The first thing that should be observed is that travel medical and health are separate lines and require separate sets of skills and needs. “Even though there might be convergences, travel varies a lot to health,” observes Aby Sachdev, Group CEO at MedinyX. “Additionally, when we speak of needs, distribution and sales channel lines are completely different from claims, assistance, TPA etc.,” he pointed out.
The immediate impact of closed borders and cancelled flights put significant strain on insurer and TPA call centres. “This highlighted the need for software that enabled process automation – systems that can drive customer solutions can help triage support and alleviate bottlenecks on key operational staff,” said Elliott Draga, Chief Commercial Officer at Nordic Insurance Software. “Additionally, travel and health insurers faced the need to support remote work for staff, which highlighted the need for both software and hardware that were portable and could be accessed outside of company headquarters. Cloud infrastructure, browser-based software products and data protection were recurring areas of focus for companies across all insurance lines, and this includes travel and health.”
The need for specific types of software depends on the underlying type of business, according to Manjit Rana, owner of Ingenin, an insurance innovation consultancy. “Are they a travel broker or airline, insurance provider, claims processor or a price comparison service? Do they need to connect to third party services such as airline booking systems and anti-fraud platforms?” he asks. “These days it is less about software and more about digitising experiences and pathways for service providers and about how easily companies can connect to partner organisations to create eco-systems. Most modern systems are able to connect with external systems using application program interface (API) frameworks.”
According to Rana, the industry needs to revolve around and access the most relevant data, at the right time, and for the right cost. “This is the differentiator, because these days one can ‘intelligently glue’ various software applications together relatively easily. The emergence of low-code/no-code platforms makes it much quicker and easier to create bespoke applications to address specific requirements,” he told ITIJ. “Most companies, however, are currently focused on digitising yesterday’s pathways rather than looking at what the market may look like three, five or seven years out and developing platforms and solutions for those use cases.”
“As an example, if an airline is getting a lot of no shows for flights, it could identify which passengers in the future are unlikely to make the flight – maybe their train to the airport is delayed or they are stuck on the motorway,” explains Rana. “If one can access that data, one can create a solution where one can proactively reach out to that customer and establish if they are going to miss their flight and automatically move their booking to the next available flight. This is a guardian angel type service being looked at by a number of insurers where we can prevent a claim happening rather than focusing on settling claims – it also means we can focus on providing value to a much bigger proportion of the policyholders rather than just the small percentage that actually make a claim.”
People and systems must form partnerships to ensure that a customer’s experience with one part of the value chain is the same as any other part
Software as a facilitator
The travel and health insurance value chain resembles other insurance lines, from product development and underwriting through to claims settlement, and throughout the policy lifecycle stakeholders work collaboratively to provide customer service, according to Draga. “Because of this, people and systems must form partnerships to ensure that a customer’s experience with one part of the value chain is the same as any other part,” he says. “Software solutions that can easily integrate to other systems and both send and receive data in various ways can act as an excellent facilitator for a positive customer journey.”
Draga observes that insurance claims are stressful in any circumstance. “However, travel health events can sometimes be life or death scenarios and the last thing that either policyholders or the staff supporting them want to deal with are operational delays due to disconnected systems,” he said. “This further highlights the need for companies to invest in solutions that allow them to provide seamless interactions with their customers and partners.”
There are multiple ways in which software can act as a facilitator, according to Sachdev. “An existing client of ours prior to signing up was very limited and was not in a position to fulfil multiple market needs, multiple compliances, jurisdictions, or audits,” he says. “Technology can be a great facilitator and it is only for the good. Scaling up is another key reason the use of technology is critical. The experience brought in by MedinyX made several expectations possible.”
With artificial intelligence, as long as there is sufficient data, one can use machine learning to predict patterns, affirms Rana. “For example, one could even predict what price one would need to quote to get a particular individual to upgrade from economy to premium economy. One could even get the algorithm to only display that option if there are not enough potential passengers likely to pay a higher fee,” he exemplifies “So, it is not really about software anymore, it is more about data, connecting different data services together and building insights that can be utilised to create relevant experiences for the end user.”
