Wellness. It’s a popular term, casually employed by media, healthcare providers, and technologists to refer to a range of physical, mental, social, and even financial behaviors.
But according to a global survey by RGA, wellness has a simpler meaning for insurers: it means win-win. More than 100 major life and health insurers across four continents participated in RGA’s Global Wellness Survey, which was conducted mid-pandemic (with a rolling implementation from August 2020 through January 2021).
The survey revealed that COVID-19 prompted insurers to re-prioritize wellness to benefit both insurers and insureds and optimize in-force business through improved health outcomes and brand loyalty (attracting and retaining customers).
Globally, an overwhelming number of insurers – 85% – reported making wellness a “priority.” And insurers are not just talking about wellness; they’re developing solutions to support consumer needs. Many are embracing a holistic view encompassing physical, mental, and financial wellness. Nearly three-fifths of respondents reported incorporating wellness into product offerings, including insurance-linked wellness programs, technologies, and tools. More than 70% of insurers said they were creating insurance-linked wellness products, and 68% pursued “wellness enablers,” a collection of digital platforms, tools, and apps designed to empower healthier living through information.
While most offerings sought to improve overall physical well-being, insurers also expressed interest in improving mental health specifically. More than half focused on building and deploying wellness enablers to support or help promote positive mental health or invested in technologies and initiatives to facilitate virtual mental health counseling, treatments, and improved cognitive functioning.
And even as tools and techniques for better living consumed insurers’ attention, survey respondents also reported attempts to capture more types of data to support underwriting and pricing wellness propositions and products.
A Holistic Perspective
Such results suggest that insurers’ focus is on improving overall health and well-being, not simply assessing risk. This shouldn’t be surprising: Insurers know well that lifestyle behaviors, such as physical activity, nutrition, and sleep, can significantly contribute to mortality and morbidity outcomes. Survey respondents believe that wellness programs must deliver an improved health impact (46%) so that insured will live longer and healthier lives and approximately half of respondents are focused on improved in-force management (48%). An enhanced consumer experience is more likely to manage chronic health issues in at-risk insureds while preventing the risks of disease and maintaining the health of consumers. The biggest winner is the insured, who can enjoy a higher quality of life, even as the insurer reduces claims incidence.
Survey results also point to a less acknowledged development. It is often said that life insurance is “sold, not bought,” and what more direct way to attract customer interest than by delivering improved well-being? Insurers increasingly see wellness as a means to strengthen customer relationships long after the initial policy sale. More than 70% of global respondents indicated their wellness products are offered as a perk or value-added service. Almost half of survey participants reported targeting segments for wellness products and programs based on demographics such as age, gender, marital status, and income. Others preferred targeting based on health status, which included healthy individuals as well as those with a chronic disease like diabetes. Forty-two percent were interested in segmenting consumers with the goal of helping insured achieve a healthier lifestyle or improved fitness based on behavioral and attitudinal factors.
Insurers’ focus is on improving overall health and well-being, not simply assessing risk.
One-fifth of survey respondents reported that apps and programs could improve brand loyalty and shared plans to measure progress through increased customer engagement and lead generation or sales. Over half of the survey respondents that have wellness platforms are reliant on personalized offerings, rewards, gamification, and predictive technology to motivate greater consumer engagement.
More than half of insurers that currently offer wellness enabling software and apps are focused on providing content focused on positive behaviors, followed by fitness-related apps, health apps that address chronic disease, and online tools to build stress reduction skills.
Such initiatives succeed or fail on the strength of data, and insurers’ top five sources are biometric: weight, blood pressure, physical activity, heart rate, and sleep. Insurers are also turning to alternative metrics, such as information on nutrition and eating habits, and more traditional data sources such as biomedical results as reported in electronic health records, and lab-identified biomarkers.
Shaping the Future
Overall, RGA’s survey suggested varied perspectives on the future of wellness products and programs and revealed sharp regional differences between insurers. In the Americas, insurers are currently far more focused on the use of wellness initiatives to enhance insureds’ overall physical, mental, and financial health. Improving brand loyalty is of greater importance to insurers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and innovation is the priority in Asia, particularly in around the application of genetics-based wellness. Growth areas for future opportunities in wellness globally are chronic disease management, mental health, and financial wellness.
Survey results reinforce a finding from the companion RGA Global Genetics Survey, conducted over a similar time period. Insurers see significant potential in genetic insights to support better management of nutrition-related metabolic disorders, like diabetes, (90%) or to manage drug treatment (97%). The top two areas of focus are nutrigenomics to inform food and lifestyle choices, and pharmacogenomics to optimize prescription medication therapies.
And while insurers surveyed around the world indicated that financial wellness consultations, planning tools, or products were less of a priority, most shared optimism about the future of financial wellness products and services, to support overall wellness as well as being driven by sustainability for rapidly aging populations in many countries.
RGA’s Global Wellness Survey reinforced not only the variety and complexity of strategic approaches to wellness among life and health insurers, but a common commitment to empower people to live their best lives.
Curious about RGA’s global survey results? Download Survey Results. RGA is ready to help you expand your current wellness tools and products or explore the potential opportunities that are becoming available in this area. For more detail, contact RGA.