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Nathan Golia
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Two Insurance IT Predictions from Gartner: Are We Closer Than They Think?

Gartner predicts a social network will become a distribution channel and that health paying and providing will merge by 2014. But the groundwork is well-laid for both.

It's prediction season, and many industry prognosticators have released their thoughts on what's to come in insurance IT through 2012. (See, for example, Accenture's and X by 2's suggestions in Insurance & Technology exclusives.)

Gartner, however, takes it a few steps further. Among the line items in its "Top Industry Predicts 2012: Industries Face intensified Consumerization and Technology Disruption" are two assertions about the insurance industry that the consultancy expects to see by 2014: "at least one social network provider will become an insurance sales channel," and "30 percent of U.S. private healthcare payers will acquire providers, forcing integration of application suites as delivery and finance merge."

Blurring the lines between health insurers and providers is already well on its way, as the industry undergoes a sea change following healthcare reform. It seems a safe bet that we'll see more Kaiser Permanente-like organizations. That company's IT organization, CIO Phil Fasano told I&T sister site InformationWeek, is focused on such disparate projects as "electronic medical records, population care tools, and knowledge [of] the potential of DNA."

Selling insurance through social media, meanwhile, gained a lot of momentum in 2011 and could mature much sooner than Gartner's 2014 prediction. Allstate, for example, began offering product information and a link to their quoting site through LinkedIn this year. There are already ways to set up e-commerce capabilities on Facebook: If these platforms mature to the point where insurance companies are able to gather the information they need to write a policy, it stands to reason that consumers will take advantage of it. As customer experience consultant Bruce Temkin told me late last year, the insurers who make it as easy as possible to buy their products will see the most success with today's consumers. The key to doing that is streamlining the application process, he explains:

"As soon as a couple of insurers have smooth, easy application processes, there's no way their competitors can operate with really crazy information requirements," Temkin says. "The idea is that we're going to assume that there's a certain set of applicants that don't need to give us a ton of information because they'll go through our systems pretty quickly. We can refine our pricing over time and live with a little more risk early on."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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