Throughout the health industry there is so much technological innovation going on, and health insurance is seeing its share of new ideas. Many of these are in the area known as the “Internet of things” (IoT) – devices which can track activity and automatically log it via an internet connection.
As health insurance premiums continue to rise, many funds are looking for ways to keep their members healthier in a bid to keep premiums down. But how are they doing this, and what are the biggest areas of development? Here are three areas where IoT technology is transforming health insurance.
Wearables mean healthier members
With wearable technology that tracks fitness-related activity all the rage, a few health funds have spotted an opportunity to mine their member’s data. The concept is simple: prove to your health fund that you’re living a healthy life and you’ll be rewarded.
These rewards vary depending on the fund. The recently launched myOwn, a joint life and health insurance policy backed by GMHBA and AIA Australia, provides its members with discounted premiums if they hit their fitness goals.
Similarly, Qantas Assure (backed by nib) offers its members rewards in the form of Qantas frequent flyer points if they maintain a healthy lifestyle and hit their health challenges.
That’s a smart move by these funds. A recent survey found that 68% of Australians would be happy to trade their medical data in return for cheaper health insurance.
Health tech extras benefits
In a similar vein, many health funds are looking at covering health tech devices under their extras policies. Health funds recognise that healthy members claim less often, and monitoring your health is one way to ensure you stay fit and healthy.
One item that you might be able to get covered for is the Vitastiq. This is an electro-acupuncture device that allows you to measure your vitamin and mineral levels by placing the device on certain points on your body.
Better treatment equal faster healing times
One of the major benefits of private health insurance is being able to be treated in a private hospital. Not only is being treated in a private hospital preferable to be treated in public because you’re able to choose your own surgeon and have access to a private room, you’re also giving yourself a better shot at a faster recovery time.
According to the most recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), in 2015-16 one in four hospitalisations involved surgery. With almost half of all surgeries performed in Australia being performed in private hospitals, it pays to have private hospital cover.
Private hospitals are always at the forefront when it comes to new health technologies and treatments and access to new health technologies provides patients with a faster recovery time. This might explain why according to the AIHW the average length of stay in a public hospital was 5.7 days, and only 5.2 days in a private hospital.
Remote patient monitoring gives remote patients access to healthcare
Remote patient monitoring or telemedicine provides people around Australia with access to health care services, either online or over the phone. The ability to access high-quality videoconferencing via the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been one of the key arguments for that network.
These services are supported by many health funds in Australia, such as Bupa and Medibank, and provide their members with access to coaching from qualified professionals on the management of chronic conditions.
Chatbots on the horizon
While not widely embraced by health funds in Australia just yet, chatbots are being used around the world to improve patient care. These bots are being used to triage members before passing them off to an actual doctor or referring them to a virtual doctor.
The ability to refer patients to a virtual doctor means that customers can save both time and money, as the costs for visiting a virtual doctor are far less than visiting one in person.