Delays in APS Project – Learnings and Wrap Up

It has been six months since the Cookhouse Lab opened its doors to the insurance industry with the vision of making insurance better.  There have been several amazing co-creation projects to date including Insurance Loyalty & Rewards and Blockchain Use Cases For Insurance.  Each of these produced valuable outputs for the individual participating member insurance companies, and the Delays in APS project was no different. This project is the first since the inception of our lab (though we anticipate many more) that delivered a solution scope for an industry minimum viable product.

For any life insurance business, the requirement for an attending physician’s statement (APS) is an unpleasant experience for underwriters, physicians and applicants.  As this is a 30+ year old process today, a new industry solution for a single source for APS information would benefit all parties.  It was this shared pain for the APS that brought the consortium of insurance companies together which included three carriers and three reinsurers. 

Members at times expressed their potential concerns of IP conflicts and creating new value with peers that one completes within the market. As we continue to embark on our co-creating journey, we are persistently being challenged by:

“Are competitors willing to work together?”

Cookhouse Lab has proven, over the last several months, that yes, competitors are not only willing to, but motivated to work with other peers to solve for problems that they collectively face.

Throughout our 90-day journey together, as expected, there were hesitations amongst the group of industry peers at first. However, through an iterative approach, several techniques were used to support and improve this unique collaborative effort.

From Day 1 to Day 90, the project team always referred to themselves as APSync, which was their tribe name and identity when they worked in the Cookhouse Lab.  Not only did this bring the team together, but it also discouraged identifying themselves with their own organization when working on the project.

Defining A Shared Problem Statement

Although the pain of long delays, a legacy paper based process and physician relationship friction are shared amongst all insurance companies, it was the clear focus on the impact of these deficiencies on the customer/applicant experience that unified the effort of the companies.

Introduce A Mutual Discovery Experience

As an insurtech innovation lab, Cookhouse Lab introduces many new concepts and insurance startups to incumbent insurance companies.  Although there are varying degrees of awareness, we purposely introduced a wide spectrum of current (eg. medical clinic interviews) and bleeding edge innovations (eg. Insurance focused OCR, machine learning and underwriting API’s) to keep the team motivated and excited to discover together.

In addition, what also supported the success of the project’s MVP output was the focus on the problem statement throughout the 90 days. Living through the pain felt amongst all of the APS ecosystem was shared amongst all team members whether you were an underwriter or part of our customer feedback groups who listened to customers who felt the pain.

Supporting Shared IP Creation Through Clear Role Definitions

Although it would be ideal to have a team of generalists that could fluidly move from one role to the next, I have found that member companies have been sending role specific project members.  By assigning clear key roles towards the MVP output, no one member or organization has the entire picture until delivery date.  For this particular project, some role areas include: 

  • APS industry stakeholder statistics & current state scan 
  • Financial analysis – investment, forecast & valuation 
  • New underwriter role definition & training 
  • International market opportunity & MVP context 
  • Technology architecture 
  • Go to market strategy & phased roll out

Through everyone’s unique and valuable talents, this project led to the creation of a highly attractive opportunity of ~$90MM that is supported by the proposed project MVP. This opportunity is composed of cost savings, productivity and new business all of each were uncovered by the team at the Cookhouse Lab who leveraged our unique co-creation design thinking experience.

As the 90 day sprint came to a conclusion, the project team had a distinct experience at the Cookhouse Lab.  It was more akin to saying farewell to good friends rather than the conclusion of another company project.  It is a unique opportunity to work with a competitor.  One that has produced surprising innovation agility and output, and quite amazingly produced an MVP that can vastly improve an APS process that hasn’t changed in over 30 years. Marrying innovation trends such as machine learning and API’s with legacy insurance experiences sparked several new ideas and insights that the members will keep beyond their time on the project. Do you have a competitor collaboration story? 

Want more? Check out the Delays in APS project management report:

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Delays in APS: Project Update

We have now passed the halfway point of our Delays in Attending Physician Statement (APS) project journey. Last week, the project team hosted an update breakfast to discuss the progress that has been made so far.

The problem and what we have learned to date:

As the project team has moved along this project journey, they have iterated the problem statement to focus on the largest opportunity: 

“Insurers are losing life and living benefits due to poor data quality, lack of physician APS understanding and a paper based process culminating in long APS cycle times.”

To compare this problem statement with our original one, see our original project details

Over the past month, the team conducted field interviews in various medical clinics over the city and have discovered three key facts:

  • Physicians are complacent with the current process
  • Insurance customers abandon their application if it takes too long 
  • Clinics want the easiest solution possible

Keeping these factors in mind, the team explored the possibility of monetary bonuses from insurance companies. This theory was tested on-site in various clinics and found to be quite motivating. 

In addition, the project team identified that the APS process is very much a paper one. However, they have also learned that there are a variety of innovative technologies that are available to get around these paper processes which include: machine learning, proxy data sources, and external APIs. 

