Do digitisation and AI have a place in the IPMI industry?

By David Withnell
David Withnell, Chief Risk Officer of AXA Global Healthcare, on the adoption of AI and ML in the international private medical insurance (IPMI) market

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are two parts of a booming tech industry, with recent advancements making it possible to generate images, articles and even code that can be used to make an app while barely lifting a finger. 

This technology isn’t new or something to be afraid of. In fact, a number of websites in all sectors already use a more straightforward form of it – virtual assistants – like our very own Remi.

In the international private medical insurance (IPMI) industry, it’s possible for AI to decide whether some claims are valid within seconds, removing the need for an individual to read through each and every claim form and make that decision. In short, these developments give businesses within our industry the opportunity to both save costs and leave more time to focus on business growth.

Most importantly, these efficiencies aren’t about cutting staff; they’ll ultimately benefit the customer and the experience they receive from those organisations who adopt this technology. Instead of sifting through claims forms, employees would be able to provide a more effective, tailored experience. The end product will be delivered at a quicker pace with improved personalisation, which is increasingly important in the IPMI industry. 

Key considerations for insurance AI systems

Take our AXA Global Healthcare virtual assistant, for example. Remi, who is constantly taking on new information through machine learning, will help our customers find what they’re looking for more easily. The seamless navigation is designed to quickly guide users to the most appropriate next step, whether that’s viewing their online account, accessing virtual care services, using the provider finder tool, or connecting them to human advisors where needed.

While there are a number of benefits to AI systems, there are also some key considerations to be taken into account. For example, the technology needs to learn before it becomes fully effective, which takes time and can be costly. For risk officers, measuring the worth of AI is a complicated task – will the investment, in terms of both time and money, be worth it in this field? Or could the results backfire?

Risk management is a crucial consideration as AI technologies become more deeply integrated into the IPMI industry. In particular, it’s essential to ensure that accurate, specific and unbiased data is fed into the system for decision-making, and it’s our responsibility as humans to manage this. Take image-generating platforms, for example. Image-creation on AI platforms can lead to a lack of visual diversity of people, if the AI has not had enough of a range of images and data to learn from in the first place. 

Finding a good balance for AI in health insurance

In the global healthcare insurance industry, there will always be things that humans can understand, and things machines can't. For example, cultural differences in the way treatments are provided and recorded in different countries, which can impact a customer’s entire journey, from taking out a policy to seeking treatment to the claims process.

Aside from bias, it’s also important to consider how virtual services approach customers with solutions, so that the process doesn’t come across as intrusive.

Tailored private health insurance solutions might include technologies that track your customers’ personal health data, like how many steps they take in a day or how many hours of sleep they get at night. These processes are carried out based on the data collected from customers with a view to suggesting positive lifestyle improvements. However, this constant data collection could be perceived as intrusive and could therefore potentially drive customers away.

Knowing that a machine has a significant part to play in your personal life can be off-putting, so it's essential to get the balance between human and digital right. I for one hope that a balanced approach will present us with a massive opportunity to take a new step forward as an industry.

Providing people-centred customer experiences and showing the human side of your business will always be vital, regardless of developing technologies. All in all, a human-digital balance is the key to helping customers feel heard and provided for.

About the author

David Withnell.

David Withnell is a highly experienced Chief Risk Officer and Chief Compliance Officer and currently responsible for enterprise risk, compliance, governance and data protection at AXA Global Healthcare. He is an expert on regulatory provisions in the UK and European general insurance markets which is coupled with a detailed understanding of the insurance industry and its fundamental processes.


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