To create effective risk and product segmentation, insurance relies upon sophisticated data modelling and analysis. “Software systems now have the ability to leverage more data from more sources to be able to better segment risks and price them accordingly,” Draga says. “There are several new and robust datasets that insurers can use to influence their policies and pricing, such as healthcare costs at destination, individual health screening questionnaires, and other political or socioeconomic risks associated with an individual’s destination point, which can influence the likelihood and severity of a claim event to occur.”
According to Draga, the trade off for insurers is to capture as much relevant data as possible without deterring potential policyholders from actually purchasing coverage. “No one wants to spend hours purchasing insurance, which is where insurers now have the ability to leverage public data sets and third-party solutions to automate risk segmentation for customers,” he says.
The industry needs to revolve around data and access the most relevant data, at the right time, and for the right cost
Telemedicine or telehealth companies have their specific role in relation to product segmentation. “We cover both the telehealth on travel and health lines market segments and also push into specialised lines of telehealth linked with biopsy management and several additional options,” says Sachdev. “The overall enhancement certainly is not just limited to the technology piece but to the behind-the-scenes services and successful deployment of those services, which are measurable, accountable and transparent.”
According to Rana, the best claims pathway is not to have a claim in the first place: “So, if one can predict and prevent the claim from occurring, that is the best experience for the customer. Now that we have the artificial intelligence toolkits, frameworks, and computer power we can start to make this a reality,” he says. “Also, the benefit of consumers investing in powerful computers (smartphones) that they carry around with them everywhere they go means we potentially have real-time access to dynamically generated data which can be used to analyse situations and also deliver the appropriate responses to the consumer without them needing to log into an online service.”
When one cannot predict a claim happening in advance, the next best answer is automatic claims resolution. “For instance, if one’s flight is going to be delayed by three hours one is automatically sent a coffee/sandwich voucher or maybe access to a VIP lounge,” Rana exemplifies. “Data illustrating that a particular flight will be delayed is already available, so why do we need the consumer to complete a lengthy form in order to make a claim and then wait weeks for the payment to be deposited into their account?”
Current and long-term trends
Process automation and cloud technology are a necessity for all companies participating in the travel and health insurance industry, according to Draga. “The pandemic forced companies to modernise their processes and systems in order to keep pace with the uncertainties Covid-19 presented, and now as the world returns to normal and as the travel market continues its recovery, policy and claims volumes will rapidly increase and companies that scaled back during the pandemic will now need to rapidly scale up to support this growth,” he warned.
According to Sachdev, in the post-pandemic period there is a strong hype of telehealth. “We have moved beyond that with our digital health assessment tools, which are able to measure some of one’s biomedical parameters,” he says. “The merger of software services along with e-commerce is set as a long-term trend. We have clearly seen Amazon and some other players make moves in this direction. This does not stop here.”
As a new trend on the horizon, the eventual transition from process automation to machine learning will be adopted by insurers who adopt a ‘big data’ mindset – sharing data across the value chain with other participants to allow machines to learn and instruct processes going forward, according to Draga. “A few extensions of this will be the eventual adoption of better predictive models, and the shift in risk management from a ‘reactive’ product and pricing model to a ‘proactive’ service-oriented model,” he says. “Moreover, given the importance of connectivity and system integration across the value chain, software solutions that support low code or no code solutions will provide insurers a much simpler, faster and cost-effective model for creating partnerships to support their policyholders throughout their insurance journey.”
One last general trend is to create online cloud-based applications so that one does not have to download or upgrade software to always have the latest version, affirms Rana. “Transactional based pricing is such that one effectively ‘pays per use’ rather than paying an annual fee. It needs to be API framework based so that it is easy to integrate the application with other systems that the user wants to connect with. In the future it will be all about ecosystems, you can try and own the ecosystem and encourage other parties to be a part of yours such as Grab, the Southeast Asia’s superapp or you’ll end up being a part of someone else’s ecosystem, either way your technology stack needs to be able to collaborate if you want to survive,” he concludes.