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Permanent General Scraps Paper

Freedom's Claims Workstation enables auto insurance company to increase efficiency.

With growth comes change, and Nashville-based Permanent General Companies ($122 million in assets) is no exception. Its increasing size not only made its mostly manual claims cycle more inefficient, but was also problematic to manage from a supervisory point of view. As the paper increased, according to Wes Kirkland, vice president of claims, so too would the cost of additional resources needed to manage "a very manual process."

Although Permanent General's claims system was mostly paper-based, the company utilized what Larry Lauder, chief infortmation officer and vice president of IS, calls "a home-grown, locally developed system with fairly limited functionality." The system, which was used for several years, lacked the automatic assignment and workflow management elements crucial to Permanent's efficiency.

"We needed a system that provided an improvement in our efficiency and productivity and reduced claims cycle times," says Kirkland. "We were seeking a Windows-based system with a structured environment—a simple, well laid-out user-friendly system. We were also looking for a system that could be integrated into our AS/400-based policy management system."

Kirkland and his associates chose The FREEDOM Group's (Cedar Rapids, IA) Claims Workstation—a system possessing the adjuster-friendliness that weighed most heavily upon the firm's decision. "It's very simple, very well laid-out, and adjuster-friendly," says Kirkland. And given that the adjusters are the bottom-line users, he adds, "that was the key to the ultimate decision," The implementation process took about five months and between five and 10 percent of the IT budget, according to Lauder.

Because the FREEDOM software utilizes the same technologies as the old system, there was no significant technology dollar deployment, and the additional costs were also insignificant. "We are still running our AS/400, which supported our old claims system, so there was not much savings there," says Lauder. "At the same time, we were already running Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows NT networks, including SQL Server, so there was not much additional cost associated with running Freedom." In fact,the only technology changes needed with the Workstation's implementation were upgrades. "We had a number of older PCs and these systems needed to be upgraded to effectively run the new software," says Lauder. "We also upgraded to either 19- or 21-inch monitors for those users that did not have them already."

In the 15 months that Permanent General Companies have utilized FREEDOM's product, they've realized a significant decrease in their claims cycle. "One of the most important aspects to the claims cycle we monitor through FREEDOM is the days to first contact with the customer," says Kirkland.

"Our ability to better monitor and measure daily adjuster activity has enabled us to decrease our average days to first contact by 29 percent." As projected, Permanent has also met its productivity goal by realizing a 15 percent increase. Kirkland's only regret is that the company didn't implement FREEDOM sooner, he says.

Permanent General also utilizes SolCom's (Sioux Falls, SD) MultiManager imaging suite in its customer services and underwriting areas, with a small amount of use in claims. Permanent General plans to integrate the imaging system with FREEDOM. "Our goals for the next year are to implement digital cameras and imaging in the field and to try and integrate the current SolCom system with FREEDOM," says Lauder. "We really only need the image management portion of SolCom since FREEDOM has all of the workflow pieces built in already."




Permanent General Companies, Nashville, $122 million in assets.


Personal automobile insurance.


The FREEDOM Group's (Cedar Rapids, IA) Claims Workstation; Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows NT; SolCom's (Sioux Falls, SD) MultiManager imaging suite.


Run an adjuster-friendly claims-management system.

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