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InsurTalks Podcast with Horacio Sanchez-Granel: Can Insurers respond swiftly to customer needs during a Pandemic?

7 minutes, 50 seconds read

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global economy is expected to shrink by over 3 percent in 2020 – the steepest slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s. To understand the impact of the COVID crisis in the Latin American Insurance Industry, we interviewed Mr. Horacio Sanchez- Granel from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Insurance & Reinsurance Consultant.

Mr. Horacio has been Chairman and CEO of Boston Seguros, P&C and Life Insurance company for 21 years. Previously, he held senior executive positions in three insurance companies and has several years of experience managing financial service institutions. He has also held other executive positions in an Argentinian oil company and a tractor and industrial machinery international company. Currently, he is a Board Member and part of the Executive Committee in Nacion Seguros, the state-owned insurance company. He also works as an insurance and reinsurance consultant for Argentine and Latin American markets.

Connect with Mr. Horacio – LinkedIn

The excerpt from the interview:

Customer Relationship during the pandemic

Insurance companies play a pivotal role during times of economic stress by helping companies and individuals manage risks and cushion against losses. How should Insurers respond to their customer’s needs, especially since there will be scrutiny about how they respond during this critical time — and it will dictate public perception for many years to come?

Mr. Horacio: Insurers must safeguard the interests of their clients and advise them on the scope of the coverage. They must communicate that the coverage is not infinite but rather has limits in terms of the risks covered, amount insured, and the origin of the claim. There are doubtful cases but insurers should be flexible enough and protect their client from damages. It was not possible to predict COVID-19. Both Life and P&Cs have been affected and have huge arrears to be paid. 

On the other hand, claims processes need to be more transparent. They should adhere to the compliances of the insurance companies. In these times, selling agents and insurance brokers should be more flexible and build close relationships with the clients. They should explain to them the possibility of the claim they are trying to reimburse. In Latin America, we don’t have many claims related to business interruption. That coverage is not very common here. 

Especially in Argentina, businesses have slowed down due to lockdowns. The claims ratio in this area is going down but claims in life insurance policies have increased a bit. However, the impact here is not as big as the USA or Europe.  

Business Continuity in the time of Pandemics

What are some new business models that Insurance Carriers are considering to meet the expectations of life in ‘The New Normal’? More specifically, where is the new business going to come from, for Insurance, over the next two years?

Mr. Horacio: The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamics of work culture, human relationships, and daily routines. Many companies including insurers are adopting digital solutions within their operations. Organizations are reimagining their business models to adapt to new paradigms to be more sustainable and profitable. 

The New Normal has given rise to new coverages in various insurance lines to cover risks originated by this pandemic or any possible future pandemics. 

For example, new clauses such as Loss of Profit due to business interruption and pandemics in Life and Health insurance, and worker’s compensation will now be included in the respective policies. Interruption of business processes entails new set-up and investment. Some other new coverages will also be introduced such as the cost of maintenance due to the non-use of offices, premises, or industrial facilities. Cyber Insurance will now be a must as most of the workforce is working remotely. The rate of cybercrimes was much higher in developed countries before the pandemic, but now even the developing countries are at risk. This will accelerate the need for Cyber Insurance in developing countries. 

Road to recovery

Many General Insurance lines are hit- Travel, Motor, Home – what will be the road to recovery for these Insurance lines?

Mr. Horacio: Since people are avoiding travel altogether, the travel and motor insurance industry are hit badly. Many customers in Argentina are asking Insurance companies to give some discount on the premiums. We will see some big changes in these insurance lines. Going forward, on-demand or pay-as-you-use policies will prevail more in these insurance lines. 

Role of AI in pandemic crisis management

Before the Pandemic crisis began, technologies like AI have been instrumental in modernizing the business of insurance and advancing their digital transformation. Where are some of the biggest gaps being exposed to insurance organizations, and How is technology going to solve these problems?

Mr. Horacio: Going forward, AI along with IoT and other technologies will play a crucial role in the Insurance industry as a whole. They will rely on statistical analysis of large databases to predict future behaviors. The new challenge is how to incorporate unknown risks into the existing models to be able to properly underwrite and price risks, anticipate client behavior, facilitate complex operating processes, manage complex claims and detect possible frauds.

