Insurance is changing fundamentally and going digital. Source: Shutterstock

Insurance is changing fundamentally and going digital. Source: Shutterstock

Prudential: When customers are healthier, insurers will be wealthier

INSURANCE is one of the oldest instruments in the financial services industry but it hasn’t changed very much. In the 21st century, although the industry has been digitally disrupted and much of the sale and claims processes are going online, the product is still the same at its core.

However, with the kind of real-time customer data that insurance, healthcare, and technology companies are gaining access to, the industry is on the cusp of a real disruption — one that flips existing actuarial models on their heads and fundamentally changes the instrument.

In the health insurance space, that disruption involves “moving from a place where we pay people when bad things happen, to a place where we get paid to keep customers happy,” said Prudential Group Chief Digital Officer Al-Noor Ramji.

With that understanding, it seems as though Prudential is beginning to change its vision for the future, believing that insurers (including themselves) will find success and make a profit only when their customers are healthier.

Given the magnitude of change involved, insurers, especially the forward-thinking companies championing the transformation, are creating apps and digital solutions that not only collect relevant data but also harness it to benefit and reward customers.

“A 170 years ago, we were a startup in the insurance industry, and with technology and data coming at us at the speed at which it is, we see ourselves headed in that direction again.

“We’re taking a risk when we say that the data we collect is teaching us something. It might be irrelevant to our customer’s future health and to our business — or it might be a goldmine that transforms health and wellbeing altogether.”

Ramji is incredibly sharp when it comes to discussing the (long-term) future of the industry, and with his guidance, Prudential seems to be taking big steps in its attempt to tame big data and gain from it.

The company and its peers don’t seem to have answers about what real-time customer data from wearables, hospital records, and other sources will mean for the industry, beyond providing better healthcare advice to customers.

Prudential seems confident it is off to a great start

In order to understand what to do with lots of data, Prudential needs to build its own repository that it can experiment with — a data set that doesn’t look like the one it has amassed over the past century and a half.

To that end, it launched a new mobile app Pulse by Prudential in Malaysia — an all-in-one digital app offering holistic health management to consumers in the region.

Using AI-powered self-help tools and real-time information, Pulse serves as a 24/7 partner to users, empowering them to take control of their personal health and wellbeing.

“Pulse is a great example of how the public and private sector can work together to help empower people to be more proactive, preventive and promotive in their approach to healthcare,” said Malaysian Minister of Health Dzulkefly Ahmad.

“With instant, reliable and relevant health information at their fingertips, people will be able to make more informed decisions when it comes to managing their own health, particularly in the care of non-communicable diseases.”

Ramji tells Tech Wire Asia that the company is going to use the app to help customers better manage their health — and doesn’t intend to use that data to price policies. Not right now anyway.

For now, the app will help improve the speed of medical care, helping people avoid long queues at the clinic and get access to consultations and prescriptions more quickly and effortlessly.

Fundamentally changing the ‘insurance’ instrument

The Malaysian ministry — as other ministerial agencies across the region and the world — approves of Prudential’s app and approach because they trust that the data will be used to improve the health of the public.

There’s also a good chance that access to this data, and the study of it inside corporate, government, and academic labs, will help revolutionize the insurance product, transforming it from something that protects a large homogenous pool to something that guarantees the safety and health of one individual based on habits, choices, and preferences.

Prudential is preparing for that future, and quite boldly.

“When we start writing policies using this data, which will be fairly soon, we’ll do it on a restricted, fairly small group, and if we’re wrong, we’ll lose money, but that’s how we’re going to learn.”

The company agrees that there’s a lot to learn but has an army of doctors, medical advisors, data scientists, actuarial professionals, and other professionals, including the support of government bodies, universities, and healthcare organizations discovering interesting insights every day.

“This does mean that the actuarial profession will be totally revamped one day. In the future, it’ll be an ecosystem driven model and everyone will need to cooperate – universities, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinics, and even gymnasiums,” said Prudential’s Ramji — and they seem to have a headstart.