Currently showing: Funding longer lives

13 Sep 16 19:01

Does new technology care about the elderly? When you think about what demographic group benefits most from new technology like wearables, smart homes and smart phones, our growing senior population isn't exactly first to mind. Look at Apple's newest iPhone release last week -- every glossy promo video featured fresh faced millennials. The young, the hip and the techno savvy.

But the tech revolution has some really interesting – and perhaps surprising -- benefits for the generation who may be more concerned about hip replacements than being hip.

As re/insurers we are at a crossroads in helping this growing ageing population. We are uniquely positioned to be able to help connect technology, data and the insights it provides to improve health and wealth among older adults. That means creating ways for more people to have access to new products and importantly new services that can help them enjoy a healthier, longer life. 

We have the opportunity to do something really great for society, but doing it well means doing it right – and doing it right requires a thoughtful, collaborative approach. It means we must skillfully navigate around a host of potential pitfalls, and have an ongoing open dialogue with politicians and regulators so we are all pulling in the same
direction. It means ensuring there is a level playing field so everyone can benefit – especially the elderly who have the most to gain.

This week the World Economic Forum released its latest briefing: "Global Population Ageing: Technological Innovations for Health and Wealth." This worthwhile read explores the connection between how wearables, connected devices, robotics and artificial intelligence will advance social connections, emotional health, cognitive ability and physical functioning for older adults. There are some terrific, tangible examples of companies who are already out there creating things like the Uber for home care, or the ability to diagnose depression with the data on a smart phone.

With this tech revolution comes an ever-widening world of rich and powerful data. Each new innovation multiplies the possibilities for what that data might tell us.  Things like wearables and other sensors in the home help us know if someone is taking their medicine, following a routine or keeping their blood sugar at safe levels. We can make connections among these various stores of data and develop unprecedented ways to accurately assess and assign risk. We can find ways to insure the uninsurable.

And therein lies the catch. As an industry, we need to tread carefully to avoid widening the protection gap we are seeking to close. We need to navigate around the trap which is all too easy to fall into; where the information is used to assess risk so accurately that it creates a future in which only the healthiest get an attractive proposition. 

To be successful, we need the force of political will and regulatory approval moving with us. Without it, we will face huge risks of asymmetrical information and an increasing imbalance in accessibility. 

With reasonable access to data sources comes great responsibility. How much access do we need? On an individual or aggregate level? How best can we protect data privacy and at the same time leverage the valuable insights which could be used to improve propositions for all? What does responsibility in this new era look like? These questions aren't just for insurers to answer – they need a collective approach from all stakeholders and may ultimately deserve a political answer based on regulatory reform.

This is not simply about mitigating regulatory risk at a time when laws are becoming stricter and regulators are becoming more active; rather it is about taking steps to respect and protect the privacy and rights of individuals. Only by respecting those rights are we able to innovate in a way that maintains our position as a trustworthy insurer and business partner. 

If together we can find the right answers, then together we can make the world more resilient. And in this case, "the world" becomes very personal – it's a world that includes our parents and grandparents who deserve a new approach to remain independent longer, and enjoy the emotional well being that comes with the security of insurance protection. I’m excited to see it unfold.

Category: Funding longer lives


Domenico Savarese - 14 Sep 2016, 7:24 a.m.

Well said Alison, thank you.
The time is ripe for us to capture the benefits of sophisticated technologies and deep social interactions to advance physical functioning, cognitive ability and emotional health of the ever-increasing elderly population.
As you say, we have at least 3 innovation challenges ahead: Use innovation to better define the problems we can/should try to solve, Go beyond "the product" that each industry is familiar with, Enhance the experience of accessing and using services from a functional, emotional and social perspective.
Current and future generations will thank us for it.

Urs Leimbacher - 15 Sep 2016, 7:56 p.m.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alison. Being aware of the challenges that come with the enormous opportunities of processing large data and finding out what (more) they can tell us is the first and important step to manage related risks and keep the data safe.

I'm confident Swiss Re will successfully navigate this challenge of being an industry leader and driving innovation while remaining weary of the acute need to keep data safe and hedge against the risks of abuse.

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