will also allow those workers to focus on work that isn’t repetitive and requires critical thought.

Carni, as did other speakers at the conference, emphasized that the “human touch” will always be required in the claims process.

“Employees want to do high-value work,” Carni said. “They want to be rewarded for critical thought.”

Carni said video-estimating technology has enabled Farmers to adjudicate claims using only photos in 95% of total-loss auto claims. The carrier is now hoping to expand its photo-estimating capabilities in property claims through a system undergoing testing.

Allstate has also moved most of its claims adjusting in the auto space to a virtual process, said Rosen, the chief claims officer. He said initial photo estimates often require a supplemental report once an auto body shop starts repairs, but in those cases Allstate uses a “virtual assist” system that refers supplemental reports to the next available claims adjuster. No time is spent playing telephone tag, he said.

There seems to be a place for technology at every point in the claims process. Daniel Regan, vice president of financial services for SAP Ariba, pitched his company’s ability to automate interactions with vendors. Regan said SAP’s network allows insurers to monitor the work done by vendors to ensure quality and “digitize payments” to reduce tensions.

Deva Annamalai, an innovation strategist for FiServ, told insurers not to forget about payments. He said his company has a developed a solution that can send electronic payments through consumer’s debit cards.

“Having to mail checks after building these fantastic claims systems, that’s going to be a failure at the end of the day,” he said.