Data and digitalisation can improve patient health outcomes and allow people to live better lives, even though reform may be challenging, industry executives said at a panel on digital connectivity during the Global Insurance Forum in Singapore on Tuesday, November 7.
“There is an opportunity to better service the customer through digitalisation in my belief, but there are some fundamental things within the insurance space that I believe would need to evolve to facilitate it,” said Rachel Edwards, managing director for Verisk’s Life, Health and Travel division.
At the moment, insurance in many jurisdictions is limited in terms of what policies cover, and many do not cover chronic or pre-existing medical conditions, she added.
“There is an opportunity to be more inclusive and to understand that risk and better manage the risk in the sale (and) also offer options to customers,” she said.
For that, policies should be customisable – something that is only really going to be facilitated through a digital process, Edwards said. Capturing information and using data to support customers is invariably where the sector is heading, she added. “If you haven’t understood what the customer needs, then how can you show that the product was valuable to them?”
Data capture can generate a lot of value downstream as well, said Edwards, with education programmes that may help people understand more about their health, encourage them to make good life choices, and facilitate improved health outcomes. “Just because someone has a medical condition doesn’t mean you cannot improve their health outcomes as a result,” she added. “We’re talking about data capture at each point in the sales cycle, but the value you can add to all stakeholders, intermediaries, insurance and the customer is a really exciting thing.”
But this is only possible if public systems, private healthcare systems, doctors and insurers work together to exchange data, said Dr Alfred Beil, AXA’s head of underwriting and group chief medical officer. “Frankly, this is a difficulty. Everyone who works in corporate knows how difficult it is for one team to work with another.”
Beil brought out an example about cancer care and screening, which can take an enormous amount of coordination. “If we work with connected systems, these decisions can become better.”
But insurers are not tech companies, Beil said, and need to work with other companies instead of attempting to build solutions on their own. “There is always a tendency to work in silos, thinking that it’s part of our competitive advantage,” he added.
Digitalisation has become a massive accelerator, with apps across banking and insurance ecosystems that enable insurers to engage with hundreds of thousands of customers every minute of every day, said Edward Moncreiffe, CEO of HSBC Life in Hong Kong.
Insurers can use digitalisation to their advantage in many processes, including payments. “If we’re able to connect payments to our claims engines like we have done, when the payments come in five seconds after you’ve made the claim, that’s a great outcome,” said Moncreiffe.
“If we can (make) payments T-plus-zero to the doctors, we’re delivering a lot better outcomes for doctors – that may not matter so much for the big clinics and big multinationals, but if you are a solo doctor cash flow is pretty important.”
There’s a lot health insurers can learn from property and casualty insurance to reduce residual risk, said Moncreiffe.
“There are some controls and risk mitigations to reduce your residual risk, so I can rate (a customer) accordingly. And I think we really need to start doing that better as health insurers.”
HSBC started doing DNA testing for critical illness policies in China and Hong Kong in 2017, giving customers the option to check for hereditary cancer mutations. “If you take this test and you see you’ve got a hereditary cancer marker for colorectal cancer… that probably means you’re going to go for a colonoscopy now rather than waiting until you’re 45.”
Insurers need to evaluate whether they are providing the right level of value, said Moncreiffe. “If we can start using the data that we have and start using the connectivity, we can start adding more value as a health partner.”
Fundamentally, health insurance is a high intensity and high frequency business, he said.
“What we want to own is the customer relationship… In Hong Kong, we pay 60,000 claims a month, and that’s a claim every 40 seconds. Every 40 seconds, an opportunity to deliver a good customer outcome, to deliver loyalty, to deliver customer satisfaction.”