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The One Thing Everyone In Insurance Tech Is Talking About That No One Likes Is PDF Management

PDF Management

Hundreds of megabytes. 

That’s roughly the size of the folder containing THOUSANDS of ACORD PDFs that all need to be processed.

All of them came from policy holders who downloaded the form off the website, filled it out, and submitted them, in some way, and now there they are, in that folder.

Here’s the deal. Having a standardization around forms in the insurance industry has made a lot of things better. The standardization and maintenance of insurance forms is what ACORD has done, since its founding in 1970 and more recently has developed a library of electronic data standards— all of which has been great for the industry.

But a lot has changed in the last 50+ years as well as since 2008 when the PDF became an open standard, which is what all these insurance forms are standardized in, which makes sense. It’s a great format for digital documents and I even philosophize about the proliferation of PDFs here.

And this leaves everyone in the insurance industry with one HUGE problem.

What About The Data?

Being able to leverage the data in a PDF or augment the data in a PDF is a nightmare.

And so you might be facing that folder of thousands of ACORD PDFs, just sitting there waiting to be processed.

Because so often people print them out, write on them, scan them, and email them. Or others people actually type into them using any number of available tools, which is better.

But the document natively isn’t searchable. The data written/typed on them isn’t in a database.

How do you get at the data?

It’s not surprising that many organizations to just throw workers at it and simply have them read the data, with eyeballs.

Help Wanted: PDF Management & Data Entry Position. Must be willing to repeat the same steps hundreds of time per day while you pontificate the meaning of your life.

Side note: I actually don’t mind repetitive rote work—on occasion. There’s something satisfying about renaming 2,000 files to adhere to a strict file-naming convention. Yeah, I’m weird.

You’ve heard the buzz-word Digital Transformation, am I right? But what does that even mean?

The scenario I’ve just described above is where the rubber meets the road in terms of what that actually means.

Sure, PDFs are already digital, but digital transformation means extracting it in an automated fashion and rendering that data useful, which means being able to combine in with other data, report on it, and so forth.

Enter Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Just like “Google It” became a verb, so has the acronym O-C-R. It’s a software technology that is able to read text that’s been written by hand or scanned from something physical and convert that into editable, digital text.

It’s amazing.

And so organizations are now finding, building, and implementing systems that will enable them to OCR the data out of PDFs, so that it can be useful.

Cool.

Then What?

That data is plain text. So the next step might be to get more sophisticated by parsing the data into an even more usable format, like JavaScript or JSON.

Then what?

That data needs to be accessed. Often it’s dumped into Excel to be manipulated, or maybe some other software.

So that it read, reported, validated, updated—integrated with other systems. There needs to be additional software and perhaps some APIs built within that software to better manage the data that comes from that PDF document.

But, what if someone fails to fill it out properly, or there is missing data, or they enter wrong information? Do you know how easy it is to do that with a PDF?

I mean, I could print it out right now, fill it out in Sanskrit, scan it, and send it back. There is nothing stopping me.

More realistically, an insurance policy could easily DOUBLE in cost simply because someone omitted a small detail.

For example, if the construction type is masonry in any given construction project, but someone forgets to specify that, then boom, the policy gets accepted, processed, and approved and is now 2X in price because the insurance company has no idea that the building materials were actually flame resistant. MAXIMUM RISK, kthnx.

So now that you have the data in JSON, it needs to be measured against a data set that is correct, so that you can validate it. That’s more software.

Is even the address on the form correct?

Better integrate Geocode Earth to verify the address is actually real.

This Sounds Like Document / PDF Management

It is.

What I’ve just described are some of the steps in one method for managing the PDF documents.

You get a PDF, you have to get at the data, you have to validate the data, you have to integrate the data—it’s all a natural progression.

You might be asking “You said this wasn’t a document / PDF management problem, but it seems like it is. Why did you say that?”

Good question.

What I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

If An ACORD PDF Is Just A Form, Why Can’t It Be A FORM?

PDF Management is misleading because it presupposes that having those PDFs in your folder is the beginning of the problem.

But it’s not.

The beginning of the problem is how insurance organizations collect the data in the first place. Why not start with a form, a digital, web-based form? First Name, Last Name, DOB, you know?

That way you could implement form validation to prevent bad data, missing data, or wrong data from ever being submitted in the first place. And once it is submitted, it’s immediately useful because it’s stored in JSON from the start.

You might be thinking: “But we have to use the ACORD, standardized PDFs.”

And you’re right. But what if there was a way to apply digital transformation at the collection stage, that let you collect the data digitally so that it became immediately available upon submission?

And you could then print or export the completed form dynamically to an ACORD PDF whenever you needed to?

Now what if the data was stored already in your environment, it’s connected to all your existing systems, and you could start making decisions on it right away?

AND even more, what if you could upload a blank ACORD PDF and have a digital web form automatically generated for you?

  • No More sifting through 1000s of PDFs, sometimes even hand-written
  • No more manually extracting the data or paying a service to extract it for you
  • No more validating accuracy only after you’ve received the data
  • No more delayed decision-making because you’re waiting for the data to process.

In these scenarios, Document / PDF Management is eliminated. The problem no longer exists.

If the thought never crossed your mind or it just seemed too cumbersome or expensive to build, that’s not your fault. It hasn’t really existed—at least not in a way that’s feasible to most insurance organizations.

Or maybe you’re thinking, “Surely some tool exists to do this.”

Over the years, there’s been some integration work done between forms and PDFs by third-party form builders, but not to this detail. But even so, using a third-party form builder means facing some level of vendor lock-in, data security and compliance issues, or even worse, scaled pricing that’s based on volumetric usage of their product.

So no, there really hasn’t…until now.

We’ve built this so you don’t have to spend the time and money getting drowned in PDF management, paying a service to do it for you, or trying to build a solution yourself.

And the best parts are that Form.io is:

  • Scalable without charging you more just because usage increases
  • Open-architected and Configurable so you can modify or extend the platform to do anything custom
  • Unopinionated so you can handle your forms and business processes the way you want, not the way a third-party might decide, and style and white-label to brand it however you want
  • Embedded in your environment so you don’t lose control of your data and there are no security or compliance hurdles to overcome

See how it’s done in 2 minutes:

Because everyone in insurance tech thinks they have a document / pdf management problem, but it’s something else.

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Form.io is a zero-trust, data governance strategy platform, embedded in your environment, that enables you to build business process workflow applications or anything that uses forms with lightning bolt speed. Form.io is unique in its reach to the application layer regarding governance because we acknowledge forms are the primary entry point into everything data related. Forms are the UI, forms are the data model, and forms are the API model.

LighthouseHQ Case Study: Digital Transformation
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