The importance of engaging underwriters in electronic medical data adoption


Part of our Underwriter-to-Underwriter blog series
By Carolyn McAvinn, FLMI, AALU, PMC-IV

June 14, 2021

Adopting data sources and technologies that have the capability to make underwriting more efficient makes good business sense. However, ensuring underwriters are able to operationalize these tools and fit them into their workflows isn't always as easy as it sounds. I recently read an article that makes an interesting point on this challenge. It says that there often remains a persistent and troubling gap" between the "inherent value of technology and an organizations ability to put it to work effectively." This is exactly one of the key challenges facing carriers as they adopt use of electronic medical data in lieu of traditional underwriting requirements (APS, exam and lab results).

For the last few years, many of us working with electronic health data have focused on promoting the operational benefits of using the data in terms of cost, speed and efficiencies related to automation and analytics. Most of these discussions included underwriting operational leaders, vendor managers and members of actuarial teams and centered on why carriers should consider piloting electronic data. These were important and necessary discussions - but it's really only the first half of what needs to be considered and discussed when adopting an electronic medical data solution.

Lately, the conversation is shifting. Carriers are asking for support in educating their underwriters and helping them embrace the benefits of electronic data. They also are looking for guidance on how to best incorporate use of electronic data into the underwriting production workflow. It is clear from my conversations that that there is a need in the market for underwriter training and socialization that is not being met. We have an opportunity, maybe even an obligation, as data partners to provide support and build educational materials to help address this challenge as well as engage with the human underwriters that need help navigating the use of alternative data solutions, including electronic medical data. Isn't it our responsibility to help set our ultimate users up for success?

As a former underwriter, I very much relate to this challenge. A similar circumstance arose a few years ago when the use of credit as a mortality assessment tool was introduced into traditional workflows to determine eligibility for accelerated underwriting. At the time, I was with a carrier that was an early adopter of this data and the challenges were real. Not only were the underwriters trying to understand the nuances of the product, they were also navigating the conversations regarding adverse outcomes to sales partners. Using digital health data isn't exactly the same proxy type of tool, but it faces similar challenges in that it is replacing something that is known and familiar and underwriters need help in embracing a new way of doing things.

I have spent a lot of time in the recent past with MIB member companies who are working to adopt electronic data, talking underwriter-to-underwriter with my colleagues helping them address some of these challenges. Based on those interactions, I developed training materials and an EHR Toolkit that MIB now uses regularly with our clients. These tools provide guidance to help underwriters best incorporate electronic data into their workflows and insights to help them embrace the need for change. These are the types of services and tools that data partners must now provide to help bridge the gap between the "inherent value" of medical data and a carrier's "ability to put it to work effectively."

Work with your vendors to learn about the data and how best to use it. MIB has the experience to help you on the electronic medical data integration journey. We are here and happy to help lead your underwriting teams to success.

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About Carolyn McAvinn

Carolyn McAvinn is the Director of Business Development for MIB, Inc. Prior to joining MIB in late 2018, she held various underwriting roles supporting multiple companies, product lines and distribution platforms. These included underwriting management, direct line production underwriting in the life, disability and long-term care markets and assisting with the development of underwriting engine automation and accelerated underwriting programs. Carolyn is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and currently serves as a board member of the MUD (Metropolitan Underwriting Discussion) Group in NYC.

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