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InsurTalks Podcast with Steve Tunstall: The Role of Insurance in Restoring SMEs

8 minutes, 40 seconds read

The impact of COVID-19 has disrupted the trade and supply chain across the world and brought the world economy into a tizzy. Small and Medium Enterprises are especially in a difficult situation. They are facing huge business loss, cash crunch, and some even bankruptcy. Insurance will have a crucial role to play within SMEs in the post-pandemic world. 

To understand the importance of Insurance for SMEs and how various industries should pivot their mitigation strategies towards long term sustainability, we have Mr. Steve Tunstall, CEO and Co-founder of Inzsure.com, Singapore. 

The Inzsure platform is designed to transform the global commercial insurance industry by providing SME customers, initially in Singapore, Malaysia, and The Philippines. 

Steve has over thirty years of experience in owning, running, and future-proofing companies. He has been CEO, Managing Director, or equivalent in seven companies in four countries managing teams of up to 500 employees and based in Asia for over 20 years. Steve is also a contributing author to The InsurtechBook and author of “RISK and the Asian CEO” published on Amazon Kindle in 2016. He has deep domain knowledge in Insurtech, Fintech, commercial insurance, compliance, risk, and crisis management. He has been featured in the Top Global Influencer lists of Rising, InsurtechNews, Richtopia, and Onalytica in the areas of Insurtech, Fintech, and Blockchain. 

Connect with Mr. Steve Tunstall – LinkedIn

Here’s the excerpt from the interview:

The Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs in Asia

What’s the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 in small and medium scale businesses — both globally and Asia specifically?

Steve: The entire world is facing the consequences of the current pandemic which is affecting everybody with no exceptions. 

Some sectors like the hospitality and travel industry have been hit the most. Along with these, service providers and manufacturers have also been affected. Oil industry unexpectedly also saw an all-time low in this crisis. The Global Supply Chain was an obvious sector to get disrupted. The supply chains have become shorter and duplicate. The whole concept of Just-in-time has gone for a toss. SMEs in those affected industries need to rethink their business and close down if necessary. 

The time is tricky and if there’s a short lock-down period, then it will have grave consequences to humankind. Massive spikes in infections will lead to a huge overload on the healthcare system. It’ll create a painful situation for medical professionals where they’ll have to make difficult life-death decisions based on the facilities available. 

However, on the other hand, longer periods of lockdowns will suffocate GDP and damage businesses. Most SMEs can survive if they are in the hot sectors. Once the lock-downs extend more than 2-3 months, it’ll be traumatic to the global GDP. We have already lost 25% of the global GDP. A lot of businesses might go bankrupt and the government cannot bail out everyone. 

These are gloomy times, but business managers and business owners need to think about how to pivot their business and find some sort of viable solution for this.  

The Rise of Digital Insurance Models

Insurers are taking the distribution process online. How are the Insurers adjusting to this new model and how has the customer response been in Singapore?

Steve: Transition towards online sales is a moving target. It has been happening for quite some time now and will accelerate all the more. In the UK around 70-90% of insurance policies are sold online before COVID-19 outbreak. If we split Life and Non-life and further split non-life into Personal and Commercial Insurance, there are three broad buckets-

Life Insurance- This line of insurance is not bought but rather sold. It’s a process to educate people and has a long sales gestation period. It involves a lot of interaction between insurance sales agents and an individual. Even big Life insurance companies are dependent on agents for sales. 

Personal Insurance- This line includes health, travel, motor, property insurance which is mostly sold online. Wealthier economics tend to have more online stuff than developing ones. It’s a bit patchy. But in personal insurance lines, many policies can be bought online in many countries.

Commercial Insurance- This line is the slowest of the three to adopt technology particularly the intermediaries. SMEs should be a good target for online but we have seen very little traction in Asia. Large companies are much slower in the adoption of digital technology and rely on face-to-face interaction with brokers. 

Covid-19 has become an accelerator for online especially for Life and Personal Insurances. Broadly speaking, 80% of the personal and life insurance are standardized. Only 20% need underwriting input. In Commercial lines, 20% is commoditized and 80% is bespoke. It is still a long journey. We have already seen insurance being sold online in the US and Europe and seem to go ahead in Asia. 

