The pandemic’s disruption to customer-facing operations has launched and accelerated digitalization initiatives throughout the business world – and this certainly includes insurance, a traditionally paper-based industry.
But among insurers’ many tech-enabled adaptations over the last several months, how do we determine which innovations are temporary fixes and which represent manifestations of more deep-rooted trends that could bring permanent change to the industry?
Here we consider three major digital product trends that could be a part of this permanent change for insurers, focusing specifically on examples from Asia, where several advances have already taken place:
Although telehealth can be traced back to the mid to late 19th century, with early examples of medical information shared over telephone wires, its true potential lies in the future. While traditionally these services aren’t covered by medical insurance, many insurers have recently opted to temporarily expand the scope of coverage to include telehealth due to social distancing requirements. Post-pandemic these services may become core elements of medical reimbursement benefits. Additional lasting innovations could include insurers’ own customer-facing platforms that offer a variety of services, such as telemedicine, e-prescription, medical screening, and wellness programs. Recent developments in this area include:
China: JD Health, the telemedicine division of e-commerce giant JD.com, launched a new feature that connects doctors with 60 million Chinese consumers online via its website. The service innovation also provided part-time job opportunities for doctors while at home in quarantine. The company estimates that the pandemic helped speed up local telemedicine needs by five years.
Indonesia: Halodoc, one of Indonesia’s largest telehealth firms, offers medicine delivery through partnerships with pharmacies, laboratories, and a ride-hailer service provider. The offering is so comprehensive that the entire treatment of some local COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms was carried out via Halodoc.
Singapore: An insurer announced in March that it will cover the costs of 50,000 medical video consultations provided by an on-demand telemedicine provider for all policyholders of a specific Integrated Shield Plan (IP). Individuals requiring professional medical advice can engage with doctors from the comfort of their own home, exclusively via the company’s mobile app.
See also: Product Trends Around The World 2Q 2020
2. Blockchain Technology
Some markets across the globe have already started to implement electronic health record systems, which will likely be accelerated by the pandemic. These systems allow access to the most up-to-date and accurate medical records, enabling more efficient and coordinated medical care that is crucial for determining the most appropriate treatment for patients. These platforms also provide opportunities to utilize blockchain technology, resulting in more streamlined processes related to claim submission or personal information changes.
Taiwan | Preservation/Claims Alliance Chain: Earlier this year, 11 Taiwanese insurance firms announced a collaborative trial to test blockchain’s ability to simplify policy changes. If a person needs to change his or her personal information and has multiple policies with different insurers, one data update will automatically be shared with other insurers. Similarly, if a consumer has multiple insurance policies and submits a claim to one, a blockchain smart contract will notify the other insurers to initiate a claim.
Japan: A life insurer is conducting a trial of a company-branded digital currency with 100 employees, who will hold the currency in a digital wallet, use it to purchase items, and receive virtual coins based on their behavior. The aim is to test the currency for collecting insurance premiums and benefit payments.
Hong Kong: The regional insurtech ventureYas Digital Limited launched a microinsurance marketplace which utilizes innovative technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, data analytics, and open application programming interface (API), likely to reshape the insurance industry while creating an ecosystem and business model for both businesses and consumers.
See also: Learning to Unlearn: The Power of Dynamic Requirements Gathering
3. Digitalized Claims Journey
The pandemic forced many insurers to review and expand their digital offerings as they adapted to restricted face-to-face interaction and capitalized on the popularity of online transactions. We expect to see increased interest in complete digitalization of the end-to-end claims journey in which the physical customer service center will play a less significant role.
Vietnam: One insurer’s focus on enhancing its online services, solutions, and experiences for customers has produced a digital application that allows agents to capture and tailor solutions to customers’ needs and a platform for online claim submission within minutes.
Indonesia: An insurance provider launched an end-to-end digital service to sell its products with the aim to improve customer experiences when face-to-face interaction is limited. The product innovation includes two mobile apps: one that helps accelerate the processing of health insurance claims and one that offers teleconsultation services and assistance with online medical purchases.
Hong Kong: A global insurer launched a market-first, all-digital cashless service, enabling local customers to obtain speedy claims pre-approval for colonoscopy and gastroscopy day surgery by simply entering their date of birth and Hong Kong Identity Card (HKID) number at the designated online platform, eliminating the claim submission process and making the customer journey faster and smoother.
See also: COVID-19 Brief: Can digital solutions function without a human touch?
While we’ve yet to see the full impact of the pandemic on the insurance industry, these trends indicate a major shift towards innovation in digitalization. It’s critical for insurers to closely follow developments in this area and implement technological advances according to their customers’ needs. Joining the insurance sector’s digital revolution now may result in long-term growth in the years to come. We knew change was coming; we just didn’t know how fast.