Contribute article by: Julie Dunham of Wellmark
What comes to mind when you think of health insurance? If you’re like most Americans, your immediate response may be negative. People today often perceive health insurance companies as being heartless or greedy; interested less in the health of their customers, and more in the depth of their pockets. While I can’t speak for every organization, I’m proud to say that my employer – an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association – is constantly looking for ways to keep premiums low for our customers. Wellmark, Inc. is a mutual and member-owned health insurance company serving people across Iowa and South Dakota. Our organizational goal is to not make a bundle of money, but to provide the best value possible to our policyholders. As a result, we have among the lowest per member per month administrative costs in the industry.
As we strive to keep administrative costs low and value high, the company is continually looking for innovative ways to change and streamline processes that will make a difference. It was 2011 that the Vice President over Contracts and Procurement was searching for that ground-breaking tool to automate the signing process of our business contracts. This led him to have conversations with DocuSign and other e-signature options and we chose to implement DocuSign in 2012. But before we get into the success story, let’s back up and give you a glimpse at the process that was in major need of an overhaul.
Prior to implementing DocuSign, the process for preparing, routing, signing and storing our contracts was time consuming, paper intensive, and very inefficient. Documents were prepared by our negotiators and placed in a file folder for signature by the Vice President, Chief Procurement Officer or CFO. The goal was to have the partially executed documents, (2 original copies sent out with one to be returned by the vendor and the other kept for their records), ready to go to the external party within 24 hours. This was not always feasible based on other priorities; out of office instances and any rework required on a contract. Once the contract was signed, another copy was made to keep in the office as a tracking mechanism. This second copy was crucial – acting as a “back-up” in the event the first set of contracts sent were “lost”. Initially, the contracts were sent to the external party via US Postal Service, but that process was changed to utilizing UPS to give us visibility in to the whereabouts of the documents. The turn around time to receiving the fully executed contract back in-house was anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and was returned to us in a number of manners: e-mail, mail, fax and on rare occasion, hand delivery.
This may sound like the end of the process, but there was more. The same team was also responsible for storing the contract. The paper copy of the contract had barcodes prepared for it, and was then sent to our in house scanning department. After 24-48 hours the scanned image was then uploaded into our contract management system and finalized. Whew!
Then, along came DocuSign! Our processes were immediately streamlined, excess paper usage was eliminated, and postage costs plummeted. Today when a negotiator routes a document for signatures, it takes them a matter of minutes to upload into the DocuSign console, tag and route. We have improved our process of gathering required approvals by having them each approve via DocuSign prior to signatures. Fully executed contracts are generally received within 24-48 hours and the process for tracking anything outstanding is instantaneous via a look at the routing progression in DocuSign. Our Contract Administrators receive a copy of the fully executed contract (electronically), and are able to upload that to the contract management system for finalization.
One of the first contracts that we utilized DocuSign for was a $2.7M contract that required signature of Wellmark’s CEO. The CEO was out of state on business, but was able to complete the signing of the contract within 2 hours time on his mobile device. That was the first, of many, DocuSign success stories for us, and leads the way for additional positive progress!
Where do we go from here? Since Wellmark’s implementation in 2011, we have seen many opportunities to expand the DocuSign usage to other areas of the company. We are currently utilizing DocuSign to contract with our Broker network (those that sell our insurance) and their appointed agents. Customer and Member facing teams utilize DocuSign to obtain signatures on documents from benefits agreements to financial agreements. The Human Resources department at Wellmark began using DocuSign to obtain signatures on applications from potential new employees – enabling the required background checks to begin. Areas that we are targeting for expanded use of the tool in 2014 are Provider Contracting, Internal Compliance, Sales and Process Excellence. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am confident there are additional areas of the business that we will be introducing DocuSign to and watching their processes transform for years to come.
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