Insurance provider keeps tech innovation at a premium

Software conversion times drop from seven hours to 70 minutes

Health insurance provider, Health Benefits Association (HBA), will slash its operating costs by half a million dollars over the next five years by standardizing its software systems.

The goal is to keep premiums among the lowest in the industry throughout the year by keeping operational costs to a minimum and utilising an innovative computer program.

The computer program is part of a joint project with Australian-based software developer, Mergilent.

HBA's chief information officer (CIO), Peter Powell, said the private health insurer is looking at innovative ways to improve services that provide value and minimise the impact on premiums or reductions in benefits.

"We always aim to give our customers the best service possible at an affordable price, and standardising HBA's software systems is another way we achieve this," Powell said.

With more than one million members nationally a key function of HBA's service is the ability to efficiently capture and secure customer information.

For the past 12 months HBA has been working with Mergilent to implement a world-first software tool that converts one computer language to another using an automated system.

"We are now starting to see the benefits of this work come to fruition and estimate that by July the integration to a single software system will be completed," Powell said.

Previously HBA was using two programming languages, Easytrieve and Micro Focus COBOL.

HBA needed to standardise its system platforms and the initial problem was finding an efficient method to convert Easytrieve to Micro Focus COBOL.

Mergilent's automated system for testing and converting the software provided HBA with a solution that had minimal impact on existing systems and resources.

"Already we are seeing significant advantages from the software conversion, for example, programs that previously would take seven hours to complete a process, now only take 70 minutes," Powell said.

"On average there has been a 76 percent reduction in the time it takes to run the converted programs and in the future this will save on technology investments, batch processing windows and backups."

Mergilent's founder and managing director, Armen Grigorian said the new Easytrieve and Micro Focus COBOL conversion toolset will put Melbourne on the global stage.

"Our automated toolset is a huge step forward in bringing multiple software sources into one. It is a highly desirable and exportable service for today's computer dependant businesses," Grigorian said.

"HBA have already started to show a return on their investment, one that will filter through to the valuable services they provide for their customers."

For the past six years HBA has kept its premium increases lower than the industry average, which has been achieved through innovations aimed at maintaining operating costs at less than eight cents in every member dollar.

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