The next fron­tier in in­sur­ance

South African com­pany LifeQ is tak­ing the guess­work out of in­di­vid­ual risk as­sess­ment with the help of non-in­va­sive body mon­i­tor­ing de­vices.

Finweek English Edition - - Contents - By Glen­neis Kriel

pic­ture the sce­nario: You de­cide to in­crease your life in­sur­ance, but dur­ing the med­i­cal screen­ing it turns out 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 any­body in your fam­ily ever suf­fer­ing from heart con­di­tions. It de­cides to charge you a 50% pre­mium to cover its risk of you 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 in­no­va­tion in this field by mov­ing be­yond mere data col­lec­tion – done by most wear­ables and health apps – to the devel­op­ment of math­e­mat­i­cal mod­els and ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics that cal­cu­late and iden­tify an in­di­vid­ual’s health risks.

“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,” says Ri­aan Con­radie, pres­i­dent and co-founder of LifeQ.

Their ef­forts are pay­ing off, re­sult­ing in part­ner­ships with in­ter­na­tional gi­ants, such as Garmin and Striiv and clients such as TomTom.

“The prob­lem for most of the wear­able 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. We, how­ever, 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.

The tech­nol­ogy is nev­er­the­less 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 doc­tor in their vicin­ity that taps 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 cur­rently pri­mar­ily tar­get­ing the in­sur­ance in­dus­try. Its co-founder 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 Amer­ica, al­most 20% of the coun­try’s GDP is spent on health­care – that is one out of ev­ery five Amer­i­can 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, as 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 2018.

He ex­plains that an in­sur­ance com­pany could use their ser­vices in a num­ber of ways. They might ask a per­son to wear a de­vice that links to LifeQ to iden­tify the per­son’s in­sur­ance risk. The com­pany can then lower or in­crease pre­mi­ums de­pend­ing on the eval­u­a­tion out­come. The com­pany might also agree to keep pre­mi­ums at the nor­mal rate, if the in­sured party agrees to keep the de­vice on and

“We are lit­er­ally in the fi­nal steps of de­vel­op­ing a way to con­tin­u­ously mea­sure blood pres­sure. It will be a great break­through, as high blood pres­sure has been la­belled as the si­lent killer.”

com­ply with cer­tain con­di­tions to lower their risk of de­vel­op­ing a spe­cific disease.

LifeQ, in part­ner­ship with other wear­able com­pa­nies and an­a­lyt­ics part­ners, is cur­rently also in the process of de­vel­op­ing mod­els for other pa­ram­e­ters, such as smoker de­tec­tion. Con­radie is how­ever most ex­ited about their work aimed at mea­sur­ing blood pres­sure in real time: “We are lit­er­ally in the fi­nal steps of de­vel­op­ing a way to con­tin­u­ously mea­sure blood pres­sure. It will be a great break­through, as high blood pres­sure has been la­belled as the si­lent killer, es­pe­cially in the el­derly pop­u­la­tion. With the help of tech­nol­ogy, it will be pos­si­ble to alert peo­ple when their blood pres­sure gets too high.”

The com­pany is also look­ing to ap­ply com­pu­ta­tional bi­ol­ogy mod­el­ling and an­a­lyt­ics to other non-wear­able data sources such as ge­netic and gut mi­cro­biome data.

This will fur­ther en­hance LifeQ’s abil­ity to es­ti­mate in­di­vid­ual health risk, and de­liver new in­for­ma­tion streams to en­able disease pre­ven­tion pro­grams. “By lever­ag­ing ge­net­ics and gut mi­cro­biome data we would even be able to iden­tify a per­son’s risk of de­vel­op­ing cer­tain hered­i­tary dis­eases and see how poor gut health af­fects disease and the process of age­ing in the in­di­vid­ual,” Con­radie ex­plains. ■ ed­i­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

Ri­aan Con­radie Pres­i­dent and co-founder of LifeQ

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