Financial assets are the main asset of an insurance company. They are under the influence of the volatility of financial markets. Technology here can help by analyzing different scenarios but the ultimate decision is in the hands of the banks. 

Challenges & opportunities in adoption of AI

Why Insurers hesitate to invest in AI?

Mr. Horacio:  Companies were investing in technology earlier, but now it has accelerated due to the unprecedented change brought about by COVID-19 pandemic. Not just the developed countries but in developing countries such as Latin America, I see a big wave of new investments in technology. Technology companies are also looking forward to this change. Insurers will eventually overcome their hesitation and invest more in AI and other technologies. 

[Related: 5 Challenges in AI implementation for Insurers]

Which area will see max Investment in AI- claims, underwriting, fraud detection, marketing in Argentina, and Latin American Insurance markets?

Mr. Horacio: Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, investment in AI was more targeted towards claims, fraud, underwriting, back-office operations, etc. Going forward, predicting future scenarios will be a challenge. Historical data might not be useful here. Therefore, in the New Normal, all aspects of an Insurance company will have to be developed under the umbrella of AI.

Product Innovation

Consumers, now more than ever are seeking value-added experiences with the products & services they buy. How will these expectations amidst this Pandemic backdrop impact new product innovation within insurance? 

Mr. Horacio: Customers want a more palpable relationship with their insurers. Customer Experience is going to be a fundamental aspect during the purchase of insurance coverage. In addition to being simple, the purchase and subscription process will have to be perceived as a service that accompanies the client at every moment they need it. These additions will help insurers gain more information on their customer’s actions and behavior. Based on this data, they can dynamically adapt the coverage and pricing of the product. I call it — Dynamic-on-demand coverage. 

Challenges in Latin American Insurance industry

What are some of the technological challenges faced by Insurers in Argentina and Latin American markets operating in the New Normal? 

Mr. Horacio: Insurance industry for many years has been static but now is moving forward in many ways. The world including the Latin American Insurance is witnessing rapid development in terms of technology. The InsurTech industry is parallel to the Insurance industry. It aids in the development of the insurance companies. The whole world of insurance is making advances in technology. Different economics have different buying patterns for insurance products. One such insurance product that should develop is Microinsurance

Microinsurance needs technology, without which it is very difficult to manage. In a sense, the outbreak of COVID-19 was beneficial in accelerating these technological developments.   

[Related – AI can help bridge customer gaps for microinsurers]

Insurance buying behavior in the post-pandemic world

In a post-pandemic World, will insurance ever be bought offline? Or have we crossed the threshold for now buying policies purely online? 

Mr. Horacio:  Personal line insurances such as car, accident, personal, travel, microinsurance are mostly purchased online. In Argentina, 60% of the insurance policies are sold by traditional marketing and sales through brokers. However, in commercial, industrial, energy, transport, and large companies in general, the marketing and sales will continue the traditional ways but through electronic means. The use of IoT, sensors, drones dynamically monitoring the facilities and processes in different industries is increasing. Argentina, which is an agro-based country already has technologies such as drones and IoT which monitor the crops in place. AI will surely be crucial here to analyze the data and enable quick decisions in case of a fire or an accident.  

Wrapping up

Summing up — Mr. Horacio Sanchez-Granel shared valuable insights on the challenges in the Latin American Insurance Industry, how AI technologies can aid in policymaking and rise in dynamic-on-demand policies in the post-pandemic world.

AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com.

Podcasts in this series:

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Virtual health: Delivering care through technology

8 minutes, 52 seconds read

Virtual Care, Telehealth, Telemedicine, etc. are terms used very synonymously. Indeed they are interrelated, however, Virtual Care is a broader term in which healthcare providers use digital tools to communicate and deliver care to their patients. Telehealth and Telemedicine are a part of Virtual Care where doctors deliver care to their patients, remotely via phone, video, or instant messaging. Virtual health includes care delivery beyond video consultation where hospitals provide services using technology such as wearables for remote monitoring, instruments for post-op care and second opinions, e-pharma services, and medical information, etc. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic gave an impetus to Virtual Care, but even in the Pre-COVID time, the Healthcare sector was slowly gearing up for this next wave in care delivery. What COVID-19 did was, help patients get acclimatized to the digital health tools and services. 

