The Insurance Data Revolution

  • November 30, 2022

One major area of opportunity is for Health and Life Insurers to leverage a rapidly expanding set of health data:  from digital health records to data from wearables. Insurers will need to both enhance their technical capabilities, including their ability to ingest, analyse and use new datasets – as well as their approaches to bringing their customers along the journey through systematic testing to prepare for a big transformation. Technical enablement and a deep understanding of how to use data are key for the road ahead.


Collecting and leveraging data is not new for insurers, whose business model relies on assessing risks. However, in the ‘digital age’ the scale of new data available is proving to be both a technical challenge and a personal challenge, with changing customer behaviour and expectations.

One area ripe for such disruption is in health and life insurance. There’s been an exponential rise in the amount of health data available, starting with customer health records and rapidly expanding to include new data such as from wearables. Used correctly these new data sets can dramatically improve and extend lives through better, more preventive healthcare services.

For insurers, such data has the potential to improve underwriting while also enabling streamlined and more personalised services. Why does a customer need to fill out lengthy forms if data can be accessed directly from the NHS or other sources? Wouldn’t it be nice to have recommendations on the best preventive services you should be leveraging based on your health risk factors?

At the same time, understandably consumers are cautious of allowing access to this sensitive data, and must be convinced that it will be used carefully and in a way which adds real value to their daily lives. Therefore in addition to the technical challenges, insurers must also start now to understand and test how they can collect and use this data in a way which customers will be supportive of.

The Rise of New Health Data

The sharing of medical records and other health data has grabbed headlines. And rightly so – dispute has centred on issues such as transparency and ethics.

A Financial Times analysis found that more than 40 companies have received detailed medical records on millions of British patients. At least 100 different datasets from the National Health Service (NHS) are reportedly with management consultancies, pharmaceutical companies and other organisations.

The NHS accelerated data sharing at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to save lives. On the other hand, some of the third-party recipients are commercial businesses. Though identifying information (such as names and numbers) are removed, and each organisation is compelled to follow strict procedures to safeguard the data, not all British patients know their information is used in this way. In fact, according to the FT report, the NHS still shared data on 84 percent of patients who explicitly opted out of sharing.

Trustworthy data sharing

Publicis Sapient’s Data Collection and Consent Survey, sponsored by Google Cloud and powered by IPSOS, uncovered a correlation between a person’s understanding of and comfort level with data collection. One might suspect that the more someone knows about data collection the less likely he or she would be comfortable with it. But the research counterintuitively suggests that giving people control over their data encourages them to share personal information.

People tend to feel their personal data is more valuable than the free services they receive in exchange. In Great Britain, 42% of respondents said their data was more valuable than services received, 25% said their data was the same value, 13% said their data was of less value and 21% said they don’t value the data.

With the public’s consent, insurance companies can reimagine what it means to provide customer-centric services and what it means to be connected to their customers. When you know who your customers are, what they’re doing and where to reach them, you’re better positioned to offer products that actually fit their needs across their entire engagement with your company — rather than in a siloed way.

Focus for transformation

Keeping public sentiment and values around transparency in mind, insurers are moving towards successfully transforming their operations. The areas of focus are technical enablement and connecting with a deep understanding of how to use data.

Insurers are starting to test now – both how consumers feel about their data being used, but also which services will make them feel that providing the access was worth it. Customers need to feel their personal data is worth the free services they receive in exchange.

Players such as Vitality are paving the way by ensuring that they tie their offerings to a higher consumer purpose. For example, encouraging customers to drive with telematics not to increase insurance rates but to help people become better drivers.

The connected insurer

The future insurer will be connected. Data will be available to drive digital product services for customers 24/7. This will help drive digital products and experiences that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. A value-oriented approach involves identifying areas where traditional ways of supporting customers have significant gaps. This is where digital services and experiences can shine the brightest.

The future insurer will integrate AI-related technologies, with everyone from board members to customer-experience teams forming a deep understanding of new tech. Armed with insights from AI explorations, insurers can form a data strategy plan to make the most of a high volume of data from various sources.

Delivering differentiated experiences to customers isn’t just about better understanding that person. It’s also about connecting to new ecosystems that insurers might not have previously considered. Data sets are connected via microservices like WhatsApp or text message. Insurers can collate a wide range of customer experiences across multi channels to create valuable interactions with existing customers but also to identify new customers.

In the UK, insurance companies can unlock better experiences and services for customers by implementing technical prowess and leveraging complex datasets. But it’s important that they respect the customer’s privacy, not just because it’s good for business… it’s the right thing to do.

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