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    Medibank private transforms it capability

    Australia's largest health fund, Medibank Private, is responding to the massive influx of new members and an increasingly sophisticated consumer base with a major information technology upgrade.

    Over the next three years the upgrade will see the fund moving to a web-based environment across all its distribution channels - placing it among just a handful of organisations that operate in this "new world" environment.

    Medibank Private chief information officer, Peter McNeil believes the upgrade will provide the basis for offering customers unprecedented levels of service which will not only streamline services but will provide access to a wealth of on-line knowledge and advice.

    "The plan is that eventually the entire organisation will be web-based - from our retail centres, call centres to our Internet presence.

    "This move will ensure that all our points of interaction with customers are consistent and that our members are provided with ready access to the most up to date information on the status of any claims and premium payments."

    Mr McNeil believes Medibank Private's IT upgrade will ensure the company takes a leadership role where customer service is concerned.

    He says phase 1 of the upgrade - which is due for completion in September next year - will see the full integration of the fund's service channels, from the fund's website to its call centres and retail outlets. It will also support a more mobile sales force.

    "This will provide increased flexibility about how our customers wish to interact with us. For example, if a customer rings our call centre looking to change their health insurance cover, details of the contact will immediately be relayed across all our service channels.

    "When the customer next visits one of our retail centres, staff will know what interaction took place and the outcomes.

    "Integration of our service channels also will mean we have a full and accurate profile or our customers at just the touch of a button - from the policies they have, the benefits they've received, the direct mail they may have received right through to any complaints they may have made."

    Mr McNeil says the increasing sophistication of the Australian health insurance consumer has not only meant providing them with the most up to date electronic services for accessing information and doing transactions, but will also mean providing members with access to wide array of information about health and lifestyle options.

    "Customers are increasingly looking for information they can rely on about health issues and lifestyle options. "The strong community standing and trust in Medibank Private combined with the IT investments we are making will provide the basis for delivery of this information," he says.

    Moving to a web-enabled environment will see Medibank Private "leap-frogging" several generations of technology - from the tried and proven era of mainframe cobol to the rapidly emerging web-based technologies, effectively bypassing several versions of client server technology.

    "While the fact that we haven't moved with the successive generations of technology may be viewed as an impediment by some, we see this as a key advantage. We have a relatively simple environment to migrate from and without the legacy of a recent major capital spend," says Mr McNeil.

    However, for Medibank Private, by-passing several generations of technology has meant making decisions about whether the organisation had the capability of being able to handle web-enabled upgrades in-house while at the same time replacing and refurbishing its existing Legacy software applications.

    "The conclusion was that we didn't. As a result of this, we have outsourced all our IT infrastructure operations to IBM GSA and the management of our Legacy software applications to DMR.

    "Our rationale for this is that we needed to become very focussed on the main game of building the new capabilities, knowing that the professional services of our outsource partners were keeping the house in order."

    In transforming its IT capability, Medibank Private has made the decision to keep the management of its IT architecture and direction, internal business relationships and key project delivery in-house.

    "This ensures we are in control of our IT destiny with sufficient influence over delivery to ensure that IT keeps in step with underlying business strategies," says Mr McNeil.

    It is anticipated that Medibank Private's entire IT reinvestment will be completed by June 2003.

    * Medibank Private's corporate policy follows the principles of the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and we look to respect the privacy of our members and the information they may provide us.