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Embracing innovation while maintaining stability and improving service

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Embracing innovation while maintaining stability and improving service
Bruce Palmer, Managing Director
I recently became a grandfather. Not surprisingly, this has prompted some personal reflection on the passage of time. To say that much has changed in the world during my lifetime is almost cliché. To declare, for instance, my amazement at the seemingly endless array of new technologies at our disposal sounds almost trite: one can only be wowed by such advances for so long before they become virtually routine or expected. But the pace at which change gets absorbed into our daily lives often confounds, surprises, and occasionally even worries me.

I thought of myself as an early adopter "back in the day." I learned keyboard shortcuts in the 1980s, my first browser was Mosaic, I used Eudora for my email, I learned XML and Basic to write programs — adding onto the COBOL and Fortran IV I learned at school — and I fought hard not to give up Harvard Graphics and Lotus 1-2-3. My math class in high school was the last to use a slide rule; my engineering class in university was the first to be allowed to use programmable calculators in exams. These skills, which gave me a huge advantage in my career, now seem antiquated, quaint, forgotten — and they all occurred in the span of less than a lifetime.

This past decade has seen the launch of Twitter,1 Airbnb,2 and Uber;3 Snapchat emerged from a product design class only five years ago;4 the Higgs Boson — postulated a half-century ago — finally had its existence confirmed four years ago;5 and, just last year, researchers "teleported" data over 100 km using quantum entanglement.6

Obviously, everything is different. And yet, I cannot help but notice that in many meaningful and important ways, not much has changed. People still rely on family and friends for support and advice; we dispute or ignore evidence that does not conform to our world view, and we embrace the evidence that does; we cheer on our favourite sports teams regardless of their prospects for success (go Leafs!); we drive downtown despite the cost and time advantages of taking public transit; young people roll their eyes at their out-​​​​​of-touch elders, while adults inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) groan at the perceived naiveté and "relaxed" work ethic of our children. Just like always.

​ Everything is different. And yet, I cannot help but notice that in many meaningful and important ways, not much has changed.

At OMA Insurance, we think about change, or the lack thereof, a great deal. Change matters to us in many ways: as humans going through life; as a member- focused, service- and advice-based team; and as an organization that specializes in understanding the changing nature of life and risk for our clients. And when we think about change, a few truths stand out among all the hustle and bustle.

First, life is moving faster. Although Moore's Law is about the doubling of computing power on integrated circuits, it seems to apply to the pace of change in our expectations as much as it does to the physical construction of a computer chip. We expect more now than we did a decade ago, and certainly more than we did 50 years ago.

When I was in school, if I wanted to know about something, I made a mental note to stop by the library and research it; better yet, I'd buy some reference books so I could have them at home. Now, I search for an answer in the middle of a conversation: why wait when I can know immediately? This change in expectations affects what I expect from the people and companies who serve me as well. For example, I now expect to be able to go online 24/7 to find information on any service, or service provider, I want — and, if desired, to book an appointment via a service provider's website.

Second, the level of service and knowledge I expect from those serving me is greater than ever. I don't accept it when a person tells me they can't provide me with the information I request: they must have access to a computer system that will answer my question, or to a supervisor who can respond to my query. I find it harder to accept the "we'll get back to you" calls — which frustrates me, because I know that sometimes calls to OMA Insurance end with "we'll get back to you." Receiving prompt attention to my queries and service requests is something I've come to expect as a consumer — and it's an expectation that we at OMA Insurance strive to fulfil as a service provider.

Third, we expect our feedback will result in service improvements. As a consumer, I may be willing to accept that my particular request or problem might require some additional time to address, but once you (the service provider) have dealt with it, you must learn from it, and ensure that you are able to respond promptly the next time.

The More Thing​s Change...

