Tag Archives: ams

The Key to Agency Management Systems

Digital capabilities are more important than ever across all parts of the insurance ecosystem. That includes the world of principals and producers, who rely on agency management systems (AMS) to serve as a workbench for their main activities: selling insurance, managing clients and managing themselves. 

While some vendors have slowly expanded the capabilities of their core offering, others have integrated with larger, agency-focused suites of stand-alone software solutions that offer a broader range of capabilities to speed up transactions, automate processes and create a better overall experience for agents. Insurance carriers that consider agents’ ease of doing business one of their differentiators will likely have to integrate with these platforms at a minimum. 

Insurers may use AMS solutions for internal MGAs or agencies, but the primary overall users of these platforms are independent insurance agents. Modern AMS platforms are designed with these agencies in mind. Originally, these solutions began as enterprise resource planning platforms, but now they act as day-to-day workbenches. Carriers that want to improve overall agent relationships, which ultimately leads to better policyholder relationships and retention, need to consider how their products, processes and policy information will be part of these AMS ecosystems.

General Functionality of an AMS

While smaller agencies usually turn to an AMS that offers capabilities like advanced lead management and carrier connectivity, larger agencies are more likely to take a component-based approach and select a software suite with a broader range of solutions. These differences are not unlike the differences in core systems approaches taken by larger and smaller insurers. 

The difference in AMS purchasing approaches can cause some confusion about what functionality an AMS should offer, but there are three general categories of functionality that any solution, whether stand-alone or suite component, should cover: selling insurance, servicing customers and managing the agency itself.

AMS platforms help with selling insurance policies by tracking prospects, managing leads, understanding appetite, automating communications and generating quotes, among other capabilities. They can help service customers through capabilities like serving as a central record of customer activity (e.g., changes in policy, billing, claims, etc.). AMS solutions can also help improve operational efficiency by facilitating agent workflow, tracking calendars and deadlines, managing alerts or tracking individual and aggregate agent activity. 

Selling Insurance

Sales capabilities in an AMS include functions like managing leads, generating quotes, reporting underwriting appetite, automating emails, creating and storing templates for communications, managing the pipeline, marketing integration and integration capabilities (or APIs) with insurers’ portals. 

Quoting and underwriting appetite has become an area of focus for agents because omni-channel approaches are becoming the norm. Agents are also relying on AMS platforms to manage mobile messaging and social media posts, not just email and phone. In some cases, this might require insurers pre-approving templates or implementing software that can monitor compliance through a direct integration with the AMS or through workflow steps. AMS platforms are also commonly offering “next-best action” recommendations built on analysis of touchpoints and customer responses to marketing initiatives. 

Servicing Customers

When it comes to servicing insurance customers, AMS platforms typically offer download from/upload to insurers, execution and recording of endorsements, document management, ACORD forms, policy information updates, contact information maintenance, the storage of billing information, bill pay, monitoring of claims and record of payments. The platforms can also automatically alert agents when there are any service concerns that need their attention. 

Agents prefer platforms that make it easy to conduct all of their business through one interface, so allowing integration between agent portals and AMS platforms is a wise option for insurers. Agents and insurers alike are focused on the customer experience, meaning that AMS platforms should keep track of all policyholder interactions across the insurance life cycle. 

Ease of upload to insurance carrier systems can also be a differentiator; a recent Novarica study showed that 38% of young agents’ AMS platforms did not include upload ability, but they would like to have that capability. Consistent data across insurers and agents can improve customer service for inquiries as simple as updating contact information to more complex interactions like filing a claim.

See also: How Carrier Tech Drives Agency Change

Managing Agents

Agency management is a basic tenet of an AMS, and each platform should include some form of workflow management; monitoring of compliance, credentials and license; commissions tracking; general ledger and accounting; dashboards that show agent performance; data and analytics functionality; and sales and technology training. As AMS platforms have evolved to keep up with platform and industry trends, so have these capabilities. 

Regulation is top of mind for most insurers, and AMS solutions can help maintain compliance through monitoring and managing agent credentials and licensure. An AMS can produce reports and send alerts to ensure that agents are staying up to date with their licenses. AMS platforms can also help agents with their workflow management, including laying out process steps, milestones, dependencies and approvals. 

These components are becoming increasingly sophisticated; insurers looking to simplify agents’ day-to-day work should be clear about which steps require touchpoints with the carrier so the AMS can be configured properly. Some AMS platforms offer analytics capabilities to help improve sales and retention for agents and their overall agencies, routing particular opportunities to the agent who is best equipped for that specific lead. 

The marketplace for AMS platforms is broad, and agencies have plenty of options to choose from. Insurers therefore cannot routinely predict which AMS platforms the majority of their independent agents are using. Instead, insurers have to stand ready to be flexible — with data APIs, integration with connectivity platforms, easy download capabilities, readily available digital assets and, above all, a willingness to listen to their agents and understand what kinds of integrations would be most valuable and helpful to them.

