March 18, 2013 -- A next generation smartphone app is set to save insurers millions of dollars in the wake of natural disasters by ushering in an era of ‘crowdsourced’ claims management, according to a leading app development specialist.
The clever new claims management tool – an innovation of leading digital mapping specialist MapData Services (MDS) – comes as the local insurance industry has been hit with more than 59,010 claims worth $661.3 million from recent ex-tropical cyclone Oswald alone.
MDS General Manager Cassandra Barker said the app provides a direct and instantaneous link between policyholders on the ground and claims assessors in the office.
“The app enables policyholders to instantly submit a geographically referenced claim to their insurer with just a click of their smartphone,” Ms Barker said from the Future Insurance Conference in Sydney today, where MDS has unveiled the new technology platform.
“When an incident occurs – such as a storm or flood – the policyholder can use the app to record detailed information supporting their claim, such as a photograph or even an audio or video file.
“The application prompts for any additional information the insurer may need – such as a written description or the time of the incident.
“All of this means no more painful phone queues and drawn out questioning from assessors because insurers already have the information at hand.
“Better still, the app starts a two-way conversation between the insurer and the policyholder – ensuring the customer is kept up-to-date about their claim every step of the way via instant messages and progress updates.”
Ms Barker said this new generation app was just the beginning for insurers, who could further use ‘crowdsourced’ data to stamp out fraudulent claims.
“Insurers typically face a litany of false claims during natural disasters, as fraudsters attempt to claim damage that doesn’t exist or was not caused by the event in question,” Ms Barker said.
“By taking advantage of this best-of-breed crowdsourcing technology, insurance assessors gain an immediate understanding of the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘what’ of a policyholder’s claim.
“They can then cross-reference this data against other claims and ascertain whether it is consistent with the path or extent of a disaster, to expose fraudulent claims instantly.
“This could potentially save millions in unnecessary assessments and payouts on fraudulent claims.”
Ms Barker said insurers can also map the crowdsourced data they receive with a range of other information – such as property data and service providers’ details – to help prioritise and expedite customers’ repairs and estimate potential losses.
“By adding this information to the picture, insurers can access structural data to ensure early access to sparkies and chippies, who are inevitably in short supply after large-scale disasters,” Ms Barker said.
“Insurers can also prioritise claims to ensure those in the most distress are assessed as quickly as possible.
“This can help reduce claims leakage – where loss costs increase as damage worsens through lack of repair.”
Although new to the insurance industry, the smartphone tool is widely used by government agencies around the world to empower citizens to report everything from potholes to major crimes.
“This same technology has been used successfully for similar apps in dozens of major US cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu – and even here in Australia in Adelaide,” Ms Barker said.
“As an incident reporting tool, we saw it was a natural fit for insurance as it could drastically reduce the cost of managing claims – as well ensure policyholders’ needs are quickly addressed.”