What does Virtual Health help with?

The pandemic has brought the burning issues of the healthcare sector to center stage. Patient experience and access to healthcare services are key differentiators for people while choosing a healthcare provider. Let’s take a look at some of these issues addressed by technology in the healthcare sector-

The increasing number of patients

Apart from the pandemic, there’s already been a rise in the number of patients due to drastic changes in lifestyle and food habits, an increase in pollution levels, increase in new types of viruses, etc. This has caused undue stress on healthcare institutions and workers and has led to the deterioration of the quality of patient care. Virtual Health technology such as mHealth apps, EHR (Electronic Health Record), video conferencing, etc. has helped reduce the pressure on hospitals.

Difficulty in traveling for old patients

The pace of life is increasing at a rapid rate. It is getting insanely difficult for the elder population to navigate through the traffic and commute long distances for a check-up. Many times, they have to depend on their family members to take them to hospitals. Moreover, they are at risk of exposure to viruses in hospitals and clinics. Now that they have had the experience of virtual consultations, they prefer care delivery at home rather than going to hospitals.

Chronic Diseases treatment

The number of people above the age of 45 face health issues. Some patients are suffering from chronic diseases regardless of age. Regular monitoring of their vitals is very important. Moreover people now prefer Virtual healthcare services which are easily accessible and save a lot of time, effort, and money. Now that people have found these services effective, they will opt for online consults rather than frequent in-person visits. 

Post-op Care

The duration of post-operative care is quite long and tedious. If given a choice, people will lean towards wearables which will help keep doctors posted on the status of the treatment. Many times, the cost of post-op care is more than the actual treatment and sometimes is not covered under insurance. Virtual care-delivery services will help reduce the financial burden of people going through these treatments.

Follow-ups/Second opinion  

Some health conditions need multiple follow-ups and second opinions to figure out the right approach to treat the issue. It is much easier for patients to do follow-up consults virtually rather than going through the tedious process of appointment booking, commuting, and waiting for their turn. It helps reduce the queue outside the doctor’s office as well. Some health issues need a second opinion, sometimes both by patients and doctors. Virtual Healthcare technologies make it possible for them to take second opinions from doctors all over the world. With electronic records and image sharing, doctors can diagnose the problem better.

What does Virtual Health include?

Virtual Health can be broadly divided into below applications-

mHealth Applications

mHealth applications have widespread use. From symptom checkers to appointment booking, from fitness trackers to uploading medical records, from video conferencing features to chatbot integrations, mHealth apps are on a rise mainly because of easy accessibility for the tech-savvy customers. According to a study by NCBI, among the 22 selected mHealth apps operating in India, Practo, mfine, DocsApp, 1mg, Netmeds, Lybrate, MediBuddy, and Medlife were found to be the eight most popular ones with over a million downloads and on average four-plus user rating out of five. All the above apps are mainly being used for online consults. This just goes about showing that people prefer having homecare services instead of stepping out. 

E-Triage Tools

The rising number of patients with different stages of COVID symptoms was a task to deal with. E-triage software here enables hospitals to triage patients into different sections when there’s an overload of patients at a particular time. Now, in the case of home care, e-triage tools help patients to access the gravity of their health condition and notify the healthcare provider accordingly. Such tools help reduce A&E waiting time and improve NHS performance. Many companies are building healthcare software integrating the E-triage module within EHR, telemedicine, clinical decision making, billing, etc. In India, Persistent Systems’ cutting edge platform has a Nurse Triage system that enables nurses to see the queue of patients and triage via phone calls. Once the calls are done, a triage report is generated and sent to care providers. Many leading doctors feel that AI in image triage will see a boost in near future.

