SARs Vs GPRs? What matters is the customer


Liss System's Guy Williams says the customer matters most in the debate over GP reports.

Much has been said recently about how protection providers obtain further information about an applicants' medical details.

The British Medical Association raised concerns in the summer statement and the ICO has written to the insurance industry suggesting that the use of subject access reports for insurance purposes was inappropriate and could raise doubts over data protection.

The Information Commissioner's Office has suggested insurers are abusing the use of subject access requests, while some insurers say they provide more comprehensive information which aids the underwriting process, which ultimately helps the customer.

Meanwhile, intermediaries generally want the easiest and quickest process and because GP practices need to respond to SARs within a set time frame (which they do not for GPRs) as long as the customer is happy these are often their preference too.

Many insurers have looked at SARs as a way of speeding up the underwriting process, typically in response to demands from adviser firms. Advisers want the process to be as quick and unobtrusive for the client as possible and in that respect SARs are preferable to GP reports.

But what about what the customer wants? If all the appropriate information is available should we not allow and help the customer to make an informed or even advised decision at the point of sale?

Could we replace the paper based medical consent request for a wet signature with an electronic version which is emailed to the applicant the moment the application is referred for further information?

This has a number of advantages, the applicant can open the secure link while in conversation with the adviser, seek clarification on GPR v SAR and electronically sign the preferred option on any electronic device. All of which takes just a few minutes and ensures the applicant is fully informed and removes weeks from the underwriting process.

Speaking to Luke Ashworth, CEO of Protected, he said: "We process thousands of enquiries per month, and consistently see that GP surgeries return a SAR, GPR or SMR at the same speed. It seems that no matter which report we request we end up in the same queue at the surgery.

"In addition to this and until the possible BMA approval of SARS, we find that 50% of GP's are refusing to accept SAR. We also find that many refuse verbal consent - which is why whatever the form request an e-signature is a vital part of speeding up the process."

To complete the digital process the applicant (and GP) can automatically be issued a digital certificate which irrefutably ties the applicant to the document, is legally binding and court admissible, all of which is somewhat more robust than the current wet signature.

Emma Thomson at LifeSearch agreed: "When it comes to obtaining additional medical information, most customers aren't too bothered whether it is done by SAR or GRP. The important thing is to get the cover in place as quickly and easily as possible for everyone concerned.

"Increasingly consumers want to arrange their cover more efficiently online or by phone and it makes sense for them to be able to provide insurers with their consent for medical reports electronically at the point of sale, as opposed to an old fashioned ‘wet' signature that causes delays. The current process of getting written permission just does not suit today's consumer behaviours."

"At the end of the day it's not a case of SARs vs GPRs - it's about what is best for everyone concerned."

Guy Williams is director at LISS Systems

Further reading 

Analysis: BMA urges GPs not to comply with insurer SARs

Insurer medical record requests break data protection laws

ICO: Insurer SAR use 'an abuse' of Data Protection rights

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