Like it or not, ours is a world of ratings.

Before venturing out to the cinema, we check movie reviews and ratings that warn of violence, nudity, strong language and sexuality. (Regrettably, there is no warning for insipid writing, postmodern pandering or lack of originality, but thats another column.)

If were buying virtually any home appliance, we run to check the ratings given to various brands by consumer advocacy Web sites and magazines.

And if were actually wealthy enough still to be able to send our kids to college, we want to know how prospective schools are rated by magazines and college admissions services.

So, in the spirit of providing information that lets my readers separate the wheat from the chaff, I welcome you to this years edition of my own ratings of the technology events and developments of the past year.

Taking the cue from my stellar revelations of last year, I will list a technology-related trend or event, then rate that event by assigning from one to five “at” signs (@) for each instance. A rating of one @ is, as an unknown bluesman once wrote, so low you could wear a top hat and walk under a snake. A rating of 5 @s is the tech equivalent of a Barry Bonds home run (juice-induced, of course).

ACORD and LOMA combine conferences in a single insurance technology show: @@1/2

The combined event drew more attendees than the combination of the single events from the year beforean obvious success for ACORD, the driving force behind the new ACORD/LOMA conference. The event brought together vendors and insurance personnel from both the property-casualty side of the industry (ACORD) and the life side (LOMA). Exhibitors who do business in both the life and p-c areas were happy with the increased turnout. Those who operate in only one of those areas, however, expressed less enthusiasm for the combined show. Industry scuttlebutt has it that the life insurance faction may be exploring other options. These groups have needs that must be met if the new conference is to succeed in the coming years. The jury is still out.

E-prescribing gains momentum: @@@@

Its a no-brainer that having fewer prescription errors will benefit patients, who could suffer mightily from taking the wrong dosage or the wrong drug. E-prescribing seeks to eliminate many such errors by transmitting clearly legible prescriptions directly from health care providers to pharmacies. An added benefit, however, is that health insurers will see reduced costsbecause patients wont get high-priced meds when a generic will doand a reduction in unnecessary hospitalizations resulting from prescription errors. Why only four @s? The industrys adoption of this technology has been phlegmatic at best.

George W. Bush is elected to a second term as president of the United States: @@1/2

Prior to the presidential election this year, I compared the presidential candidates on a number of technology issues to see which one would make the better technology president. President Bush won my competition by a small margin and the electorate had the good sense to take my advice. Now, however, he needs to follow through, particularly on permanently banning a tax on Internet access, his commitment to technology R&D and use of technology to secure our porous national borders. Its too soon to judge this presidents tech record at the moment, but well be keeping a watchful eye on those issues.

Microsoft and IBM increase their involvement in the insurance industry: @@@@

At this years ACORD/LOMA conference, Microsoft brought out its big guns and its checkbook (to pay for a lavish Las Vegas host suite) to impress upon the industry that it is a serious player for insurance tech business. At the same time, arch-rival IBM has raised its profile in our industry, exhibiting and sending representatives to speak at several industry tech conferences. This is a positive sign in terms of better software development and better support of the insurance industrys admittedly antiquated technology infrastructure. We must be cautious, however. Other horizontal technology companies have jumped into the insurance space only to run like stuck pigs when they realized how complicated this business can be.

And there you have itanother year of brilliance and technological terpsichory. As my 16-year-old son would say: “Word!”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, December 16, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.