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Jan 2022

Is there a doctor in the house?

Source: Middle East Insurance Review | Dec 2021

Health, healthcare and health insurance look like they might be the next in line for significant disruption.
 
Coming at a time when the nations in MENA are rapidly getting to grips with the growing importance of health and health insurance, this could be seen as the greatest opportunity for growth – or the biggest threat to survival.
 
While there is nothing new about savvy consumers relying on wearables to monitor their health and wellbeing, these devices – and the ubiquity of the data that they record – have reached critical mass and may be about to change the very nature of what it is to be a doctor and, by extension, a health insurer.
 
No longer are these wearables – specifically smart rings and watches – simply activity trackers. They have morphed into sophisticated healthcare tools that empower the consumer with more knowledge and more insights.
 
This means that a visit to the doctor – either in-person or online – could change forever. No longer will the patient simply listen to the doctor with a growing sense of anxiety. Patients will be armed with more information about their own health and will be able to take a much more active part in the consultation.
 
While these wearable devices – like the Apple Watch, Oura Ring, WHOOP 4.0, Amazfit GTR 3 Pro – will change forever the doctor/patient dynamic, they could have a similarly big impact on the customer/insurer relationship.
 
The concept of life and health insurance is predicated on the basis of risk pooling and risk sharing. Every party to the life or health insurance contract enters it in good faith – willing to pay in or take out depending on how the future unfolds. There will be winners and losers in the risk pool – but since no one knows which they will be, every participant is willing to take their chance.
 
But with the proliferation of health data available from wearables, the risk pool ceases to look like an agglomeration of fungible consumers and more like a collection of individuals that can be placed with a great degree of accuracy on a spectrum that ranges from ‘very healthy’ to ‘very unhealthy’. In other words, the pool is replaced by a spectrum.
 
If there is no pool – can there be insurance in the proper sense? Products sold to consumers under such circumstances would look less like ‘insurance’ and more like ‘pre-payment’. Great news for the fit and healthy and bad news for the sick and infirm.
 
The very basis of insurance is rooted in the concept of the cooperative which, with hindsight, presumes a lack of knowledge of the future. If the data collected from wearables today provides the knowledge that was once missing, where does that leave the traditional health insurer?
Perhaps this could be the opportunity that the health takaful sector has been waiting for – a chance to show that ‘caring’ for fellow humans is more important than profiting from them.
 
Paul McNamara
Editorial director
Middle East Insurance Review
 
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