Mobile digital health and insurance


IT was not a long time ago when the term “life insurance” would be associated with death. The negative connotation made sales of insurance a difficult proposition, and insurance agents were met with hesitancy. Today, life insurance is more strongly associated with wellness. Rightly so, the common objective of the insured and the insurer should be the prolonged life of the insured. Insurance companies selling health and life insurance have integrated wellness programs in their insurance products. This is a bid at product repositioning, that insurance companies would want you to have a long and healthy life. It is a good selling point for an increasingly health conscious population.

The advent of InsurTech has pushed the use of Mobile Digital Health (“mHealth”) as an adjunct of insurance promotion. Pru Life U.K. has sponsored a study on this by the Quisumbing Torres law firm entitled Mobile Digital Health in the Philippines: Issues, Risks, Challenges and Opportunities (October 23, 2019). And so we look at the findings of the study.

The term “mHeath” covers the use of applications or “apps” that are accessible through mobile wireless technology, such as mobile phone, tablets, laptops, for purposes of healthcare. It is also referred to as telehealth or telemedicine in other jurisdictions. In Singapore, telehealth is defined as the “provision of healthcare services over physically separate environment via infocomm technology.” In Malaysia, telemedicine is defined as “the practice of medicine using audio, visual, and data communications.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to digital health (or eHealth) as “the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of health and health-related fields.” In other words, it is a confluence of medical practice and technology. In the periphery of this confluence is the insurance industry. While mHealth covers a host of various medical and health services, including doctors, hospitals and other medical services, it involves the insurance industry as an ancillary player.    

The use of technology to support healthcare is imperative for the Philippines not just because the technology is there to be enjoyed by everyone, but because of the inefficient healthcare system in the Philippines. The ease and convenience becomes an added attraction to the whole scheme. The US FDA has found that in 2015, around 500 million people around the world are already using mHealth applications. In the US, almost 80% of physicians are using mHealth apps for patient care. Indeed, in the Philippines, the most prevalent mHealth app in use is the fitness wearable. This gadget counts the number of steps one makes in a day, it counts your caloric intake, and measures how many hours you sleep in a night.

A number of life and health insurers in the country have integrated the use of mHealth in the promotion of their insurance products. This integration has helped promote awareness of health, wellness, fitness, and in the over-all scheme of things, the value of having health and life insurance. To illustrate, Pru Life UK launched “Pulse” in February 2020. Pulse is an artificial intelligence-powered health and wellness app that offers a holistic health management 24/7. Pulse was offered together with a limited free Covid-19 insurance coverage. The app may be downloaded for free and the user would just have to input his profiles and register. It includes features such as a symptom checker and other health check items.

The adoption of mHealth for the insurance industry is strongly supported by the Insurance
Commission.

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