How the Internet of Humans Will Forever Change Your Healthcare and Insurance Policies

healthcare and insurance, health insurance policy pamphlet and a stethascope

The inner world of insurance

The 1966 science fiction movie Fantastic Voyage was about a tiny submarine, crewed by a team of medical experts, which is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into the bloodstream of a man to save his life. Well, we’re not quite that far yet but medical sensors will soon be available that can be swallowed by a patient to monitor their medicine intake to ensure they are sticking to their treatment plan. GPs and Carers will be able to remotely monitor their patients, and undertake the appropriate interventions without the need for hospitalisation. When you consider the pressures that healthcare professionals are currently beset with, not least in GP waiting times, this type of innovation could have a fundamental impact on the relationships we have with our healthcare service.

For example, waiting times for a GP appointment had increased to 13 days in April 2015 from 9 days just 1 year earlier. As a growing population is placing greater demands on GPs, the healthcare sector is struggling to find ways of maintaining appropriate insight into people’s health.  The overriding and pressing objective – given a growing, ageing population – is the provision of proactive, rather than reactive medical care; prevention rather than cure. It’s also of great importance that the principles of personal, one-to-one attention to an individual’s health do not get disregarded in searching for solutions to the patient deluge.

Solutions are indeed emerging that hold the promise of making healthcare a far more personal matter than it is today and this is where it gets interesting for the insurance industry.

Forget about wearable devices – it could soon be about ingestible devices.

A group of London based Scientists originally created the ingestible sensor (a micro-chipped pill) which detects how a patient’s medicine is being consumed, and sends information about the patient, including rest, body angle and activity patterns, to a small patch attached to the skin like a plaster. The patch relays this information to the subject’s mobile phone via Bluetooth. The individual then approves distribution of the information to his or her GP or Carer; remaining in full control of personal data. Proteus (funnily enough the name of the tiny submarine in Fantastic Voyage) is currently going through the review and approval process with the FDA

Science fiction really is becoming science fact. I am looking forward to seeing this type of technology entering the market as long as the regulators can keep up.

The future of insurance: according to a seven-year-old

Looking at these advances made me start thinking about what sort of future my seven-year-old daughter is skipping into. If IoT sensors will be used to generate personalised healthcare, insurance policies and even appropriate ‘management’ plans, then there’s every chance she’ll have one; might be a great gift for her eighteenth but I suspect things might change well before then.

Imagine how it might pan out…what will my daughter’s reaction be to the notion of ingesting a sensor?

I can foresee wearable sensors becoming as integral a part of her daily life as her mobile will, and as mobiles are to everybody today.  She’ll be monitoring multiple aspects of her inner workings, to make sure she’s being active enough, balancing her diet for optimum health benefits, stress-level and general emotional well-being.

So here comes a generation that will regard the management of its own health as a natural way of living. My daughter and her peers will relate differently to the healthcare system in the future. It won’t be a last resort place to turn to when things go wrong; it will be a natural partner to keep things going right. Healthcare will be proactive, not reactive.

Data in daily life

Insurance companies have a financially vested interest in how customers are looking after or abusing their bodies. The information could be used to determine their past health ‘management’ to offer an appropriate policy or look to refine their policy definitions accordingly in response to certain behavioural choices or inclinations a customer makes or shows.

You could imagine a time when these sensors are installed in the same way the telematics are currently growing in the automotive market, rewarding careful drivers and increasing the costs of cover for those who have a less cautious approach to road safety. The sensors will be producing a mountain of rich and highly personal data that GPs, Carers, Insurance and Healthcare organisations will have to connect with.

doctor on his ipad, heathcare and insurance

Once again, such advances can only manifest themselves on the market if regulations and technology run in parallel to each other; clearly you can’t have one without the other. Data protection laws were not designed for this type of data to be collected, shared, stored and processed. To make it all possible, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) would need to go through a major rethink.

As food for thought I’ll leave you with this observation from Bleddyn Rees, of Osbourne Clark, writing in The Telegraph:


My theory is that the potential for automation, connected sensor and connected humans is very real. The technology foundations already exist. Sensors and predictive analytics will monitor and predict future health issues that reshape how the insurance sector defines risk.

I’d be very interested to hear your views. Let’s get a discussion going on the future of insurance; and I’ll let you know if my daughter decides to go into the business.

The progress being made in areas such as the Internet of Things has already impacted the business and the relationship with their customers; Moneyfacts reports that “the number of telematics-based car insurance policies (including “black box” policies) increased by 39% in 2015, with there being almost 455,000 live policies in December 2015 – up from 323,000 in December 2014”. The speed of adoption by the consumers has been eye-opening.

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Jeremy Suddards

Author: Jeremy Suddards

Jeremy Suddards is Vice President & Multi-Industry Leader at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.