Securian Financial is committed to exploring and experimenting with new technologies to remain relevant and competitive in a constantly changing business environment.
There’s been much discussion of Artificial intelligence (AI) in the media. But not all uses of AI involve writing term papers, creating images or building the next Skynet. AI has gone mainstream and is increasingly being used to solve business problems
Broadly speaking, AI is being used to support three important business needs: automating business processes, gaining insight through data analysis, and engaging with customers and employees.
However, despite its growing importance, some organizations have been hesitant to embrace AI due to fears that it could replace human effort and jobs. But many businesses have found that AI can be a force for good and support people’s day-to-day work rather than replacing it.
Introducing the NextGen Lab
This is where Securian Financial’s NextGen Lab comes in. NextGen refers to modern and emerging technologies — the technologies and skills needed to prepare Securian Financial for the future. The NextGen Lab has existed for over four years and recently celebrated the advancement of its Robotics Process Automation (RPA) out of the Lab and into the business services area, where the technology’s applications can be prioritized and implemented on a broader scale to best serve the company. RPA is technology that automates repetitive and rules-driven tasks with software. It can read emails and attachments, log into applications, move files, copy and paste data, fill in forms, make calculations and more.
This maturation and centralization of RPA technology not only enables more areas of the company to use and benefit from it, importantly, it frees up NextGen Lab to focus on developing new applications like AI.
NextGen Lab focuses on a test-and-learn methodology, examining emerging technologies like Distributed Leader Technology and AI. The outcome of successful NextGen initiatives is a decreased time-to-market for modern and emerging technologies with a focus on improving business outcomes.
NextGen Lab Consulting Director Brian Oberman says, “Not all experiments succeed. If we’re not failing at least half the time, we’re not doing our job. But lessons are learned, and the skills obtained through failure are the foundation for future success.”
Cross-functional cooperation drives innovation
Recently, the NextGen Lab partnered with Enterprise Data and Analytics (eDNA) to integrate AI into our Supplementary Health Claims processes.
From Securian data scientist Doug Armstrong, “We started to research intelligent document processing and that broader capability. This process combines optical character recognition and natural language processing into one large AI tool for document text extraction and insight development.”
The team that worked on the claims use case consisted of data scientists, data engineers, infrastructure engineers, business subject matter experts and members of the NextGen Lab.
The team found that AI can play a helpful role in how claims are processed — specifically supplemental health claims. Adopting AI capabilities allows for document digitization, which enables automation. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) within our environment will enable us to digitize and label claims-related forms to expand the scope of data available for downstream processes and deep analysis.
“The use of AI can significantly reduce the amount of manual time spent doing something, but also to reduce the possibility of error in the entry — we’re humans, we’re not perfect,” Armstrong said.
The ultimate goals of implementing AI as a tool for the examiner in the claims processes are to reduce cycle time, reduce the cost per claim, reduce the time to handle and increase the overall customer experience score. Put simply, integrating AI helps ensure the future claims experience for our customers is easy, fast and personal.
More broadly, there’s a larger opportunity in the reusability of this foundational capability for any business process that requires data extraction from document images. “This is a capability that has the potential to make an impact anywhere in the company where there’s a significant number of documents used in the business process,” Armstrong said.
As the NextGen Lab continues to test, learn, and collaborate with teams like Enterprise Data and Analytics, the future is full of potential for innovative applications that improve and optimize employee and customer experiences.