Digital incentives are essential to productive health insurance systems

Digital incentives are essential to productive health insurance systems

According to Dr Nathan Malka, Cardiologist, Private Hospital group Ambroise Paré – Hartmann, who joined a discussion on the potential of digital medicine in cardiology at HLTH Europe, relying solely on historical data to predict the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease is insufficient. This approach is akin to how insurance companies calculate risk profiles, which often fail to capture the complete picture. Traditional models, based on limited touch points—such as when a policy is signed or a claim is made—do not provide a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s health risk.

From an insurance perspective, enhancing the number of interactions with policyholders is crucial. The industry is known for having minimal touch points, typically limited to policy issuance and claims processing. Similarly, in healthcare, patients usually interact with doctors only during initial screenings, annual check-ups, or when surgeries are required. These infrequent interactions do not offer enough data to accurately assess health risks.

To obtain a clear and accurate picture of an individual’s likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, it is essential to increase the frequency of these interactions. Regular and continuous monitoring, facilitated by digital health technologies, can provide ongoing insights into a patient’s health status. This continuous data collection allows for early detection of potential issues, enabling timely interventions that can prevent the progression of diseases.

Dr Malka said: “In order to do this, successfully we must be relying on a mechanism of incentives. And these mechanisms are in wearables technology. That we have available. And this mechanism of incentives needs to rely on behavioural science, by nudging people in the correct way”

Dr Malka presented proof that being informed isn’t enough by asking the audience to raise their hands if they are aware smoking is bad, and how many continue to do so. He gave an example of an incentive method based on behavioural science that has proven successful through the use of wearables.

“The difficulty is to find the right mechanism of incentives. Generally, we have developed outside the cardiovascular diseases, a programme called Vitality which is live in many European countries, leverages wearables to track the activity levels of policyholders. If the data indicates that a policyholder maintains a healthy lifestyle, they can benefit from frozen premiums and additional perks, such as discounts on purchases like a new Apple Watch or iPad. This incentivisation mechanism has proven effective. Similarly, in the realm of mobility insurance, programmes like pay-as-you-drive adjust premiums based on driving behaviour, rewarding safer drivers with lower costs.

“Studies project that certain trends will quadruple by 2050, which is concerning. As we consider ageing well, the responsibility increasingly falls on individuals, implying a shift towards greater financial reliance on personal resources. This trend signifies a growing protection gap, as rising insurance premiums may become unaffordable for many, exacerbating financial vulnerabilities,” added Dr Malka.

The retirement protection gap, affecting those nearing retirement, is expected to quadruple by 2050, reaching US$400 trillion globally. Addressing this immense challenge requires a systemic approach involving all stakeholders—entrepreneurs, corporations, insurance groups, and healthcare practitioners.

Dr Malka concludes: “Starting from the entrepreneurs from large corporates, insurance groups and care practitioners, we all need these players to work hand in hand in order to invert the trends we are seeing. In order to reduce the gap we will need to be working on even more mechanisms to incentivise people to keep up a healthier lifestyle including prevention, exercise and remote monitoring.”

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