Many Insurers have been resisting online and commoditization for years. But giving customers choice, trust and transparency is the way to improve overall penetration in Insurance. 

The Importance of Insurance for SMEs

Since the pandemic started, fewer businesses (especially SMEs) are seeking insurance because of the loss of cash flow. How do you think your platform could help SMEs in this current situation?

Steve: It’s a common human tendency that you don’t need an umbrella during a light shower so you don’t buy one. But when the rain is hammering down, you go buy one only to find out that shops have run out of them. There are gaps in the knowledge about insurance. Not only within SMEs but also many businesses. 

In Asia, there’s less insurance required by the law and hence insurance does not tend to sell much. It’s the discerning and more naive one who gets sold insurance. The issue is that people do not know why insurance is a good thing and should be made a priority. Not all types of insurance perhaps, but businesses need to look at appropriate insurance which is tied to risks holding on their balance sheet. For example, fire is a big risk. Maybe not for a co-working space where data is on the cloud but for traditional businesses, you need to have insurance. 

Insurance in the New Normal

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?

Steve: Around 30 years ago, businesses had their own properties for which they would need a cover, their machinery, they would operate out of a premise. But these days, most businesses do not own property, they are working in rented premises and have data on the cloud. 

There’s been a shift away from physical assets towards liabilities like loss of data, hacking, legal and regulatory obligations. All these different liability types are growing exponentially which creates a lower demand for property insurance. 

The traditional property and casualty insurance relies on historical data for calculating premiums. But for these emerging liabilities, it is difficult for insurers to get their head around its implications. Taking Cyber insurance policy for example. If businesses are not able to link the loss incurred due to cyber hacking, then insurers won’t payout. If an amazon web service goes down for the entire building, other businesses also have faced losses that accumulate losses to other companies as well. This accumulation of loss is worrying the CEOs now. This could be a huge opportunity for insurers to address these emerging liabilities in a meaningful way.

Speeding-up Claims during COVID-9 crisis

The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on health claims due to the increase in the volume of claims. What do Insurers need to do to speed-up their claims processes?

Steve: Out of all the processes in the insurance, claims appear to be the most painful and complained about. Surely, there will be an increase in claims related to COVID-19. In the US a typical COVID claim is looking somewhere between $20,000 to $100,000 but in Asia, it is much more bottom of that range. 

But on the other hand, another effect of COVID-19 is that since so many medical facilities around the world have seen a massive decline in regular doctor visits and elective surgeries. Therefore, there has been a reduction in the claims for other health ailments. We will see some of it coming in the upcoming months, probably in Q3 and Q4. For now, it has brought a balance in the number of claims.

Technology trends post COVID-19

How can technology help in sustaining the Insurance business and what are upcoming technology trends? Also, what industry will expect from technology service providers?

Steve: I believe that all the technology that is needed for insurers to work efficiently and perfectly online is already available. What is most needed is a huge change in mindset amongst the insurers. As an industry, people who build the products should not be separated from people who sell the products. 

On the customer side, insurance is not a product where you get instant gratification. Knowing the importance of insurance for SMEs, appropriate education about risk management can help. The change in mindset will impede the implementation of technology. 

Also read – 10 Most Impactful AI-based Insurance Innovations of 2019

Digitizing Insurance Processes

COVID-19 will propel insurers to increase the digitization of their operations and interactions with clients. We may also see insurers scaling back on their physical office networks and moving more people to remote working. More focus will fall on the automation of processes for greater cost efficiencies and resilience. What, according to you, are the crucial insurance processes where automation will disrupt first?

Steve: It depends upon where you are in the supply chain. The more insurers can automate their internal processes, the better. Underwriting is an area where AI plays a crucial role in making this process easy and cost-efficient. 

For insurers, when it comes to back-office functionality, cost-cutting will be a high priority due to the COVID-19 crisis. Technology can bring more efficiency to the intermediary processes making adoption of insurance for SMEs easier.

Also read – 5 Insurance Front Office Operations AI Can Improve

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


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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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