The Interview: Talking Healthcare, App Overload, Virtual GPs & More

Insurance Edge caught up with Tim Boyce, Healthcare Practice Leader at CFC Underwriting, to find out how rapidly the healthcare market is changing for insurers and brokers alike.

tim boyce cfc

IE; One thing that is happening right now is app overload. There are apps for every type of healthcare question, lifestyle choice, fitness, wellbeing etc. Have we hit peak app?

TB; I would say that there are about 350,000 apps on the market that relate to healthy living, fitness, managing medical conditions and so on – this has been growing at a twenty per cent compound rate which we expect to continue, I’m almost certain we haven’t hit a peak yet. As an example, in 2019 there were about 1.2 million telemedicine consultations via smartphone in the US market alone and last year CALM won App Of the Year, so there’s still ever increasing demand.

IE; There are plenty of insurtech companies offering telemedicine services, with online diagnosis being especially useful to anyone thinking they might have a problem but there’s a slow process of being seen by the right consultant within the NHS. How are things changing in that area?

TB: If you look at the NHS Babylon Practice in London, they initially only accepted patients from a small catchment, but this been expanded to also allow patients from outside the area to utilise their online GP consultation services. This would suggest that the NHS is getting more comfortable with digital health, albeit at a slower pace than other health systems.

There is also an NHS England Code of Conduct for healthcare app developers, so that anything AI-powered doesn’t have built-in bias, respects human rights and that medical advice given is evidence based. Ultimately, I think in the long term the NHS would like health and medical apps to carry a CE mark, so that people can have confidence and trust in the advice and treatment that is being offered.

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IE: What sort of developments should insurers be looking at in terms of assessing risk when it comes to Life and Critical Illness cover, because ultimately a great deal of data could theoretically personalise an insurance quote?

TB; It could, to a degree. The thing is that insurance and healthcare are both highly regulated and that means data is managed securely and the potential for shared data affecting insurance quotes is extremely limited by things like GDPR and patient confidentiality.

As regards new developments, the NHSx Project is definitely something for insurers and brokers to be aware of, because there’s a real sea change going on and various NHS Trusts, pharmacies, cyber experts and website designers etc. are all working together to transform the way people receive help from the NHS. There are also six NHS Trusts where pilot schemes have been set up to monitor older or vulnerable people remotely, using the very latest technology.

Another area which has to be interesting for insurers is utilising AI for greater understanding when it comes to analysing scans. These are essential tools when it comes to diagnosis, so if companies can use AI to speed up the process, and improve accuracy, that must be of huge interest to insurers in the long term. Very handy for companies too, because your in-house healthcare provider can outsource the AI scanning and get results very quickly.

IE; Talking of AI, how can policy wordings of the future fit the rapid pace of development within Artificial Intelligence – specifically, who gets the blame if AI gets it wrong?

TB; There’s going to be intense debate over the next decade or so as regards ultimate liability, and this isn’t just a question facing health insurers, it covers motor, home, travel etc. Should the risk be underwritten by the tech team that `taught’ the AI, or the healthcare specialists who added their expertise and advice? The thing is that human beings are incredibly varied, so for AI to truly understand hereditary factors, diet, lifestyle, mental health, environmental factors etc. and then assess a specific health risk, is arguably a long way off yet.

Ultimately, insurers sit behind all kinds of companies who offer diagnosis and treatments right now, so they need to work out a way of giving AI a certain degree of autonomy, whilst making sure that any product changes made by AI itself are noted and checked by real humans.

Our company offers plenty of advice and insights into what’s happening within healthcare insurance, which is useful for brokers, MGAs and insurtechs alike.

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IE; Do you think a convergence of technology, the way dozens of different companies can be involved in one product’s development, compliance and claims settlement, somehow scatters the liability issue to an extent?

TB; It does, but that’s already happened with black boxes in car insurance and the uptake of driverless cars will add more layers to that process. In the future insurers are going to have to keep pace with the tech advances in the digital healthcare market and learn to adapt policy wording very carefully to encapsulate exactly what is exposed. The upside of global digital health adoption is that patients will be seen quicker, diagnosed more accurately and get treatments that are based upon an ever-growing pool of AI-sifted data, but the downside is when things go wrong, we might have a decade long debate about who is going to liable.

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