I recently bought a Fitbit to motivate myself to walk everyday as advised by my doctor. My wife got enticed by the look of the wearable and she ordered one for herself. Within a week, we were a part of a group, competing with each other and with others in the group. In a month’s time, I was part of at least two or three more groups and so was my wife. We challenged each other to walk the most and had our winning moments every week. My health improved, my doctor’s revenue came down, though he being my well-wisher, was happy with this outcome. However, there was one more stakeholder who immensely benefitted from this exercise – my health insurance provider.. It was not just my health that improved I’m sure, but the health of at least forty more individuals who were a part of the various Fitbit groups. Now that’s the blue ocean I’m talking about, one that I feel insurance providers have not harnessed to its potential.
Similar to the APIs exposed by Facebook and Google, most of the wearable OMCs (original Manufacturing Companies) have their own apps and sites. All the key data from the wearable is available for consumption through APIs (Application Programmable Interfaces) or web services if the user agrees for such exposure. A lot of these OMCs have built their own collaboration platforms among their user community. This user community and the data on their health is extremely valuable to health insurance providers. The buzzword in insurance is always “prevention”. What if insurance companies can indirectly influence the health of its users in a positive way? This would bring down their claims and thereby increase profitability.
Basic collaboration platform
The insurance provider can create a collaboration platform and get all its users on-board. Users with wearables can choose to register, making their data or a subset of their data available. For instance, users may not prefer to post their cholesterol or heartbeat data but would be fine with sharing the number of kilometers they have walked or the number of steps they take every day. The collaboration platform will use the APIs exposed by the wearable OMCs at a competitive price and automatically make the data available in the platform for use.
Creating user communities
Once the users are registered, the next step is to create the user communities. A team is required to play the game and the communities/teams can be formed based on their physical location, hospital visits, doctor’s visits, relationship, and common ailment, among others. Every community would elect a moderator through online voting and it is the moderator who will administer the games. The moderator will also be responsible for marketing their community, thereby encouraging other users to join in as long as they meet the criteria for joining.
Once a community attains a critical mass, its play time. Gaming ideas can range from determining the person who walked the most in a week and the longest walk in a day to counting the highest calories burnt and awarding the most consistent walker. Games could become more and more interesting if we combine Virtual Reality with the games. For instance, there could be a hidden treasure at a location where the walkers in a community would have to walk to and find out. The person who unearths the treasure would be awarded points. The more data the users in a community expose, the more number of games could be formulated. On regular intervals, inter-community games could also be played and this can go on and on. The number of possible permutations are endless.
Leverage the power of a community
Once we have the communities engaged in the collaboration platform, the options to engage them further and make money through these engagements are immense for an insurance provider. Community-specific events could be organized. This could be fun, providing an opportunity for community members to meet each other and socialize while getting their health checked in the process. With the user’s health improving, the claim rates are prone to come down and even if they don’t, the information available is so valuable that it can be used to take corrective action and improve each user’s health.
Power of Natural Language Processing (NLP)
A collaboration platform will involve a lot of communication and knowledge-sharing among users. This information is a gold mine from which insights can be derived on what is working for users and what is not. This is where we can leverage the power of NLP to obtain insights from certain key words and keep building on this dictionary as the usage increases through the implementation of a machine learning algorithm. Insights could be as simple as the brand of a medicine that works, the best shoes to wear for a walk, the best wearable, and the co-relation between BMI index and health, among others.
Now that a collaboration platform is built, user communities are created, games are formulated to drive better health, and artificial intelligence is deployed to gain actionable insights – the focus should be on turning the platform into an ideal advertising space for all providers, directly or indirectly related to healthcare. The providers in question could be a pharma company, a sportswear company, a health drink company or a firm selling healthcare products – a set of like-minded people who influence each other extensively because it’s ideal to sell related products. The uptake in such advertisements could be quite high and hence the insurance company can demand a higher advertisement premium. The insurance firm can use this platform for their own cross-selling and up-selling of products as well. Again, the opportunities are immense.
The world is now a global marketplace where companies such as Facebook, Uber, and eBay thrive and flourish. With insurance companies having a large user base and the mandate on health insurance in most of the developed countries, it is a user base that can readily be harnessed for the above gains. The insurance companies have to be cautious on ensuring that privacy is not breached and other data which is already made available by wearable OMCs are optimally leveraged to drive better health. The insurance companies can have their cake and eat it too!