Health insurer transforms on $400K KM project

Employee frustration with paper document searches has driven Medibank Private to invest in an enterprise-wide knowledge management system likely to house all written policies.

Following a $175 million loss three years ago, Medibank managing director George Savvides described the organization as having "no clear future".

A survey of branch staff to determine likely causes of service "destruction" revealed a motivation problem of staff to answer "complex questions from members".

"We have paper versions of policy and procedure manuals which looks like the Tax Act," Savvides told Computerworld, adding that once a document gets beyond 200 pages service quality starts to drop.

"That is the world Medibank operated in three years ago."

Also, with continuous revision of about 10 percent of all documents, an electronic knowledge management system was the clear path to take.

"We went out and found that the National Australia Bank is using Panviva and we liked what we saw," Savvides said.

After 12 months of integration by Medibank IT and content creation work by Panviva services, the new system, dubbed "Max", went into production late last year amid "huge applause" from front-line staff.

"Panviva required no core system changes and permeated across our 27-year-old legacy systems and across our 1500 screens," Savvides said. "And it has its own search engine so we can give professional answers in an instant."

Melbourne-based Panviva specializes in software designed to help employees find relevant work information and counts HP, RMIT University, and Caterpillar on its customer roll.

Although Medibank Private has an IT budget of $45 million, Savvides classed the $250,000 spent on infrastructure and $150,000 for content creation as "petty cash" which didn't come from IT.

Savvides said while it is difficult to put a dollar ROI figure on the project, the big savings relate to the cost of training and an off-shelf-product. "How do I value a person's time?" he said. "If we contracted Fujitsu to hard-code a knowledge management system it would have cost millions."

Savvides said the KM solution has "changed the company for the better" because workers are "under less stress" and provide better service to members.

Medibank Private is now looking at integrating financial, HR, and risk management policies into the new KM system.

"The sky's the limit," Savvides said. "We're now moving information to broad-based availability to all employees [and] will keep feeding it until everything is electronic."

The healthcare fund will also extend Max into the claims processing area over the next 18 months to "turn our entire information repository electronic".

"By doing this our value as an enterprise goes up," he said. "It's not static knowledge [as] Max is a coaching and mentoring tool. It's about how to do my job."

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