Accomplishments to date:

  • Interviewed over 20 medical clinics to gain additional data
  • Identified the life & living benefits insurance cases of Claims Adjudication and Global View of Insured 
  • Integrated prototype with a machine learning startup 
  • Created an agreement with an electronic medical record (EMR) provider

Next milestone:

  • Creating more client focused incentives to collect more data as well as clinic APS notification systems
  • Integrating underwriter “machine learning” training
  • Business casing other use cases
  • Finalizing the MVP with technical requirements 


  • Foresters Financial
  • Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch 
  • IRB Brasil Re
  • KPMG (Canada) 
  • Manulife Financial 
  • RGA 
  • The Co-operators 

Our project MVP will be unveiled next month! Continue to follow us on our co-creation and open innovation journey by subscribing to our blog and news updates

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May Innovation Projects: Delays in APS and Blockchain

We ended April on a strong note with the wrap up of our first innovation project – Insurance Loyalty & Rewards. We obviously had to keep up with the strong momentum and therefore kicked off two new innovation projects in May. 

If you’ve not had the chance to experience what Cookhouse Lab has to offer, each innovation project (various sprints) is facilitated by one of our in-house Innovation Chefs utilizing our unique Innovation Methodology that combines lean innovation, design thinking, and a robust insurance/insurtech ecosystem.

I took the opportunity to ask Jason Yu and Rhiannon Snell to share a glimpse of our two new projects –Delays in Attending Physician Statements (at time of Underwriting) and Blockchain & Insurance

Project Kick-Off: Delays in Attending Physician Statements 

Start Date: May 1, 2017  |  Sprint: 12 weeks 

The problem and what we have learned to date: 

When a life or living benefits insurance customer applies for coverage, there may be a need for insurers to obtain an attending physician statement (APS) to support the underwriting process.  Unfortunately, the turn around time for these requests can take several months which has led to a loss of business, incomplete data and applicant death.

In Canada, approximately $60 million is spent on these requests from which 60% are faxed and 35% are snail mailed. Three direct insurers, three reinsurers (including members from the UK and Brazil) and a consulting firm has signed on to participate in Cookhouse Lab’s twelve week APS delays project with the goal of creating a digital minimal viable product (MVP) that would accelerate the time and improve data quality. 

During this early stage of the project, the team walked through several lean startup and design thinking exercises to create APSync Inc., a conceptual new venture focused on creating a new third party digital solution to address an initial problem statement:

“Physicians are not motivated to expedite the completion of APS requests because of a lack of patient value awareness, complex fax & paper based process and non-existent insurer relationship”.

The innovation team will spend the next several weeks iterating through this problem statement. 

Accomplishments to date:

  • Based on the developed personas, we defined our initial bold problem statement for the current sprint stakeholder focus
  • Designed the first lean business model canvas to express the team’s first go to market and business value proposition pitched to Highline Beta
  • Designed first dynamic digital mock-up to be tested with practicing physicians along with several proposed recognition programs
  • Completed two rounds of surveys with physicians and insurers and have received ~40 respondents
  • Identified two healthcare-related insurtechs and have started collaboration with one machine learning insurtech startup

Next milestone:

  • Create clickable mockup for upcoming customer interviews and focus groups
  • Prepare next insurer focused sprint


  • Foresters Financial
  • Hannover Re (Ireland) DAC Canadian Life Branch 
  • IRB Brasil Re
  • KPMG (Canada) 
  • Manulife Financial 
  • RGA 
  • The Co-operators 

Project Kick-Off: Blockchain & Insurance

Start Date: May 8, 2017  |  Sprint: 4 weeks 

The problem and what we have learned to date: 

Presenting the potential to cause major disruption, Blockchain is a trending topic within the insurance industry. Six major Canadian insurance companies and one insurance publication have signed on to participate in Cookhouse Lab’s initial month-long blockchain project – the end goal being to develop a set of relevant blockchain use cases (that may be accelerated into MVPs in future project cycles).

The project began with a crash course on blockchain delivered by industry experts representing Cryptiv, R3 and IBM. Team members spent Week One participating in guest lectures and brainstorming sessions, familiarizing themselves with the functionality of blockchain, investigating existing use cases, and discussing how blockchain could be used to disrupt the insurance landscape. In Week Two, the team took a step back to identify and prioritize customer and business pain points within the insurance lifecycle.

The team will use these pain-points, once validated through interviews, surveys and secondary data,  to begin the process of generating blockchain use cases specific to the insurance industry.  

Three of these use cases will be introduced as subsequent innovation projects. 

Accomplishments to date:

  • Developed an understanding of blockchain including high level technical functionality, history, existing use cases and its potential future application with help from industry experts from Cryptiv, R3 and IBM
  • Identified and prioritized customer problems across the insurance lifecycle
  • Identified and prioritized business problems across the insurance lifecycle

Next Milestones:

  • Validate the prioritized business problems with the wider companies belonging to the team members
  • Develop use cases
  • Test use cases with customers and insurers
  • Prioritize and select final use cases


  • AIG
  • Insurance Canada
  • Manulife Financial
  • Marsh & McLennan Companies
  • Munich Re
  • Royal Sun Alliance (RSA)
  • The Co-operators

Following the approach of Design Thinking, the importance of learning, designing, testing, and modelling is critical to the development of Cookhouse Lab and the value we bring to our members. During our first innovation project, we received tremendous amount of valuable feedback from project participants. Through this insight, we continue to iterate and modify our offering with the objective to deliver the best possible solution to our membership

We were amazed to see what the project team was able to accomplish within a 12 week sprint and continue to challenge ourselves with shorter sprints and greater results.

As always, continue to follow us on our co-creation and open innovation journey by subscribing to our blog and news updates

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