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Vocabulary matters: accelerated, fluidless and automated underwriting

accelerated, fluidless and automated underwriting

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

“If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.”

“What’chu talkin’ bout, Willis?”
Gary Coleman

The conference season is upon us, and as in every life insurance event of the past few years, people are discussing “accelerated underwriting.” It’s an exciting topic but also a perplexing one, because that term means different things to different people.

If you’re looking for consensus on these terms from the industry, good luck; they each have their own definitions as well. As a result, accelerated, fluidless and automated are bandied about in sometimes confusing ways. And that confusion breeds uncertainty—which, of course, is the enemy of accurate underwriting.

Here’s our take:

Accelerated underwriting streamlines risk assessment because it eliminates the need for a NEW medical exam and fluids. However, lab data from a medical exam may be replaced by lab data from a third party. Accelerated underwriting compresses the underwriting timeline to a few days (or even a few minutes) and enables carriers to deliver a superior customer experience that is faster, easier, and more convenient for the applicant.

Fluidless underwriting assesses risk without any fluids or corresponding data from fluids, of any kind. Obviously, the applicant does not undergo a medical exam and it can shorten the process from several weeks to mere seconds.

Automated underwriting is any part of the risk assessment process that reduces underwriter involvement and time. Automated underwriting often includes algorithmic or rules-based risk assessment which can involve a combination of rules engines and data-driven predictive models.

Take the quiz

Got all that? Okay, now consider three scenarios, and take a stab at assigning terms to each of them:

Check mark 2 Scenario 1: Labs and exams are ordered for all applicants, but the results are evaluated by a rules engine or predictive model, eliminating the need for review by an underwriter.

Check mark 2 Scenario 2: Labs are not required, but an underwriter reviews each case, including evidence from prescription history and medical records.

Check mark 2 Scenario 3: Labs, medical history and the electronic health record are obtained through a data provider which is processed through a combination of rules engines and predictive models to deliver a decision without an underwriter reviewing the case.


The first scenario is automated but not fluidless; the algorithmic pathway shaves an average of two weeks off decision time.

The second scenario is fluidless and accelerated, but not automated.

The third is accelerated and automated, but not fluidless. It uses a fluid-based evaluation process; new labs were not obtained. 

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So who cares?

So what’s the value in understanding these terms and how they interrelate in the real world? It’s knowing what questions to ask and knowing the costs and mortality rates for each underwriting process. Understanding these terms in the context of your underwriting ecosystem is the first step in defining your goals, creating a strategic road map to achieve them, and determining where best to focus resources to speed up the process.

What is the most accurate mix of automated, fluidless and human-assisted underwriting for your organization? How can you be certain that forgoing a medical exam or relying on third-party consumer data can produce a mortality risk assessment that’s accurate enough for confident underwriting? 

Choose the right partner

While these questions may seem complicated, it is useful to work with a partner that has already answered them for other organizations. Wherever you are in the accelerated underwriting journey, we’ve been there:

Legacy data in disparate databases? Yup. 

Prioritizing the structuring of unstructured data? Of course. 

Figuring out which pieces of information give you the most accurate risk assessment? Definitely. 

Convincing your actuaries and underwriters to trust the results? Not easy but 1,000% worth it.

Define your terms, define your path

Fluid-based or fluidless? Manual or automated? Or some combination of these?

How can automated, accelerated and fluidless underwriting be expanded? Ask us.

We can help you choose the best path for your business priorities, customize a predictive underwriting model that best meets your objectives, and test it and implement it seamlessly into your underwriting ecosystem.

Since accelerated, automated and fluidless are all relatively new terms to the industry, their definitions may shift over time as technology continues to improve and the industry continues to evolve. One thing is certain, however: LifeScore Labs will be integral in leading the charge.

Accelerated underwriting is...


…when some insurance applications are eligible to have certain medical requirements (such as paramedical exams) waived or replaced by alternative data sources to speed the underwriting process.

LIMRA also goes on to explain its assumptions for the survey “The survey was conducted under the assumption that having an accelerated underwriting program requires having an automated underwriting program as well. Accordingly, companies that reported having an accelerated program were assumed to have an automated program, but not vice versa: the presence of an automated program was not taken to necessarily imply the presence of an accelerated program.” Got that?

LIMRA.  Automated and Accelerated Underwriting Life Insurance Company Practices in 2021 


…any Individual Life underwriting workflow that aims to decrease time from application to issue for applicants who meet criteria that qualify them to bypass a paramedical exam and/or fluid collection. Programs may include some combination of the following:

  • Collection of medical underwriting sources
  • Collection of non-medical data including credit attributes, motor vehicle records, etc.
  • Expanded application/tele-interview process
  • Fully automated and/or partially automated underwriting systems

GenRe. 2021 Individual Life Accelerated Underwriting Survey


…the use of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to underwrite life insurance in an expedited manner. The process generally uses predictive models and machine learning algorithms to analyze applicant data, which may include the use of nontraditional, non-medical data, provided either by the applicant directly or obtained through external sources. The process is typically used to replace all or part of traditional underwriting in life insurance and to allow some applications to have certain medical requirements waived, such as paramedical exams and fluid collection.

NAIC. Accelerated Underwriting Working Group

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