Why to Digitize Disability Claims

For health insurers, digital technology offers new ways to manage risk that rely less on face-to-face and traditional clinical assessment.

Healthcare is being transformed by advances in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, sensors and other innovative technologies. Practically everybody has a smartphone, making it easier than ever to gather data and consent to third-party access. Data insights mean providers can offer people products and services tailored to them individually. For insurers, digital technology offers new ways to manage risk that rely less on face-to-face and traditional clinical assessment; this is why there is so much interest in understanding how innovation might work. Selected comments from four key players in the digital health ecosystem make clear the appeal of putting two and two together. Thomas Lethenborg at Monsenso, a mobile platform for mental health, said, “Digital technology helps an individual move from reactive behavior to being more proactive - and this changes the paradigm, in particular with engagement.” It’s a view shared by David Forster of Thrive, a digital interventions app for mental health: “Data drives our understanding of what works best for the individual.” According to Forster, the success of digital technology in clinical settings points to real opportunities in insurance: “It makes it possible to provide policyholders help with illness prevention, early detection and assistance on a personal level.” Ian Prangley, of exercise rehabilitation service TrackActive, continued the theme when he said, “For insurers, digital solutions can drive connectedness, engagement and customer satisfaction while enabling people to self-manage their health. Harnessing data insights and implementing artificial intelligence (AI) is key to achieving this.” See also: New Regulations for Disability Claims   A comment by Danny Dressler of AIMO, an ecosystem integrating intelligent motion analysis into musculoskeletal care, added further confirmation: “As more and better data is gathered and processed safely, AI offers the most promise to take care of people's health and fix issues in both healthcare and the life and health insurance sectors.” By using digital means, insurers can create scalable, automated, speedy ways of supporting people when they need help the most. Proponents argue that digital offers better health outcomes for policyholders that will reduce the costs associated with long disability claims - a win-win for both insurers and consumers. Dressler noted that “technology like ours lets insurers offer customers new solutions such as dynamic pricing, automated claims and even help to prevent claims from happening.” Lethenborg says there is “an opportunity to ensure the data collected gives holistic insights and analytics that we can use to intervene more rapidly, when help is needed.” But it’s crucial the highest levels of privacy and data protection are guaranteed and operators are in full compliance with regulations. An imperfect balance of privacy with innovation is a deal-breaker for consumers. Forster is clear how delicate this balance is: “We recognize our responsibility to safeguard users’ data, but at the same time information technology empowers people to make choices and participate actively in managing their own health - it puts them in the driving seat for the first time.” For digital solutions to be convincing, research and scientific evidence are needed, but, with new services, long-term experience is scarce, and a leap of faith is required. Dressler spoke for all in saying, “We maintain strong links to scientific institutions because the general technologies underpinning our solutions emerge from scientific thesis...[This means] we only implement new features or functions after a rigorous validation process, especially because we are asking people to trust us with their health and well-being.” Dealing with high volumes of data is not without risk, particularly when it’s shared with third parties. See also: A Road Map for Health Insurance   Ian Prangley has pointed to recent concerns over how sensitive data is being used to highlight the challenges faced: “The key is to anonymize and protect data and have customers consent to sharing it on the understanding it will be used solely to improve their health.” This insight is driven home by Lethenborg, who said, “Transparency about how the data will be used is essential to building trust.” Digitization has already brought new products and services that have had positive medical and scientific impact. As Prangley said, “Technology has connected people and changed how we relate to each other. There [are] arguments for and against this of course but in the context of health and wellbeing we believe it’s a great thing.” With mental health and musculoskeletal problems as the leading causes of disability claims in every market, companies can bring digital solutions and opportunities - and health insurers can also feel great about them.

Ross Campbell

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Ross Campbell

Ross Campbell is chief underwriter, research and development, based in Gen Re’s London office.


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