LifeQ takes guess­work out of risk

Lo­cal sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy com­pany is tak­ing the guess­work out of in­sur­ance health risk as­sess­ments by de­vel­op­ing non-in­va­sive body mon­i­tor­ing de­vices

CityPress - - Business - GLENNEIS KRIEL busi­ness@city­press.co.za This story first ap­peared in Fin­week

Pic­ture the sce­nario: you de­cide to in­crease your life in­sur­ance, but the med­i­cal screen­ing shows you have high choles­terol.

The in­sur­ance com­pany over­looks the fact that you are in a much bet­ter shape than your peers or that there is no his­tory of any­one in your family suf­fer­ing from heart con­di­tions.

It de­cides to charge you a 50% pre­mium to cover its risk of your suf­fer­ing a fa­tal heart at­tack, in ef­fect los­ing your busi­ness.

For­tu­nately, the days of blan­ket pe­nal­i­sa­tion for spe­cific health mark­ers are slowly draw­ing to an end, thanks to the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nol­ogy and mod­els en­abling the in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion of risk as­sess­ments.

LifeQ is lead­ing the in­no­va­tion in this field by mov­ing be­yond mere data col­lec­tion – done by most wear­able tech­nol­ogy and health apps – to the de­vel­op­ment of math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els and ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics that cal­cu­late and iden­tify an in­di­vid­ual’s health risks. Ri­aan Con­radie, the pres­i­dent and co-founder of LifeQ, says: “In­stead of fo­cus­ing our en­ergy on adding more ap­pli­ca­tions or wear­ables to the mar­ket, we de­cided to rather use our in-depth un­der­stand­ing of hu­man phys­i­ol­ogy and our com­pu­ta­tional bi­ol­ogy skills to de­velop mod­els and al­go­rithms that add value to these ap­pli­ca­tions or wear­ables.” The com­pany’s ef­forts are pay­ing off, re­sult­ing in part­ner­ships with in­ter­na­tional tech giants such as Garmin and Striiv, and clients such as TomTom. “The prob­lem for most of the wear­able tech and app com­pa­nies is that they only roughly es­ti­mate ba­sic in­for­ma­tion, such as calo­ries burnt, while some of the newer, more so­phis­ti­cated mod­els are start­ing to mea­sure sleep pat­terns. How­ever, we have cre­ated a plat­form into which body mon­i­tor­ing tech­nolo­gies can feed their data, so we can cal­cu­late and iden­tify their users’ health risks as well as ways in which these users can adapt be­hav­iour to re­duce these risks.”

The tech­nol­ogy can alert users to spe­cific threats or con­di­tions, such as di­a­betes, heart dis­eases or sleep ap­noea, which Con­radie es­ti­mates can re­duce a per­son’s life ex­pectancy by eight to 15 years. In­ter­ven­tions are also sug­gested to re­duce the user’s risks.

“The tech­nol­ogy might, for ex­am­ple, sug­gest that some­one rather walk than jog,” Con­radie ex­plains.

Nev­er­the­less, the tech­nol­ogy is not aimed at re­plac­ing med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers.

“We are not au­tho­rised to di­ag­nose or treat dis­eases. Peo­ple us­ing the tech­nol­ogy will there­fore rather be guided to­wards the ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion, for ex­am­ple to see a nearby doc­tor who is tapped into the net­work for med­i­cal ad­vice. Once a disease has been iden­ti­fied, the tech­nol­ogy can again be used to con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor it,” Con­radie says.

LifeQ is pri­mar­ily tar­get­ing the in­sur­ance in­dus­try. Con­radie ex­plains that the com­pany’s main ob­jec­tive was to cre­ate a ser­vice that would re­duce health­care costs and boost per­sonal health.

“We did not po­si­tion our­selves in the tra­di­tional health­care in­dus­try as it is too fo­cused on the treat­ment and not the preven­tion of dis­eases. This is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive.

“In the US, al­most 20% of the coun­try’s GDP is spent on health­care – that is one out of ev­ery five dol­lars earned. What’s worse is that 90% of this money is spent on chronic disease, most of which is largely pre­ventable.

“The in­sur­ance in­dus­try posed a bet­ter match be­cause client health has a di­rect im­pact on the pros­per­ity of these com­pa­nies. Team­ing up with in­sur­ers ren­ders our ser­vices avail­able to more peo­ple than it would have if we were po­si­tioned in the well­ness or med­i­cal mar­ket,” Con­radie says.

LifeQ has al­ready part­nered with a cou­ple of in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies in the in­sur­ance sec­tor and is in the process of fi­nal­is­ing an agree­ment with a big South African player, which should re­sult in this type of in­sur­ance be­com­ing avail­able in South Africa early next year.

Con­radie says an in­sur­ance com­pany could use their ser­vices in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ways.

FU­TURE Ri­aan Con­radie, pres­i­dent and co-founder of LifeQ

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