Are You Ready To Be A Paperless Office?

Cathy's Tuesday TipI recently had an email discussion with a colleague who regularly reads Cathy’s Tuesday Tip. I asked for recommendations on topics he would like to read about in my weekly tip. He suggested he would like to read about going paperless or not, as to independent claim adjusters and their operations. His claims operation deals primarily with workers compensation claims where individual claim files can be volumes and stay open for years. His current client base likes the hard file concept versus paperless and since his company maintains hard files in lieu of paperless files, is a selling point for him with potential new accounts. What about your company?
paperless officeMy company has been paperless since 2012 when we signed up for an internet-based claims management system, FileTrac (www.filetrac.com). From day one of using FileTrac, we discontinued using hard files and immediately went paperless; shredding all hard files when we could. You need to know your state requirements for saving files and information. Believe me, this change to immediately go paperless was not made without a lot of heartburn for several months; not only for me but also our staff who felt like giving up that hard file in their hands was more than they could comprehend at the time. Six years later, I am glad to report we all survived. I have never looked back and most of us think it was a good idea, for our claims operation. Whether you have a claims operation or some other business there is an internet-based file system for you that will work with your business model to go paperless. To go paperless or to not go paperless, that is the question in Cathy’s Tuesday Tip this week. We have gathered several pros and cons to consider. Hope you all enjoy! ~ Cathy

Advantages/Benefits of Going Paperless

1. Reduces carbon footprint

One of the biggest advantages for a paperless environment in our claims office was downsizing our working space of hundreds of physical files and filing cabinets. Over the recent years, since going paperless, we have discarded many filing cabinets, as we have shredded our hard files. Our home office is more streamlined and clean looking now. With more emphasis these days on being green-minded, we are doing our small part to preserve wildlife, reduce pollution and reduce reliance upon the waste created by reams of paper that make up the hard files stored in countless filing cabinets. In addition to preserving trees, we are making documents easier to get a hold of and lowering the risk of losing information.

2. Easy to store and access documents from everywhere

With an internet-based claims management system, information is secure with the help of an internet connection or cloud-based services. Documents are easy to store in your office digitally and can be sent electronically to others who need the documents with the greatest of ease. It will do away with the common office tasks associated with creating paper-based documents and employees will be able to access their files and documents without leaving their desks, creating better productivity.

3. Automatic audit

With stricter guidelines and rules for compliance as to documents being stored and the potential for producing these documents at any given time, over several years, all documents saved in your claim management system will be date organized and individually given a file number, making it very easy to produce an audit trail, at any time.

4. Accessible

Different levels of security settings are available with your claim management system and their secure server. This allows some employees/clients to review documents and others to not, depending on the security levels given, making it hard to get these documents into the wrong hands. This also makes it easy when you have more than one user who wants to access the same kind of document or file. Make sure before you get a claims management system you know about their security capabilities and safeguards and how their servers are protected, and your information is protected. Cybersecurity is a hot topic now. Your clients are interested in this. Ask for information on your claims management’s systems security capabilities and share with clients who are concerned, they will thank you.

5. Business Development

With time savings created by going paperless, digital client information is more readily accessible with the click of a button, such as from your digital database where you can keep notes and client information handy. Business development is streamlined, and managers can be more productive in their efforts to secure new business. Your company’s website can be utilized more as an alternative to physical brochures. Referring your clients to your website when marketing will reduce the physical information shared. This will force you to always have updated information on your website and keep your website fresh. Business cards are still a viable marketing tool but again can be used in chorus with your website.

6. Improves customer service

With our company, customer service has improved ten-fold, since going paperless and having access to our claims management system, from anywhere at any time. If a client calls with a question about an assignment or an adjuster’s report needs to be reviewed and sent out, an admin or the adjuster on the file can access that file, from their computer or their phone, immediately. The client’s question is answered immediately, with no call back necessary or the adjuster’s report is reviewed and sent out, right then. Supervisors can review adjuster’s reports or status emails from anywhere, reviewing them and corresponding with clients wherever they and their computers are. Information is readily available at your fingertips, wherever you and your computer are; the hard file does not have to be searched for in the office, the adjuster does not have to be in the office and the client is given the information needed then, without a callback. This creates great turnaround time and excellent customer service.

7. Boosts efficiency in mail

With the claims management system, emails can be sent out of and stored in the system, creating a date trail of information, on a claim file, which can be easily retrieved if email history is needed in the future. Again, a timesaving’s as information is in one place and does not have to be searched for.

Disadvantages of Paperless Offices

1. Too much dependence on technology

One of the biggest questions we had before going paperless was what happens if the internet is down, your claims management system is down, or your workstation or laptop stops working. I must say in the 6 years we have been paperless this has happened only a few times but if it does, you are crippled without your paper files, hopefully for only a short time.

2. Health issues

Sitting at your workstation or laptop is not without health risks. Sitting at your computer in front of your screen could cause eyestrain. Typing on the keyboard could cause carpal tunnel. And sitting at your computer is said to be the new smoking health issue. Using glasses with a special blue light coating, or specially made ergonomic keyboards could help this. Also get up from your computer every 20 minutes or so and stretch and take a short walk around the office.

3. Dangerous for the environment

Paper and printed documents can be recycled. On the other hand, electronics need to be disposed of thoughtfully and smartly, otherwise dangerous chemicals could be sent and released into the environment and may cause health concerns at the same time.

4. Security

Currently, cybersecurity is a big hot topic of discussion and concern. Most physical documents are easier to protect than electronic files, which most hackers may target and obtain, in a traceable manner.

5. Professionalism

When you are meeting with potential new clients, brochures and printed material still have their place in our business, used to wow the potential client and may offer an even better impression than the power point presentation.

6. Making important notes

Will baby boomers ever be able to do without yellow post notes or highlighters used to mark the physical file? Although technology now allows for notes to be made and highlighted in word documents, nothing quite replaces the yellow post notes or highlighters, yet anyway.

7. Networking

Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter have given a whole new dimension to networking, reaching clients differently than ever before. But the good old business card is still alive and well and people are using it. I think, printed cards still have a bigger chance of promoting a spark for recognition than anything; nothing quite replaces that face to face contact with a client or potential client and handing them your business card.

8. Carbon debt

With going paperless, you have additional costs of keeping your computers upgraded, repaired and serviced, not to mention the costs associated with a claims management service. You cannot work and produce without the tools and services necessary to keep you connected to the internet. Whether you chose to not go paperless at all or to go paperless all at once, like we did, or you chose to partially go paperless and gradually progress into full paperless over time, weigh the pros and cons of your choices and determine what is best for your operation and your clients. As always, I am available for discussion, please contact me.
I hope you enjoyed Cathy’s Tuesday Tip this week. To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips, visit our blog.