Remote Patient Monitoring 

There are multiple benefits such as reduced post-op expenditure, time wastage, less exposure to other diseases, etc. The global remote patient monitoring devices market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.1% during the forecast period (2019–2027) according to Coherent Market Insights. Some of the top players in this space are Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corporation, CAS Medical Systems, CONTEC MEDICAL, Dragerwerk, GE Healthcare, Guangdong Biolight Meditech, Medtronic, Mindray Medical, Nihon Kohden, Philips Healthcare, Spacelabs Healthcare, Abbott. Companies such as GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare have done a great job with building remote patient monitoring systems within the hospital premises as well as homecare for COVID patients. The main goal was to reduce the exposure of healthcare workers to at-risk patients. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Telehealth

Synchronous telehealth, in other words, Telemedicine is where there is a live conversation between the patient and the doctor. Asynchronous telehealth involves the exchange of recorded data e.g. images, video, medical reports, pathology reports between patients and doctors, at times between doctors as well. Similar to mHealth space, companies like Practo, 1mg, Lybrate, Medlife, and Portea Medical in India are some of the top players in telehealth and telemedicine. Lybrate’s USP lies in CMS (Clinical Management System) which helps doctors with tedious tasks of managing patients and providing better care. Meanwhile, Portea Medical’s home consults and pharma delivery have more relevance with the audience as it combines technology with a touch of personalization. 

Digital Therapeutics

Digital Therapeutics delivers evidence-based therapies with the help of software which can be used both as a preventive measure as well as treatment application. The effectiveness of the medication and lifestyle changes on patients are monitored by leveraging technology. In India, major non-communicable diseases that account for 62% of the total mortality rate are CVD, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and cancer. Prominent global players in this space include Noom (US), Livongo Health (US), Omada Health (US), WellDoc (US), Pear Therapeutics (US), Proteus Digital Health (US), Propeller Health (US), Akili Interactive Labs (US), Better Therapeutics (US), etc. Omada Health is the pioneer in the DTx (Digital Therapeutics) that focused primarily on diabetes and pre-diabetes but now is branching out in the mental health space as well. In India, Altran (a part of Capgemini) is into building personalized DTx applications for clients. Whereas a start-up called Wellthy Therapeutics has ready solutions catering to multiple diseases.

Future of Virtual Health

Undoubtedly, there has been a massive increase in the adoption of Virtual Health technologies as people have gotten accustomed to the ease of certain services at home. In the coming future, mHealth apps, remote patient monitoring, and Digital therapeutics see a surge in demand from the customers. According to a study by Markets and Markets, “The global digital therapeutics market is projected to reach USD 6.9 billion by 2025 from USD 2.1 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 26.7% during the forecast period (2020–2025).” A study by Fortune Business Insights, “The global mHealth market size is projected to reach USD 293.29 billion by 2026, exhibiting a CAGR of 29.1% during the forecast period.” A Research and Markets report says, “The remote patient monitoring market is expected to reach US$31.326 billion by the end of 2023.” Apart from the above, development in digital infrastructure such as virtual health stations where doctors can provide consultations globally, mobile ICUs, MRIs, X-rays, ultrasound equipment, the establishment of rural virtual care units reaching the remote areas of the country are some of the trends which will gain momentum. The focus would always lie upon the personalization of the virtual care experience for patients driven by data exchange and interoperability. 

Indeed, there are certain challenges to the implementation of these technologies, lack of infrastructure, and digital literacy amongst elders and lower strata of society. Many healthcare institutions still have inhibitions while investing in digital technologies fearing rejection from the customers. It will be crucial for care providers to choose the right partner for implementing these technologies and create awareness amongst people to adopt them.  

In a Nutshell

The success of virtual care relies on how well the digital experience is designed for the patient. “By 2025, as many as 95 percent of all customer interactions will be through channels supported by artificial intelligence (AI) technology” – Microsoft. The use of algorithms and AI for personalizing these experiences will be the key. 

Find out more about unchartered territories in ‘Blue Ocean’ of Digital Health. Join our webinar hosted by Parag Sharma (CEO, Mantra Labs) as he shares his insights on untapped opportunities using digital self-care tools within behavioral healthcare & emotional wellness.

Save your spot! 

Further Readings:

  1. Reimagining Medical Diagnosis with Chatbots
  2. HealthTech 101: How are Healthcare Technologies Reinventing Patient Care
  3. What will be the state of the healthcare industry post pandemic?
  4. Healthcare Chatbots: Innovative, Efficient, and Low-cost Care
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