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We Should Try Learning from Wearable Heath Tech

I use health tech, I am also in the life insurance industry. While I may connect heath wearables to the industry, most consumers don't. Heck, most of them don't think about their life insurance. That was part of the promise, that's the cherished 'peace of mind' we offered, so we shouldn't complaint too much. Also, tailoring life insurance products so that they connect to wearables is only urgent if it yields competitive advantage somehow. After all, it is still early days in the world of wearable health tech. That helps to put into context many of the general concerns about wearables which are always wheeled out as objections for their use by the insurance industry: 

  • Not enough people use them
  • They aren't accurate enough
  • There isn't that much evidence that increasing activity improves risk

Ignore the first point, in time, either there will be enough or there won't in time and we'll move on.

The second point makes me laugh. Your bathroom scales aren't accurate either. For decades blood pressure measurements have been getting more accurate, but remain heavily dependent on how you do them. But they are so much more accurate than most answers given to the 'weight' question on life insurance applications. The kind of level of inaccuracy is similar to your speedometer in your car (well, most cars). Also, precision isn't needed here. The accuracy is broadly fit for purpose. People who watch their weight know that their bathroom scales are out, and measurement depends a lot on when you weigh yourself, and factors like with or without clothes and shoes. The game is to watch trends, not worry about individual data points. If the wobbly line keeps going up, I need to eat more greens and less cakes.

The third point focuses on the emblematic '10,000' steps. This was never much more than an advertising slogan, very few such devices track steps alone. They seek to 'gamify' the generally accepted contributors to good daily health by getting the user to track a basket of data: general activity, proper exercise, heart rate, sleep, weight, and more. The usual things. Track these over a long period of time and we get trends. Non-tracking tells us something. Even abandonment by the user tells us something. We can't be snobby about this data when, as an industry, we use BMI which is generally based on what the applicant self-reports as their height and weight. 

What is interesting is whether this trend can be brought into product design in a meaningful way. That is a concept that we are still struggling with as an industry. Initial ideas, such as 'giving a discount' are a bit dumb. Most people can hardly remember what their insurance costs, until it gets really expensive, and then, the kind of discount available for this activity, is nowhere near enough to make a difference.

If any form of connection to wearables is to be worthwhile we have to come up with better ways to connect the idea of your daily health activities with your lifelong risks. The core ideas that drive the health wearables market are alien to life insurers. Consider this: a committed user of a health app will interact with it more in one day than they will with their life or income protection product in a whole year. People who can make weighing yourself that interesting may have something to teach us. We should try to learn.


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