The Inner World of Insurance
The 1966 science fiction movie, Fantastic Voyage, was about a tiny submarine, crewed by a team of medical experts, which was shrunken to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of a man to save his life. Well, we’re not quite that far yet, but medical sensors will soon be available that can be swallowed by a patient to monitor their medicine intake to ensure they are sticking to their treatment plan. General Practitioners (GPs) and carers will be able to remotely monitor their patients, and undertake the appropriate interventions without the need for hospitalization. When you consider the pressures that healthcare professionals are currently beset with, especially GP waiting times, this type of innovation could have a fundamental impact on the relationships we have with our healthcare service.
For example, waiting times for a GP appointment had increased to 13 days in April 2015 from 9 days just 1 year earlier. As our population continue to grow, it is placing greater demands on GPs. The healthcare sector is struggling to find ways of maintaining appropriate insight into people’s health. The overriding and pressing objective – given a growing, ageing population – is the provision of proactive, rather than reactive medical care; prevention rather than cure. It’s also of great importance that the principles of personal, one-to-one attention to an individual’s health do not get disregarded in searching for solutions to the patient deluge.
Solutions are indeed emerging that hold the promise of making healthcare a far more personal matter than it is today and this is where it gets interesting for the insurance industry.
Forget about wearable devices – it could soon be about ingestible devices
A group of London based Scientists originally created the ingestible sensor (a micro-chipped pill) which detects how a patient’s medicine is being consumed, and sends information about the patient, including rest, body angle and activity patterns, to a small patch attached to the skin like a plaster. The patch relays this information to the subject’s mobile phone via bluetooth. The individual then approves distribution of the information to his or her GP or Carer; remaining in full control of personal data. Proteus (funnily enough the name of the tiny submarine in Fantastic Voyage) is currently going through the review and approval process with the FDA.
Science fiction really is becoming science fact. I am looking forward to seeing this type of technology entering the market as long as the regulators can keep up.
The future of insurance: according to a seven-year-old
Looking at these advances made me start thinking about what sort of future my seven-year-old daughter is skipping into. If IoT sensors will be used to generate personalized healthcare, insurance policies and even appropriate ‘management’ plans, then there’s every chance she’ll have one; might be a great gift for her eighteenth but I suspect things might change well before then.
Imagine how it might pan out…what will my daughter’s reaction be to the notion of ingesting a sensor?
I can foresee wearable sensors becoming as integral a part of her daily life as her mobile will, and as mobiles are to everybody today. She’ll be monitoring multiple aspects of her inner workings, to make sure she’s being active enough, balancing her diet for optimum health benefits, stress-level and general emotional well-being.
So here comes a generation that will regard the management of its own health as a natural way of living. My daughter and her peers will relate differently to the healthcare system in the future. It won’t be a last resort place to turn to when things go wrong; it will be a natural partner to keep things going right. Healthcare will be proactive, not reactive.
Data in daily life
Insurance companies have a financially vested interest in how customers are looking after or abusing their bodies. The information could be used to determine their past health ‘management’ to offer an appropriate policy or look to refine their policy definitions accordingly in response to certain behavioural choices or inclinations a customer makes or shows.
You could imagine a time when these sensors are installed in the same way the telematics are currently growing in the automotive market, rewarding careful drivers and increasing the costs of cover for those who have a less cautious approach to road safety. The sensors will be producing a mountain of rich and highly personal data that GPs, Carers, Insurance and Healthcare organisations will have to connect with.