When asked what these changes were, the most common and significant appears to have been methods of communication with claimants and evidentiary requirements.
Prior to the pandemic, wet signatures, original claim forms, and evidence sent via the postal service were standard practice for insurers. During the pandemic, claims teams had to change their philosophies to be more flexible and pragmatic with evidence requirements: how evidence was gathered, what was needed and how it was assessed.
Given the burden on the National Health Service and the associated delays, claims teams could no longer rely so heavily on this pathway and an increase in the use of customer-supplied evidence was seen. Our clients also reported using secure emails and moving to a paperless process in addition to adopting telephonic interviews and placing greater focus on email correspondence.
Additional temporary changes to philosophies included:
- Not disadvantaging claimants for late notification of claims
- Reduced, and in some instances total, inability to send claimants for independent medical assessments
- Changing the requirements for how short-term (COVID‑19) claims were managed by admitting for a pre‑defined limited period based on the average disease duration and government guidance at the time
- Advanced partial payments for certain Critical Illness claims
To accommodate the above customer-focused changes, changes to internal processes needed to be introduced. As in many industries, insurance claims teams were required to work from home and needed to adapt to this very rapidly. Prior to the pandemic, most of the participating companies were already offering a variation of hybrid working options to their teams, but only one participating company allowed fully (100%) remote work.
In terms of frequency of official meetings or catch‑ups, only one participating company changed how often they met during the pandemic when compared to before COVID‑19 (instead of meeting weekly, this changed to a few times a week). The other participants remained consistent with their pre- and intra-pandemic meeting frequencies which ranged from either once a day to no fixed structure (as and when necessary).
An article by Forbes published in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic highlighted that with the shift to working remotely entirely, now was the time to overcommunicate. This was not only to keep a team productive but also to reduce the negative emotional toll that reduced social contact had on teams. We can see this to be true when looking at the various channels used by the claims teams during the pandemic.
One of the communication tools that underwent extensive take‑up in 2020 was videoconferencing, with tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom being mentioned most frequently. According to an article on TechDigest, Microsoft Teams’ daily active users (DAUs) shot up from 44 million on 19 March 2020 to 75 million in the first month of the pandemic.
By April 2021 this metric had increased by an additional 93.33% to 145 million DAUs. Zoom experienced similar growth, with sales soaring 326% to USD 2.6 billion in 2020.
This was consistent with what we found in our survey, with videoconferencing becoming the second most-used platform (besides email) to communicate within the claims teams (Figure 2).