Comp firms face challenges going mobile

There are mobile applications for almost any financial transaction — everything from banking to renters insurance — but workers compensation insurers and third-party administrators have not joined the app bandwagon, partly due to the complexities of the state-based comp system.

Comp payers instead have opted for mobile-friendly web platforms for their injured workers to access claim and benefit information. However, injured worker usage of these tools remains relatively low despite the potential benefits because the technology is fairly new and not well marketed, experts say.

Unlike a mobile payments app, workers comp mobile platforms will likely seldom be used over the course of a worker’s life, said Leah Cooper, managing director of global consumer technology at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. based in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Yet, comp insurers are turning to them to simplify the claims process for claimants, employers and insurers, but the technology remains in its early stages, said Tim Colli, senior principal of integrated casualty consulting at Willis Towers Watson PLC based in Nashville, Tennessee.

“At the end of the day, the goal is to improve caseload strategies for the claim professional, but more importantly to improve the experience of those who’ve suffered a claim,” Mr. Colli said. “How you do that is improve communication and access to information and through a personalized experience for the user.”

The mobile platforms commonly act as a portal for information such as benefit payments, medical appointments and claim notifications after filing a claim, but in the future they could simplify the collection of key comp claim information by allowing users to take pictures of accident sites or property loss and upload them, Mr. Colli said.

Sedgwick started off with viaOne Express, a claimant self-service mobile app. But in June, the company introduced mySedgwick, a mobile-friendly, web-based platform, opting for this platform approach so it could function across different operating systems without taking up memory space on the phone, Ms. Cooper said.

“You have the look and feel of an app experience but you don’t have the pain of downloading and constantly updating that app,” Ms. Cooper said. “We’re talking about a group of individuals who may have one … hopefully not more than two incidents of workers compensation in their lives.”

Through mySedgwick, claimants can check the status of their benefit payments, enroll in direct deposit, request reimbursement for travel related to their claim and request a call from a nurse related to their claims. The goal is to reduce the headaches with navigating comp claims, giving claimants the information they need and also easing the burden for employers’ human resources departments, Ms. Cooper said.

Ms. Cooper said it took a considerable effort from a team of employees to accommodate the complexities of the myriad comp claim types and state comp regulations for the platform. Ultimately, the company had to consider what information is most commonly needed in any given claims process and design it with easily understandable information rather than bogging claimants down with complex regulations, she said.

In the future, Sedgwick foresees implementing artificial intelligence to quickly pinpoint what information claimants are seeking, Ms. Cooper said. The company has, for example, taken into account search histories and questions submitted through the site to spot trends and determine what information they are seeking, Ms. Cooper said.

“This is a new field for us and one that we’re actively researching,” Ms. Cooper said. “We want to take a step past classic pattern recognition and do more than just predict preferences. We want to take into account the structure and the context