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Claims And A Half Plate Of Vegetables – Teachings From The New Dietary Guidelines

Creating A Visual Reference To A Complex Issue Can Simplify It

The government just announced new dietary guidelines for the American public (see New Dietary Advice From Government: Just Eat Less).  One of the best pieces of advice that made the most sense was to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. This is so simple to understand and makes a lot more sense then telling people to eat an extra serving of healthy food.  What is a serving anyway?

Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said previous guidelines — which are revised every five years — offered “big vague messages” about reducing cholesterol, salt and sugar. The guidelines released Monday, she said, were “much more understandable and actionable.”

OK I know you are asking why this should in any way relate to claims?  Well I will tell you. Simplicity and looking at the obvious in an easy to understand way is a tool that would go a long way to helping the claims professionals be better at what they do. Being understandable and actionable can only be a good thing in claims.

What the government did by saying to have half your plate covered in fruits and vegetables was to provide an easy to understand visual cue as to what they were talking about. In claims, there are often complex issues that could benefit from shifting the perspective to something completely different. Using a new visual representation to demonstrate an issue may make it easier to understand.

Simplify The Complex Issue With A Visual Representation

Whether having to explain to a novel claim issue to a company executive, or trying to convince a claimant to accept a fair settlement, getting them to understand the issue will lead to more action. Changing the way these issues are presented can be the difference.

For example, I once had a complex medical malpractice case that involved a brain damaged infant and the management of the mother’s blood pressure prior to delivery.  There were dozens of notes and lab records and blood pressure readings to sort out.  To help understand the process better, I put all the critical readings into a spreadsheet and then represented them on a graph.  Being able to look at the numbers visually, instead of just as numbers, made it easier to see just  how much the blood pressures were rising over time.  It was a complex issue that became very easy to understand and explain to others.

When looking at claims issues involving numbers – break out the spreadsheet and make a graph or chart. I am not saying it will always carry the day, but taking a look at it differently will almost always make it easier to understand. It may also open your eyes to an issue lost between the numbers.

Operations Can Benefit From Visual Cues

Operational issues are almost always easier to grasp when seen visually. Getting from here to there can seem like a daunting task when seen as written steps on paper.  Take the steps and throw them into a flow chart. You don’t need special software or experience to show steps flowing through a process.

When putting steps into a visual box you almost always have to shorten the text and get to the point of the process.  Also, operational processes almost never move in a linear fashion across an organization. There are always intersecting parts and steps that can get lost when written down as just steps. Drawing it out will open your eyes to steps in the process that may not be adding value. Once a new process is developed you will also be able to easily see what improvement will look like.

I was able to do this with a client as it related to their first notice of loss process.  Before we drew the process out as a flow chart it appeared that there were some areas for improvement, however, all in all it did not seem that bad.  Drawing it out created a flow chart that covered 4 pages.  In looking at the flow, we were able to see redundancy and wasted efforts in the process.  The new process was now able to be reflected in a one page diagram. More importantly, we eliminated wasted steps and reduced the time to set up a claim file by an average of 7 days.

Simply put, looking at things a different way is always a good thing. Trying to explain complex issues visually will always be worth the effort. This is often done in multi-layer and participant policy situations. Looking at coverages in a grid gives a much better picture of the who is covering what, at what layer and for what amount.  Trying to figure that out by reading it on a sheet of paper is never as clear.

How have you used visual representations to understand a complex claims issue?

Posted in Best Practices, SPOT on Issues, SPOT on Ops.

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