New app may help avert health budget crisis

Reinsurance giant RGA has put its faith in the Quealth app to help people avoid cancer, heart disease and dementia

Ongoing advancements in technology and science mean we now have ways of improving our health that were simply inconceivable in the not too distant past. As a result, the life and health insurance industry, not always regarded for its trailblazing spirit, is now making serious moves to embrace the digital age.

This week we had yet another example of this shift in approach as the Reinsurance Group of America took on a minority stake of UK-based company Roadtohealth. RGA is one of the largest life and health reinsurers in the world and this partnership indicates the importance it is now placing on innovation.

Roadtohealth was formed in 2002 as a B2B provider of risk assessment technology for health information to pharmacies and insurance companies worldwide. The firm had something of a rebirth in 2014, bringing its Q test directly to the consumer through the Quealth app.

Quealth focuses on the prevention of the five leading non-communicable diseases – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – asking people a series of questions covering family medical history, biometrics and lifestyle. Depending on an individual's Quealth Score, the app then provides evidence-based content and coaching drawn from the latest behavioural change science to drive sustainable lifestyle improvements.

Alistair Wickens is CEO and co-founder of Roadtohealth and wasn’t that surprised when RGA reached out to form an alliance.

“RGA has a huge interest in what we are doing because it’s a data hungry business,” he says.  “The insurance business is changing rapidly and RGA is a company that other insurers look to for innovation.”

Wickens has been with the firm since the very beginning when it started out 14 years ago in Nottingham in the UK. As such, he knows the product inside-out, and believes it really can make a major difference for insurance companies, as well as the wider public.

“My question was: ‘how do you keep people involved longer than a 12-week period?’ I looked at different products and services, and I believe that an insurance-based subscription model that rewards people for their behaviour is a very good way to achieve that.”

The Quealth app is now available in 140 countries through all the usual channels – Apple's App Store, Google Play, the Samsung Galaxy App Store and Lenovo's newly released App Explorer – and with the latest investment by RGA, they sky really is the limit for its growth potential. That’s not lost on its founder, who explains the reasons why more and more people will be taking the Quealth test in the years to come.

“It’s similar to the little black boxes you get inside your car for motor insurance,” he says. “You could view Quealth as a black box inside your phone that monitors your health. And you may spin that as very Big Brother, but it also gives us the power to manage our own health and that has enormous ramifications in terms of where healthcare will go in the future.”

Canada is renowned for its healthcare system worldwide, but that’s not to say the system doesn’t have its problems. Funding is and will continue to be a major concern for Canadians, especially with an aging population and the pressure that will put on healthcare here.

A major part of the health budget is spent each year on treating those five leading non-communicable diseases, so anything that could reduce that burden will surely be embraced. The timing for Quealth’s expansion in the Great White North couldn’t be better.  

“In Canada there are a significant number of people that die each year because of non-communicable diseases,” says Wickens. “You can put the power of technology into the hands of people to manage their health and well-being, educating them along the way. That’s exactly what Quealth is aiming to do. We are not treating sick patients, we are stopping people from becoming sick in the first place.”

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