Trends

Wellbeing: Technologies to make our lives healthier

The current “Tech Trend Radar” from ERGO and Munich Re includes 44 trends in five topic fields, that we will explore here on //next in the upcoming weeks. We'll start with “Wellbeing”. What is this trend field all about – and which individual trends and applications hide behind it?

Tech Trend Radar, Themenbereich Wellbeing

The “Tech Trends Radar 2022” defines “Wellbeing” as a collective term for “technologies to make our lives healthier”. The spectrum ranges from gadgets and tools for monitoring our health (summarised in the trend “Behavioural Analytics”) to the latest generation of “Vaccine Technologies” up to optimisation possibilities for our bodies (“Human Enhancement”).

 Which maturity level do the trends have?

Details on the nine trends in the trend field “Wellbeing” as well as the first concrete application examples can be found below, but first it is worth remembering: The authors of the “Tech Trend Radar 2022” divide all trends into the four different maturity levels:

  • hold (“put on the watch list”)
  • assess (“consider what this means for your company”)
  • trial (“first initiatives should be started in the most affected business areas”)
  • adopt (“take full advantage of this technology!”)
     

“In this year's radar, the most conservative level 'Hold' did not seem appropriate for any of the nine trends in this trend field,” says Daniel Grothues from ERGO, “the developments in the area of 'Wellbeing' are overwhelming.” And his colleague Martin Thormählen from Munich Re adds: “Our recommendations are therefore: twice 'Assess', five times 'trial' and twice even: 'Adopt'.”


Twice “adopt”…

So: according to the “Tech Trend Radar 2022”, insurers that offer health and life insurance products should be determined to implement the following two trends:

  1. Behavioural analytics: The authors of the study define the term as digital tools such as wearables or software solutions that collect and evaluate data for the purpose of holistic health assessment and monitoring. This is vital for diabetics, for example, but also helpful for preventive purposes as a warning against too much UV radiation. This trend has already gained momentum across all sectors, but according to the study, it is still poorly integrated in the insurance industry. Yet – provided the strictest data protection standards are adhered to in order to prevent data misuse and discrimination – there are enormous opportunities for insurers and reinsurers. Especially in the areas of sales, product development and underwriting, for which the Munich Re solution Insight is already available.
  2. Digital healthcare: virtual doctor's visits instead of weeks of waiting, symptom diagnosis via app, augmented reality for neurological diseases – it’s no question: technology is currently restructuring the entire health-, care- and thus also insurance-infrastructure. We have already reported on opportunities in the field of telemedicine (even in one's own car or while travelling) as well as on product innovations such as Air Doctor on //next. So the clear recommendation to “adopt” is no coincidence: “Health insurers should not only observe this development, but play an active role in digital health ecosystems or insurtech hubs that are currently developing and have the greatest potential to offer added value for insured persons.”
     

Five times „trial“…

  1. Biomanufacturing: This refers to synthetic production with the help of bioprocesses. Nothing new in itself, after all, insulin has been produced in this way since 1978 – but the triumph of mRNA vaccines, which were developed in a similar way, has opened up this trend for other areas of application within and outside the pharmaceutical industry. For example, for sugar substitutes, laboratory meat or special algae that break down pollutants. According to the study, the vision of such biotech companies to help the planet and people prevent diseases and develop new treatments should also be encouraged and supported by the insurance industry: What these innovators need are insurance partners to cover their business risk, as well as new investment partners.
  2. AI Medicine: //next has already investigated why AI is considered a “game changer” in the health sector. The “Tech Trend Radar” also points out the many advantages such as accelerated drug development, minimised correlations, improved diagnosis and analysis possibilities, as well as pattern recognition through artificial intelligence, and concludes: Insurers should follow this trend closely and already check today whether there is potential to improve their own claims management and underwriting in particular. Munich Re already has a concrete AI solution for this: “Predictor”. We reported on AI in use for your dental health here.

  3. Personalised Medicine: Personalised therapies are now being used depending on the body type, own genetics and disease pattern. The pioneer was oncology, followed by the fight against genetic diseases such as sickle cell anaemia or spinal muscular atrophy – and currently even repairs for problematic DNA are already in development. Although still at an early stage, insurers should already take up this trend, according to the study, in view of the “massive and positive effects” so far, the study authors advise: “trial”.

  4. Population Health: Identifying trends in the health status of the general population at an early stage relieves the burden on our health systems and, according to the study, facilitates the integration and coordination of patient care as well as the development of suitable financing models. Improved data analysis will change the health system for the better: from a therapy-oriented approach to a preventive one. A better understanding of individual risks by analysing the entire population could also lead to new products for new target groups and optimise underwriting methods.
  5. Robotic Health: Artificial helpers are conquering the health sector and can already vaccinate and operate. However, the study sees even greater potential in the care sector – for example, when robots are used to provide general support in elderly care: Even though this is already the case in some Asian markets, global market acceptance depends on the respective national and regional healthcare systems as well as the willingness to invest in digital solutions to support care staff.

And - last but not least – twice “assess”

The “Tech Trend Radar 2022” recommends “Assess”, i.e. a profound examination for one's own business, for the following two trends in the trend field “Wellbeing”:

  1. Vaccine Technologies: In the field of vaccine development, the technological revolution has only just begun – but we quickly became aware of its immense importance through the Covid pandemic. In the future, according to the authors of the study, this trend will also provide us with drugs and therapies that go far beyond the fight against infectious diseases – keywords in this area are, for example, tuberculosis or cancer. Cross-industry partnerships further accelerate the development, production and distribution of modern vaccines and medicines. However, concerns about side effects and general reservations about vaccines in the population must first be addressed.
  2. Human enhancement: Expanding the limits of one's own body is an old human dream. Technology is now gradually making it come true – be it through gadgets like brain-stimulating headbands, strength-enhancing exoskeletons or even invasive interventions like Elon Musk's Neuralink chip or organ transplants. This development from “dreams of the future” to tangible benefits for humanity should be closely followed by insurers through technology investments and partnerships and support the development of patient-oriented and cost-efficient solutions: “assess”
     

“I encourage everyone to watch the trends closely, so that we can better assess the risks and seize the opportunities that technology affords us,” Munich Re CEO Joachim Wenning writes in his foreword to this study. For us at //next, this is a nice appeal that also sums up the purpose of this new series of articles well: To introduce you to the individual trends and explore their respective potential. The next part is about six more promising trends – from the trend field of “hyperconnectivity”.

Text: Ingo Schenk

Die deutsche Version dieses Textes gibt es hier: Wellbeing: Technologien, die unser Leben gesünder machen