Fixing the EMT Crisis in Rural America

What if you call 911 during an emergency medical situation and no trained emergency medical technician (EMT) and ambulance responds to the call? This scenario is a very real medical crisis facing rural America today.

What if you are unconscious or extremely disoriented during a medical emergency when EMTs arrive? Virtually every emergency room physician has to handle such a patient during every shift in a community hospital.

NBC national news recently ran a lead story about the EMT shortage that threatens rural communities across the country. Roughly 70% of EMTs in rural America are unpaid volunteers with full-time jobs and families to take care of. Their numbers are rapidly dwindling, causing a terrifying crisis where 57 million people face the risk of losing vital emergency medical services. In many small towns, there is no local doctor, and the EMT/ambulance community serves as a front-line safety net.

This crisis is exacerbated by the fact that EMT services are not funded in 39 states because they are not considered “an essential service” like police or fire. Try telling that to the person who just had a stroke or heart attack. In the case of a stroke, which is the second leading cause of death worldwide, a person receiving treatment within three hours of the onset of symptoms has the best chance of not only survival but living a normal daily life.

As much as 60% of local EMT ambulance services are typically paid for through community fundraising, such as spaghetti dinners and fish fries. The longer a person must wait for medical care during an acute medical event, the less likely that the person will have a positive outcome. What if you call 911 during a medical emergency such as cardiac arrest and nobody shows up? People who could have been saved will die.

It is estimated that one third of all emergency medical services in rural America are in danger of closing due to the lack of funding. The system designed to save American lives needs a rescue now. It is time for the federal, state and local governments to respond to what medical experts describe as a dire situation.

See also: Musings on the Future of Driverless Vehicles  

My second scenario, in which a patient arrives unconscious but with no visible signs of trauma, is so common that emergency rooms physicians have a shorthand term for it: AMS, or “altered mental states.” With AMS, the emergency room physician is essentially flying blind as to the root of the medical emergency. The patient could be facing any number of underlying medical problems. Has the patient suffered a stroke, heart attack, seizure, serious infection, allergic reaction, diabetic coma or overdose of prescription or illegal drugs? All these potential medical issues are just the tip of the iceberg faced by the ER medical staff.

The ER physician must do a rapid assessment of the ABCs: patient’s airways, breathing and circulation, including pulse and blood pressure. The first few minutes may be critical. The rapid assessment is known as DON’T. Does the patient need Dextrose for diabetic shock? Does the patient need Oxygen to the brain? Does the patient need Narcan due to an opiate overdose? Does the patient need Thiamine due to alcoholism or encephalopathy?

DON’T covers immediately life-threatening conditions that can cause a patient to be in AMS, but that an ER physician cannot always find. Typically, ER physician’s end up ordering a lot more lab tests, EKGs, CT scans, etc. just to confirm a suspected diagnosis. The first few minutes are focused on the array of things that may cause AMS that can also kill you quickly. The average time to complete comprehensive medical testing in the ER is six hours.

But what if ER physicians and staff knew your medical history and who your primary care physician was, had access to your online medical records and knew what prescription drugs and dosage you were taking and what allergic reactions you may be dealing with before you even arrive at the emergency room? Many lives could be saved every day. What if simultaneously your family, spouse, friends, worksite and babysitter were notified of the situation and what emergency room hospital you were being taking to by the EMTs? Without question, the patient would have a much greater chance of not only a better and less expensive patient experience, but the notifications could save lives and prevent lifelong disabilities. The average time it takes an ER to contact a patient’s emergency contacts is four to six hours. That statistic includes patients who are fully conscious.

Tim Lally, president and CEO of My Notification Services (MNS), has been working on the development of such a program for what he describes as a “10-year pilot program.” MNS provides enrolled members from a sponsoring organization with a kit that includes a bright yellow emergency sticker, which is placed on the back of a driver’s license or other form of identification such as a student ID or insurance card; a sticker for an auto, truck or RV is also provided, along with an option for an array of MNS medical alert bracelets that can be worn 24/7.

The enrolled member receives a unique ID number through an online process that allows each member to provide potentially critical medical history and contact information. Each member then has 24/7 access to update any medical or contact information and the ability to print out any additional personal MNS ID cards.

EMTs are trained to look for emergency medical cards or other forms of medical alert information for patients who are unconscious or dealing with AMS. The EMT sees the MNS sticker and calls the 800 number, which is then answered by 1 of 22 call centers around the country and Puerto Rico. The call center operators fax or email all the pertinent medical history, primary physician contact information and insurance coverage to the hospital emergency room in this pre-planned process within five minutes of the initial call, prior to arrival at the hospital ER.

See also: Using High-Resolution Data for Flood Risk  

This program can both save lives and provide peace of mind and can be sponsored by an endless list of organizations, associations, corporate and union health benefit plans, along with a vast array of insurance programs. I have the sticker in my wallet and my car windshield. You should, too.