Consumers are increasingly accustomed to online systems that give them instant access to all types of personal information records. In healthcare, patients have grown to appreciate on-demand access to their records from providers, as well as making use of tracking apps and devices that collect data about lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise. This market trend is leading insurance companies to move from a traditional payment-delivery system to the more consumer-focused “Insurance as Service” model.
One method of offering service to consumers is establishing a Digital Health Engagement Platform (DHEP) with which policyholders can interact directly. Some insurers have already rolled out new DHE portals, while others have yet to implement such systems.
Peter Ohnemus’ non-profit foundation, the Digital Health Engagement Institute (DHEI) surveyed over 1,200 insurance executives and professionals from North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, and Africa to determine how the industry integrates DHEPs into operations.
Forty-nine percent of respondents already have DHEPs in use. Another 18% intend to roll out DHE systems within six to 12 months. The remaining 34% do not yet intend to add a DHEP to their roster of services.
As with any novel technology, there are potential obstacles to successful implementation. In the case of systems designed to collect personal health data, privacy concerns and the influence of regulators rise to the top of the list. Another top concern is ensuring enough ease of use to keep customers engaged.
Despite uneven uptake on DHEPs, there was consensus around several key takeaways from the survey.
DHEPs Add Value
The majority of stakeholders in the health industry recognize the added value Digital Health Engagement Platforms bring to the “Insurance as Service” model. Offering an online portal where customers can access or input health and behavioral information allows customers to deepen their relationship with their insurance company. In addition, these portals offer insurers a collection point for valuable data on individual health choices.
DHEPs provide opportunities for consumer engagement, which can be measured by counting actions such as logins, clicks, swipes, or time spent interacting with each feature. Less quantifiable is how DHE interaction affects behavioral choices, which in turn can affect health outcomes related to non-communicable diseases and health conditions related to lifestyle choices. As the DHEPs evolve, there may be more opportunities to integrate the self-reported data and trends in health outcomes.
Data Privacy and Validity Are Concerns
Any undertaking that collects personal data from consumers is fraught with ethical and regulatory concerns. Health data collection, use, and recording are governed by General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the EU and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S. Developing a system that works within the current regulatory framework requires a high level of planning and system security.
Moreover, savvy consumers may be concerned with the implications of entering additional health information into an insurance company system, not to mention concerns about hacking or data breaches. Innovation in DHEPs will doubtless raise the interest of regulators who may be inclined to take new steps to protect customer privacy. Some insurance companies may be taking a wait-and-see approach before developing their own DHEPs.
Another potential issue is the inherent drawbacks of using artificial intelligence in interactive platforms. AI bias is a known issue with this technology. Insurers have expressed concerns that flawed AI could produce results that discriminate against particular demographic groups.
The Product Has To Be Appealing
Insurance companies are aware that simply offering a Digital Health Engagement Platform is not enough. It’s important to rely on solid technology design linked to good behavioral science to build a platform that customers want to engage with.
Experts agree that a successful DHEP should incorporate opportunities for positive interaction, such as in-app systems of rewards and recognition, customer-focused tech support, and links to content from experts in the medical field. Any platform could fail if it did not provide sufficient user support and clear communication. Insurance companies were also acutely aware of the possible adverse effects of any incidence of data mishandling.
The clear added value of consumer engagement platforms is likely to push more development of DHEPs among insurance companies in the coming years. Managing the intricacies of offering an attractive product while safeguarding data will be a challenge in the near future. Using the data collected to help consumers improve their health outcomes is an achievable long-term goal of these systems.
To download the complete survey report from the DHEI, please click here.