APIs – shorthand for Application Programming Interfaces – are essential and familiar elements of our increasingly digital lives. From booking a trip through Expedia to shopping on Amazon, APIs seamlessly connect various IT systems to share information and facilitate real-time transactions between platforms and providers.
While widely used by technology and financial companies, forward-thinking insurance firms are now adopting APIs as a way to enhance customer experiences through digital transformation, says James Ocampo, Executive Vice President of Wellfleet Workplace.
“Most insurance companies have 50 years of pent-up technology built on legacy systems and architecture,” he explains. “This creates a lot of technical debt from multiple systems of record – such as separate billing, policy administration, and claims systems – that each do their own processing, but don’t speak to each other.”
In contrast, technology rooted in APIs allows IT systems to share information in near real-time and redefine how carriers, brokers, employers, and customers interact. Ocampo points to three distinct advantages:
- Speed: APIs give systems the ability to exchange data in real-time versus relying on traditional batch or manual processing. In turn, carriers can accelerate processes such as quoting, implementation, and claims, while increasing accuracy and reducing costs.
- Collaboration and reach: The same APIs that enable a carrier’s systems to interact with one another can also be applied to collaborations with new and existing business partners, like carriers, brokers, or enrollment firms. Through the exchange of clean data, they also offer carriers new opportunities to easily fulfill the consumer’s desire for choice and the ability to compare options across brands.
- Customized experiences: APIs make benefits more accessible for brokers, clients, and customers. They facilitate the exchange of accurate data across multiple channels to empower all members of the value chain, including customer service, to enhance the employee experience with real-time updates. For instance, an employee can access their unique coverage details via an online portal, start a claim, then finish it on the phone with a customer service representative, who picks up right where the employee left off. Further, brokers and clients can receive enrollment, claims and billing data in real-time for each employee.
While traditional insurance systems have focused more on internal business transactions, today’s benefits – especially voluntary products – require a more customer-centric approach. This includes providing a better overarching experience, including customized engagement and education resources at the consumer level. APIs shorten technology development timelines and give carriers, brokers, and insurtech companies the tools to adapt.
“APIs enable carriers to interact effectively with business partners, but the real value is at the consumer level,” Ocampo says. “APIs are propelling benefits from a once-a-year experience to ongoing engagement that’s more in-line with consumer experiences outside of our industry. “
Shaping that narrative, Ocampo expanded on how API connections help consumers quickly retrieve their unique coverage information, claims details and educational materials in a variety of formats, whether online or via an application. Simply put, API connections help simplify the product for consumers. When the connections exist, consumers may easily identify how their plans work in concert with core medical, as well as what claims benefits they qualify for based on plan specifics.
“Overall, APIs are helping to provide a personalized experience, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. Looking ahead, carriers can expose APIs to broker partners and insurtech companies, to transact uniquely, improve operating efficiencies, and enhance experiences,” Ocampo adds. “The carriers that are able to easily interact with these partners and play within this ecosystem will have an advantage.”
Wellfleet is the marketing name used to refer to the insurance and administrative operations of Wellfleet Insurance Company, Wellfleet New York Insurance Company, and Wellfleet Group, LLC. All insurance products are administered or managed by Wellfleet Group, LLC. Product availability is based upon business and/or regulatory approval and may differ among companies.
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