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The Impact of Covid-19 on the Global Economy and Insurance

3 minutes, 35 seconds read

The pandemic COVID-19 or the well known “Coronavirus” is gradually stretching its limbs throughout the world. COVID-19 has now spread to more than 180 countries with its epicentre in China. Coronavirus confirmed cases reported globally, adds up to 8,60,181 (1st April 2020) and is still on the rise. With the death toll of 42,345(1st April 2020) the insurance companies have to take it on the chin. 

Public gatherings have been banned in several places. For instance, Mipim — the world’s largest property fair is postponed to the later part of the year. Similarly, the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona is cancelled altogether. From the IPL to the world’s premier basketball league to a 250-year-old parade and sprawling festivals, all national and international events are either cancelled or kept at hold indefinitely. Almost every business (likewise insurance) is impacted with corona outbreak and any business cannot rebound in a day.

Referring to the 2008 financial crisis when credit markets seized up, Mr Muri- Wood said, “The only thing we’ve ever had which was bigger than this was the banking crisis.” 

Businesses, Corona and Insurance

Many businesses have insurance policies that are meant to kick in when disaster strikes. But few of those policies are likely to cover pandemic outbreaks. Business interruption insurance, the coverage typically availed by the companies, as part of their property policies, pays cash to make up for lost revenue when a business has to halt operations unexpectedly.

Despite the fact that most policies won’t pay out if people cancel their travel due to coronavirus; in February, Post Office Insurance saw a year on year rise in sales of policies of 168% and CoverForYou saw a 150% increase.

Queries on new policies have sharply spiked up to 60% since fresh cases of Covid19 reports.

“Globally, we have seen such cases that impact large populations there is an increased push from consumers to get themselves covered. We have seen the same happen here as well in the wave of fresh cases being detected” 

Pankaj Verma, head marketing & underwriting operations, SBI General Insurance.

After the epidemics of SARS in 2003, Ebola in 2014 and Zika in 2015 — insurance companies realized that business-interruption claims could become unwise if they covered closures related to outbreaks of disease. Since then, insurers have taken steps to exclude epidemics from their policy.

Though epidemics are excluded from many business insurance policies, as recession threatens the global economy along with rising insolvencies, all sorts of companies, from airlines to retailers are coming under strain.

The insurers refused to comment, but Atradius said it is expected that corporate insolvencies will grow 2.4% globally in 2020, majorly resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

The harsh reality

Perhaps, it’s too late to buy coverage for the current outbreak. Insurance companies do agree to take the brunt of the situation and pay the decontamination cost after the outbreak, but would tightly limit the amounts.

With unprecedented turmoil the industry created by the outbreak caused global airlines to cancel thousands of flights. Companies could choose a policy that would cover the deaths from an epidemic, when it passed a pre-estimated threshold, or when a government body — anywhere in the world — ordered a lockdown or travel ban. The policies are intended as custom contracts, so the company would choose according to their own risks.

Coface chief executive Xavier Durand mentioned that hotels and airlines will have to take the maximum brunt of the epidemic outbreak, while Euler Hermes saw coronavirus costing $320 billion of trade losses every quarter this year.

This indicates that companies will have to bear the losses themselves. It can be either directly or in the form of self-insurance funds (large companies often set aside some funds for emergencies).

LV, the insurance giant in the UK, have stopped selling travel insurance with immediate effect as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We can’t insure a burning building,” Mr Ryan Christian Ryan of the risk advisory firm Marsh says.

The bottom line

The Coronavirus have adversely impacted the economy worldwide. From time to time, violent demonstrations slowed down the flood of travellers to a trickle and transactions grind to a halt. 

McKinsey anticipates recession until the end of Q2 because of large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing leading to a sharp fall in consumer and business spending. However, because of banks’ strong capitalization and macroprudential supervision, a full-scale banking crisis is averted.


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Enhancing digital patient experience with healthcare chatbots

5 minutes read

Chatbots are fast emerging at the forefront of user engagement across industries. In 2021, healthcare is undoubtedly being touted as one of the most important industries due to the noticeable surge in demand amid the pandemic and its subsequent waves. The Global Healthcare Chatbots Market is expected to exceed over US$ 314.63 Million by 2024 at a CAGR of 20.58%.

