I’m continually amazed by the new gadgets I see every day. For instance, this morning I saw an ad for a “Pebble Watch” — which looked like a watch, but does a lot more than any watch I’ve ever owned. Selling for $150, it’s described as a “timepiece-cum-life-tracker that wirelessly connects with your iPhone or Android and alerts you via silent vibrations when you’ve received an incoming call, email or text message.”

Wow! Now when you’re in a business meeting or having dinner with your spouse, you can stay connected by looking at your watch vs. fishing your phone out of your pocket or purse. Now no one will even notice you’ve just checked your text messages, weather conditions or Facebook updates.

And recently at a health insurance conference, Dr. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, gave a fascinating keynote about his vision for the future of medicine. He had a handful of interesting gadgets on the stage (and several attached to his body) to make his point that the future of health care will be managed by patients themselves and likely through gadgets attached to their smart phones.

In his presentation finale, he performed an ultrasound of his heart in real time, on stage, while speaking, which allowed us to see his heart beating on the projection screen. The ability to perform an ultrasound at home via your smart phone? Think what that could do to lower health care costs and make ultrasounds available to more patients in our country.

It makes me think that, very soon, we may be checking our emails, the weather forecast and our vital signs on a regular basis as we sit in front of our computer or play on our tablets while watching TV. Then I’m reminded that we’re somewhat already here or there, depending on your level of tech savvy. On one hand, it’s exciting, and on the other hand, I wonder if insurers are ready?

How will technology impact how life insurance is bought and sold? Those of you who write fully underwritten policies know the challenge of securing medical records in a timely manner to be reviewed by the underwriters. How many times have you had to chase those records to get your clients’ policies issued? How many times were they lost and you had to re-request them? Soon, each patient will likely “own” his or her own medical records (which I truly believe they should) and electronically, no less. The negotiation will then be with the patient/client vs. the doctor’s office. And getting the results will take minutes vs. weeks or months. This could certainly change things.

Then, too, we are familiar with what P&C carriers are doing with devices like Snapshot, which allows insurers to price a driver’s car insurance policy on data gathered from the policyholder’s actual driving behavior. Is it far- fetched to think that we could provide our clients with a Snapshot-like device to wear for two weeks and, from that data, determine their underwriting class and cost of insurance?

See also: Wired people: Coming soon to an insurer near you?

In my own amazement at technology, I’m aware that many insurance providers are bewildered by its swift movements. And the idea of getting lost or left behind is very real, but the main thing insurers have to remember is to stay connected.

Don’t worry about the complexity of technology. Create a winning strategy to connect and analyze the data you have available to better know, understand and anticipate customer’s actions. Rely on sophisticated marketing systems that can capture information from multiple sources, including new technologies and channels, to create and maintain holistic relationships, especially with your best customers.

 

For more from Rose Cahill, see:

A lesson from “Goldilocks”: Why getting the data “just right” is important

Life insurers: Don’t forget the ladies

The data deluge: Can you handle it?