How the NSW government disrupted insurance through the cloud with icare

Now a year in operation, icare shook the bureaucracy of government service delivery, and the monopoly of private insurers, with the mandate of being customer-centric and cloud only.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Insurance and Care NSW (icare) was formed in September 2015 through the amalgamation of six New South Wales government schemes covering dust diseases care, home building compensation, motor accident lifetime care, self-insurance for the state's public servants, workers insurance, and sports injury insurance, as well as the separation from what is now the State Insurance Regulatory Authority and the Better Regulation Division.

By February 2016, the shakeup was complete, and within 12 months, icare had built an "ASX100 organisation-grade" enterprise platform and started doing business.

According to icare's inaugural CIO Stuart Bremner, standing up icare as fast as it did was only possible thanks to cloud. Starting afresh gave the organisation the opportunity to also start from scratch where its culture was concerned.

Although the CIO role has been dissolved, Bremner has remained the individual responsible for all things tech at icare. He told ZDNet that underpinning everything icare has done is a 50/50 mix of the commercial mind of an insurer and a social heart, while placing the customer at the centre.

Operating now for over a year as icare, the organisation is cloud only, leveraging software-as-a-service (SaaS) as much as possible. Where it isn't, it's using managed services, all preferably hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS) so icare can leverage the inherent capabilities in scale, resilience, and security, Bremner explained.

The icare environment consists of: Salesforce, Guidewire, Mulesoft, Onbase, Exstream, SAP, Okta, Informatica, Globalscape, and a whole suite of others, with almost everything leveraging AWS to some degree.

What obviously worked in icare's favour was that it didn't have any legacy workloads -- with the exception of migrating email to Office 365 -- to consider in its build, which saved the organisation the panic around potentially breaking 10-year-old insurance systems when sending them into the cloud.

"In other areas, however, it was a little bit more difficult just because we were breaking some new ground and trying to get everybody comfortable about this new direction," he explained. "That was difficult just because we're at the frontier. I think other people have benefited just the way we benefited from Service NSW's adoption of Salesforce."

Read also: NSW Budget: State continues focus on digital transformation

Despite being a young organisation, icare is still bound by regulation. But Bremner said it is working to remove the bureaucracy and the desire to overload everything with process and procedure, as that often leads to losing sight of the desired outcome the organisation is trying to build.

"People are too busy asking if things tick this regulation, that regulation, which we still do, it's just not our purpose," Bremner added. "Our purpose is to provide those services within the framework of the regulations and the legislations."

Through disrupting the market and taking some services away from the private sector, including insurance giants QBE and Allianz, Bremner said the state government was able to bring efficiencies out, such as having less staff to perform the same task.

It also gave icare the ability to control its own data.

"We've only had the service for a year, but already we're seeing that the model that we've built for support that's been on our claim sites since January, we're already getting a richness of data to come through that's helping us refine the model for its next instance," he explained.

In assessing claims, icare leverages machine learning, not only to check boxes faster, but to garner a better understanding of the person and determine the best level of support icare can offer.

"By actually getting it person-centric and managing the claim that way, you're going to get a better outcome," Bremner added.

icare deals with the psychosocial elements of a claim, such as assessing the mental state of those out of work due to injury. Bremner said the secondary factors of an injury can be longer lasting than the primary cause, such as a broken bone.

"Trying to use the technology to be more predictive so that we can then help manage the claim, not necessarily to manage from a financial aspect, but to get a better outcome for the individual," he added.

"Financially you can also detect frauds and things like that which are also really important, but our primary focus is on getting that right outcome for the individual using the technology. And if you get the right outcomes you avoid those claims that can go on for a long time, so therefore it financially works out as well -- a sort of virtuous circle."

Although cost is in the equation of any organisation when undertaking a technology overhaul -- especially a government entity -- Bremner said the business case for icare remains the customer.

Even a transformation without legacy slowing an organisation will never be complete, and with icare now in its second year of full operation, Bremner said it is now focusing on the optimisation of everything at its disposal.


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