Chatbots are being seen as those with high potential to revolutionize healthcare. They act as the perfect support system to agents on the floor by providing the first-step resolution to the customer, in terms of understanding intent and need, boost efficiency, and also improve the accuracy of symptom detection and ailment identification, preventive care, feedback procedures, claim filing and processing and more.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital tools in healthcare, most commonly chatbots, rose to the forefront of healthcare solutions. Providence St. Joseph Health, Mass General Brigham, Care Health Insurance (formerly Religare), and several other notable names built and rolled out artificial intelligence-based chatbots to help with diagnostics at the first stage before a human-human virtual contact, especially while differentiating between possible COVID-19 cases and other ailments. The CDC also hosts an AI-driven chatbot on its website to help screen for coronavirus infections. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with a messaging app named Ratuken Viber, to develop an interactive chatbot for accurate information about COVID-19 in multiple languages. This allowed WHO to reach up to 1 billion people located anywhere in the world, at any time of the day, in their respective native languages.

For Care Health Insurance, Mantra Labs deployed their Conversational AI Chatbot with AR-based virtual support, called Hitee, trained to converse in multiple languages. This led to 10X interactions over the previous basic chatbot; 5X more conversions through Vanilla Web Experience; Drop-in Customer Queries over Voice Support by 20% among other benefits.

Artificial Intelligence’s role in the healthcare industry has been growing strength by strength over the years. According to the global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, AI spending in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is expected to increase from $463 million in 2019 to more than $2 billion over the next 5 years, healthtechmagazine.net has reported. 

Speaking of key features available on a healthcare chatbot, Anonymity; Monitoring; Personalization; collecting Physical vitals (including oxygenation, heart rhythm, body temperature) via mobile sensors; monitoring patient behavior via facial recognition; Real-time interaction; and Scalability, feature top of the list. 

However, while covering the wide gamut of a healthcare bot’s capabilities, it is trained on the following factors to come in handy on a business or human-need basis. Read on: 

Remote, Virtual Consults 

Chatbots were seen surging exponentially in the year 2016, however, the year 2020 and onwards brought back the possibility of adding on to healthcare bot capabilities as people continued to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Chatbots work as the frontline customer support for Quick Symptom Assessment where the intent is understood and a patient’s queries are answered, including connection with an agent for follow-up service, Booking an Appointment with doctors, and more. 

Mental Health Therapy

Even though anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related disorders and their subsequent awareness have been the talk around the world, even before the pandemic hit, the pandemic year, once again could be attributed to increased use of bots to seek support or a conversation to work through their anxiety and more amid trying times. The popular apps, Woebot and Wysa, both gained popularity and recognition during the previous months as a go-to Wellness Advisor. 

An AI Wellness Advisor can also take the form of a chatbot that sends regular reminders on meal and water consumption timings, nutrition charts including requisite consultation with nutritionists, lifestyle advice, and more. 

Patient Health Monitoring via wearables 

Wearable technologies like wearable heart monitors, Bluetooth-enabled scales, glucose monitors, skin patches, shoes, belts, or maternity care trackers promise to redefine assessment of health behaviors in a non-invasive manner and helps acquire, transmit, process, and store patient data, thereby making it a breeze for clinicians to retrieve it as and when they need it.

Remote patient monitoring devices also enable patients to share updates on their vitals and their environment from the convenience and comfort of home, a feature that’s gained higher popularity amid the pandemic.

A healthcare chatbot for healthcare has the capability to check existing insurance coverage, help file claims and track the status of claims. 

What’s in store for the future of chatbots in Healthcare? 

The three main areas where healthcare chatbots can be particularly useful include timely health diagnostics, patient engagement outside medical facilities, and mental health care. 

According to Gartner, conversational AI will supersede cloud and mobile as the most important imperative for the next ten years. 

“For AI to succeed in healthcare over the long-term, consumer comfort and confidence should be front and center. Leveraging AI behind the scenes or in supporting roles could collectively ease us into understanding its value without risking alienation,” reads a May 2021 Forbes article titled, The Doctor Is In: Three Predictions For The Future Of AI In Healthcare. 


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