In a 2017 comparison of eleven high-income countries, the USA had the highest in healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP and falls dead last in measure of administrative efficiency, equitable access, and healthcare outcomes. With some Wall Street experts even concluding that healthcare costs could lead to the next recession, there’s no doubt that an industry transformation is long overdue.
To keep up with the times, health insurance providers are slowly adjusting to innovative ways of doing everyday business, streamlining their operations and creating a better experience for consumers.
Trends for health insurance tech tell us that robotic automation, a shift toward retail experiences, and a focus on customer service lead the way on big changes to expect industry-wide.
Artificial intelligence has been used to make numerous businesses more streamlined, with functions ranging from reliable fraud detection with PayPal to easy ordering at McDonald’s. Insurance companies could be next on the bandwagon with diagnostician chatbots and secure blockchain technology.
Artificial INtelligence(AI) & RPA
In Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, DeepMind AI correctly diagnosed over 50 ophthalmological conditions 94% of the time. Through robotics process automation (RPA), robots can accurately conduct highly-detailed surgery, and draw blood quickly in just the right spot for the least discomfort. Online chatbots can diagnose numerous patient issues without ever seeing them. To a certain extent, AI and RPA capabilities will likely replace doctors and other healthcare staff.
Cloud-based platforms are making major strides in transforming healthcare/health insurance data management. VectorCare, for example, operates as a customizable logistics platform to help companies save time, give better patient care, reduce costs and improve operational efficiency from any web browser. The emergence of Big Data can use algorithms and predictive analytics to flag possible insurance fraud, streamline application and claim processes, and more.
Blockchain tech, the system behind bitcoin, may soon use its unique security infrastructure to enter the healthcare industry. Facilities appreciate that information can be shared confidentially, meaning that everything from patient medication to transaction records can be sent HIPAA-securely and with complete data integrity. Providers could even track the complete supply-chain history of a pharmaceutical drug in order to prevent drug counterfeiting. In an age where many small healthcare providers still rely on phone calls or paper records-keeping for their patients, this technology is revolutionary. Tech leader IBM says that “Blockchain has the potential to propel innovation in preventative care and community-based healthcare models.”
Google Glass may have been classified as a failed experiment in Silicon Valley, but the technology is poised to experience a rebirth in the medical field Transcription during appointments could be done with Google Glass, which could replace messy doctor’s notes and scribes replace scribes. Insurance companies could have a word-for-word record of patient appointments.
In 2015 Mark Wilson, Chief Executive of U.K. insurance firm Aviva, said “I think insurance is in the Stone Age while other people are circling Mars”. With tools like RPA and AI, health insurance could finally be catching up.
Retail vs Healthcare
For many consumers, trying to understand the health insurance system can feel like an impossible task. But what if it were more like buying supplies off the internet, or requesting a ride via your phone?
Business giants like Amazon, Apple, and Uber have recently announced emergence into the healthcare sector, pushing the industry to more closely mimic consumer retail.
Amazon's Partnerships and Purchases
Amazon inc leads the current healthcare shift, as demonstrated by their purchase of PillPack and their partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway.
Little is known about the Amazon, JPMorgan, Chase, and Warren Buffet team-up, but their joint statement acknowledges that “the initial focus of the new company will be on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost”. By buying PillPack, a full-service online pharmacy, Amazon also shows that they could easily cover multiple points of the insurance/healthcare process.
Uber wants to be used for medical transport under the label Uber Health. Rather than listing standard medical transport companies on insurance forms, healthcare providers could arrange Uber rides for non-emergency medical transportation, transporting patients to doctor’s appointments, dialysis treatments, and more on time. . With global healthcare transportation services expected to surge to over $100 billion by 2024, a shift toward patient rideshare services could help reimagine the market.
Insurance could soon be more tailored to customers’ unique individual needs overall through on-demand policies. In CB Insights’ webinar Trends in Insurance Tech, Senior Analyst Matthew Wong described on-demand insurance: “Another area where we see a lot of buzz is this area of on-demand insurance … allowing you to get the policy on-demand rather than annual coverage. So what you're doing is basically slicing and dicing a policy into, say, for an hour for car insurance or different types of ways to better utilize this.”
Customer service is about much more than simply fulfilling orders and handling problems. Supporting clients is giving them the smoothest, best experience possible; this is especially important when it comes to something as serious as healthcare.
Insurance companies such as Oscar Health are using tech to create a friendlier and more reliable customer experience in a smaller package. By using their own carefully-designed infrastructure for claims, management, networks and other similar functions, Oscar Health grants themselves control in everything they do. Their goal is to prioritize quality control by using real-time data transmissions along with data scientists, engineers and clinicians to show real-time insights. With this information, the company can hold doctors accountable so patients “get the best possible care at the right point in time” – Mario Schlosser, CEO of Oscar Health.
To do this, they’re working with a model based on user engagement: fewer doctors and physical hospitals, but stricter quality control. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has invested approximately $375 million into the project.
RPA and AI can assist in payment processing, policy application and claims servicing, making errors less likely and preventing multiple customer service issues. The growing availability of virtual service options also allow patients more choice depending on their needs. Whether someone struggles with social anxiety or simply want to save some time, they could choose to use video call appointments with nurses.
Tech is changing the way health insurance companies and their users conduct business from every angle as virtual and robotic solutions provide countless opportunities for efficiency. The way we put in claims, attend appointments and even choose our doctors will soon be done with greater speed and ease. Having a more capable system has tremendous value to providers in itself, and it also means clients can rely on more attentive responses in all aspects of the process.
Together, how will these trends shape the health insurance industry in the years to come?
Just as technology has been growing rapidly, so has its role in health insurance’s metamorphosis.
Insurance groups are taking on new methods of storing and sharing data, quality control, and ensuring customers receive the best quality care. Though this new technology can innovate operations for healthcare providers, they also drive costs down for the patient as well.
In short: more competition, greater transparency and extraordinary efficiency in health insurance.
In the way that Apple and Samsung are on an endless race to discover the next innovation, health insurance providers should be on the move to adapt to it; not just because of the valuable benefit it will bring to their business, but because of the tremendous impact it will have on the lives of their customers.
By Katherine Meikle
Katherine Meikle is a research writer with a specialty in content creation for medical and marketing purposes. She is a passionate believer that informative copy doesn't have to be boring, and loves getting to learn something new every day in her work. Other interests of Katherine's include travel, history and photography.