Protecting human health

Sophisticated technology heralds an era of predictive, proactive healthcare

Through enhanced integration and artificial intelligence, health and financial services, human capital and rewards can now better serve beneficiaries and employers alike – often predicting and pre-empting needs before they arise.

Technology expert and thought leader on the new digital economy, Herman Singh, points out that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about a fundamental shift in the nature of business and customer expectations.

“Information is powerful, and with a rapid acceleration in information technology it is now possible to capture, send, store and process information easily, using processes that are virtually instantaneous and increasingly effortless,” he said, speaking at a recent think-tank hosted by Agility, a health, financial services, human capital risk management and technology solutions investment group.

“This is changing our lives in phenomenal ways. A few years ago, if I wanted to buy a book I would need to get in my car, drive to the bookshop, park the car, physically enter the shop, look for the book and – assuming I was lucky enough to find it at the first bookshop I visited – stand in a queue to pay for it before driving home. This process could easily take an hour or more,” he adds.

Examining the impact technology is having in value-chain compression, Singh said he could now download books to a personal device in a split second, simultaneously receiving information regarding similar books in which he could be interested without even asking.

“In addition, if we consider the price of a newly printed book and the petrol it took to get it in the past, as well as the value of my time, these are expenses that are now either unnecessary or hugely reduced,” he said.

Singh noted that the convenience and highly individualised nature of such interactions had raised customer expectations, which had given rise to fresh possibilities such as how technology could be used to better serve the needs of the health and financial sectors.

“Sophisticated technology has brought about a world of change in what is possible – for example, where an individual’s risk of a heart attack can be predicted through the application of technology. We are constantly creating data in our everyday lives, without necessarily being aware of it.”

Similarly, he said insurance companies could now score risk far better at individual level. “Insurance used to be about averaging risk-per-bucket of customers, but with the proliferation of data available – and the technology that allows for billions of processes to create meaningful predictions – it is possible to evaluate an individual’s risk,” he said.

Director of product development at the Agility group, Jacques Snyman, said technology underpinned powerful, intelligent systems the company had developed, which proactively assisted businesses and individuals to reduce risks.

“If you can measure risk, you can actively manage it. As technology advances we are able to do so with ever-greater precision. Since inception, Agility has been focused on research and development, and all data at a granular level has been developed to ensure that clinical evidence translates into stakeholder benefit for patients, funders and employers alike,” he said.

Explaining the concept, Snyman said Agility’s patented Patient Driven Care programme identifies at-risk members and provides individualised clinical management to pre-empt health risks. “Personal health coordinators, who provide members with the healthcare equivalent of a private banker’s service, ensure that at-risk members are managed holistically and receive targeted care to improve their health. In many cases, this mitigates the need for potential hospitalisation.

“This is contrary to the market norm whereby members are grouped according to disease, and these categories are managed through a silo-based approach with numerous contact points for the member. This can be time-consuming, confusing and frequently leads to multiple points of failure, often at the expense of the individual’s health and productivity,” he said.

“From a group risk and employee benefits perspective, it makes sense to integrate all contributing elements of risk for a more effective, holistic solution, which not only reduces administration costs but can also serve as a basis for negotiating lower group risk premiums, as the efforts to mitigate such risks are both tangible and demonstrable.

“Our technologically powered systems enable us to provide the same level of service to individuals and employers in remote rural areas as those living in large cities. This means that irrespective of geographic location, clients can expect the same access and excellent outcomes.”

According to Snyman, one of the most powerful implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that technology is extending the capacity to protect human health as well as enhancing productivity.

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