OMA Insurance offerings in 2016 certainly look much different than they did even a few years ago. For example:

  • Disability Insurance is now available to age 80.
  • Our first completely online insurance application — for our Group Life program — went live in June, and similar online applications for Disability and Professional Overhead Expense insurance will be available later this year.
  • OMA Encore65 has been created and rolled out across a wide number of physicians. 
  • Our new calculator makes it easier to look at a total package of solutions rather than single products.
  • Extended hours in our service centre make it easier to get answers at more convenient times.
  • Our recently hired Customer Relations Specialist helps ensure that your insurance problems, complaints and suggestions get acted upon in as timely a manner as possible
  • Our look and feel — and, more importantly, the member-focused culture behind it — has changed and more explicitly addresses our focus on engaging, educating, listening, advising, and helping you take action.

...The More Thing​s Stay The Same

And yet, things are not all that different. We still focus exclusively on members, their families and employees. We are still controlled by, and only report to, physicians, not shareholders or financial analysts demanding we extract more profit from our members every quarter. We still believe that understanding risk and its role within the perspective of a person's goals, aspirations, fears, and risk appetite, is important to assessing and recommending an appropriate course of action. We still maintain that human interaction is an important component of the process for many of our members.​

​ We are still controlled by, and only report to, physicians, not shareholders or financial analysts demanding we extract more profit from our members every quarter.

As a consumer, I still need to trust the provider I work with, and I still frequently rely on friends and others whom I trust — regardless of their particular level of knowledge on a subject — to help me decide. I still need to "feel" it is the right action, and I like to be able to backup that feeling with evidence that is agreeable and acceptable to me. I need to feel that the solutions address the real me, not the mass-market group to which a service provider might have assigned me.

Most of all, I am still a human, the product of all those strange and wonderful combinations of experience and genes, facts and beliefs, philosophies and chemical reactions. The change around me matters and affects me; it changes my world. But don't think that it makes me different. I am still me. I am still human. I am still full of inconsistencies, contradictions, emotions, needs, wants, and just plain desire to move forward. So yes, absolutely, I have changed. But I am, in many ways, no different than I've always been.

Not Everything Is Diff​erent, But Some Things Have Changed

Of course, not everything is different: it only feels that way sometimes. But some things have changed, as our society and opportunities evolve. The challenge for all of us — whether talking about insurance, or being a grandparent compared to being a parent — is how to know what of the "old" is important, and what of the "new" is empowering.

Within OMA Insurance, we are working to keep the best of the old ways while embracing the most promising of the new ways. It is not always easy, and we have made mistakes along the way. Your input and feedback is really helpful in letting us know when we've done something good or bad. It is a journey, one we look forward to taking with you, our members and clients.

Addressing the unique insurance needs of physicians, embracing long-term value, and driving innovation while ensuring stability and predictability: this is part of what impelled the OMA to launch its insurance program 60 years ago, and we believe it is what will drive us to continue to serve you for another 60 years.

OMA Insurance: Not for Profit. ​ All for Doctors.​

​​​1 Twitter [Internet]. San Francisco, CA: Twitter, Inc.; c2016. Twitter milestones: a selection of memorable moments; n.d.; [about 12 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.
2 Airbnb [Internet]. San Francisco, CA: Airbnb, Inc.; n.d. About us; n.d.; [about 2 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.
3 Uber [Internet]. San Francisco, CA: Uber Technologies, Inc; c2016. Finding the way: creating possibilities for riders, drivers and cities; n.d.; [about 8 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.
4 Wikipedia [Internet]. San Francisco, CA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc; n.d. Timeline of Snapchat; 2016 Jun 12; [about 12 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.
5 Top scientific discoveries of 2012: Higgs Boson discovered. Wired [Internet]. 2012 Dec 19. [about 2 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.
6 Science Alert [Internet]. Manuka, ACT, Australia: ScienceAlert Pty Ltd; n.d. MacDonald F. A new quantum teleportation distance record has been set: scientists just teleported information over 100 km of fibre!; 2015 Sep 24; [about 8 screens]. Available at: Accessed: 2016 Jul 4.