Automating Claims Processing
and Increasing Daily Throughput More Than 350%


Background

With more than 3,700 employees in twelve European countries and the United States, Allgemeine Rechtsschutz Versicherungs-Aktien-Gesellschaft (ARAG) is an international leader in legal insurance with over 6.5 million policies in existence worldwide totaling more than 1.3 billion Euro in 2005. They offer life, health, liability, and motor vehicle insurance, as well as being Germany’s largest provider of private estate insurance.

Challenge

Processing and archiving massive volumes of paper mail was a major challenge for ARAG. In the past, a 50-person sorting team classified and distributed incoming mail throughout their Duesseldorf corporate offices, but the growing complexity and expense of physical processing and archiving led them to adopt an electronic system in 1995.

The system enabled ARAG to store incoming mail electronically in a centralized 150-person Policy Department. This department managed customer contracts and policies; including new requests for insurance products, address changes and other correspondence.

To prepare paper mail, a Policy Department team sorted and prepared documents for scanning by category; including "requests", "complaints", "notices" and "reminders", a process that required the addition of a cover page for each document. As the documents were scanned, a custom Visual Basic (VB) application was used to manually index each with the sender’s policy number. Indexed documents were captured and stored in a records system.

When ARAG updated their records system to a newer version, they reevaluated their processing and archiving software and decided to migrate their C/C++ document conversion solution, the VB indexing application, and client application to Java. This move would enable them to support infrastructure growth independent of hardware and operating system requirements.

In order to make the switch, ARAG needed a 100-percent Java solution that would enable them to perform vital document processing and conversion on their captured TIFF electronic documents. ARAG required reliable functionality for their front-end client viewing and indexing applications, and needed the solution to scale effectively as they added new functionality over time. With more than 200 users and 20,000 pages scanned daily, ARAG sought a reliable Java SDK and Library to facilitate the process.

"Snowbound’s RasterMaster technology still is one of the best-performing solutions I have seen through 10 years in this business”
— Frank Gronenborn, IT Architect, ARAG

Solution

After reviewing solution options, ARAG selected Snowbound Software’s RasterMaster Imaging SDK and Library for the Java Platform. “In the evaluation process, Snowbound’s RasterMaster solution stood out,” says Frank Gronenborn, IT Architect, ARAG. “Even now, Snowbound’s RasterMaster technology still is one of the best-performing solutions I have seen through 10 years in this business.”

ARAG used RasterMaster to display documents, generate document thumbnails, switch between pages in multi-page TIFF documents, extract metadata, divide / merge multiple documents, and many other vital processing capabilities.

The insurer’s legacy records system would not adequately support a fully functioning Java conversion, indexing and client front-end, so ARAG started in-house development of a custom Java-based records system, leveraging the advanced document processing power of RasterMaster. After only 6 months, the new system began functioning in parallel to the old system, and eventually all of the records had been seamlessly migrated into the new system without any problems. As the application grew, ARAG integrated faxes received electronically and indexed them as if they were created by scanners. ARAG had also started to record AFP documents created by classical Mainframe-Output-Batch by converting the AFP-Files into TIFF Format.

With capture, conversion, indexing, archiving, and client-front end all integrated into the new Java-based system, ARAG began a new phase of development — adding claims processing into the records and workflow system. For this project, they once again utilized Snowbound’s high-performance RasterMaster imaging and conversion SDK.

ARAG’s latest initiatives include supporting electronically received insurance requests which are temporarily stored in PDF format by the company’s sales application. Gronenborn says, “Since ARAG’s records system still only supports TIFF, JPG and plain Text/COLD, the PDF must be converted into TIFF. RasterMaster helps us manage this conversion step.”

As a result, notes Gronenborn, “We created a Web client interface of our workflow/records system front end which is used in our local intranet. The recorded TIFF images could not be displayed in a Web browser without any plug-ins. We decided that instead of using any client plug-ins, we would convert the TIFF images into PNG format on the server side.”

Since implementing the Web client interface, ARAG extended the application’s document retrieval functionality to remote sales associates and insurance brokers, who are based throughout Germany. These users can now access documents and images in ARAG’s repository through the company’s storage area network (SAN).

ARAG also streamlined its retrieval of electronic policy requests. The original process entailed collecting thousands of emails with PDF attachments per day. The request team staff would have to manually select the unread messages and create the contracts from the attachment. This procedure was time-consuming and costly because it required that the staff take extra time and care to ensure that the documents were processed correctly.

The incoming email requests can now be checked by an automated system, which imports the PDF-requests directly in to ARAG’s records system; from there they are converted into the TIFF format and are processed through ARAG’s business process workflow system.

The new automated system expedites workflow and ensures timely and efficient processing of all claims. It also enables the company to track and capture a document’s workflow history – including annotations, edits and collaborators; this enhances compliance efforts in a way that the mail workflow could not.

Results

  • Increased daily throughput by more than 350%
  • Digitized the process from import to indexing for both employees and partners
  • Enabled the company to automatically index and archive an average of 35,000 mail documents and 3,000 faxes daily
  • Migrated to a 100% Java solution while supporting AFP, TIFF, and JPEG Increased the number of employees with access to the images from 450 up to ~2000
  • Expedited processing of finishing requests and creation of contracts through automated system, saving time and increasing efficiency.
  • Created a track record of document workflow history.

With the completion of the project, incoming mail is now redirected for centralized delivery in Duesseldorf, where it is scanned and indexed prior to distribution. Incoming email is also converted to TIFF and stored on the system. Overall, the company now processes mail and e-mail for an average of 17,000 incidents daily, and stores 35,000 incoming mail documents daily, totaling approximately 70,000 pages, plus 3,000 faxes averaging 10,000 pages.

The system provides ARAG’s internal employees and sales partners with online import functionality for multiple document and image formats, so that claims could be submitted online and indexed directly at the office. Since ARAG’s claims departments had to deal with evidentiary photos, it became necessary to store JPEG as well as Multi-page TIFF images.

From the project’s initial inception in 1999, Snowbound’s RasterMaster for the Java Platform scaled effortlessly throughout all phases of ARAG’s processing and archiving solution. This enabled the insurer to migrate to 100 percent Java while supporting all of the required file formats including AFP, TIFF and JPEG. ARAG is currently investigating adding RasterMaster’s support for Microsoft® Word and PDF, as well.

Snowbound’s RasterMaster also provided the advanced processing functionality required for ARAG to successfully implement their front-end client viewing and indexing applications, which grew from 200 to 450 users in two years. Gronenborn says, “Now all 450 users can manage incoming documents through a single powerful system that combines records and workflow functionality — enabling ARAG to increase daily throughput by more than 350 percent.”

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