View source: Jane J. Wang

Mobile technology has been a game-changer for the health and fitness industries. Today people pair their smartphones with biometric trackers to count their steps, plan their workouts, and keep track of their overall health goals. These devices gather data that can be used by individuals and can assist companies with market research, for example.

The technology is also becoming a game-changer for the insurance industry, helping claim representatives and underwriters build plans around more accurate models, and for policyholders to control their insurance costs by practicing healthier habits. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of health tracking apps and their utility.

These apps use various inputs such as a smartwatch to gather biometric data including heart rate, steps taken, body temperature and more. Additional features like sleep conditions, fertility, blood oxygen, and blood glucose levels are forthcoming. In the future, we could see these devices monitor kidney and liver function, respiratory health, and quickly detect any number of diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The more this technology advances, the more precise a view users will have both as to the effectiveness of their overall health, and the deeper and more diverse the collected data will be.

It is no surprise that insurers are looking to health tracking technology to create new possibilities for accurate pricing and incentivizing better living. Insurance companies are already using information technology to assess rates and premiums, most prominently in the auto insurance vertical, where drivers can install sensors in their cars and be rewarded with lower rates for safer driving. Likewise, health and life insurance firms can use biometric tracking to incentivize healthier living, lowering rates for users who show stronger life signs or regularly exercise. Individuals who invest in their wellbeing can reap the rewards of cheaper health and life insurance while insurers can gather data about health trends.

Health and engagement apps also provide insurers benefits beyond their ability to offer fiscal incentives. Using the principles of gamification and social engagement, these programs can get users more deeply invested in their health and wellness, increasing the health of the insured group overall to reduce the chance of untimely payouts.

The best and most popular apps, for example, often have rewards partnerships with popular companies like Hello Fresh, Amazon and Starbucks, granting users who reach or maintain certain fitness milestones to claim discounts and gift cards as a reward. These programs also feature social connectivity, such as engagement with other users and joint community goals. Regular users enjoy the benefits of lower insurance payments, as well as the chance to meet and engage with like-minded people and gain tangible rewards like free coffee.

While users are staying in shape, saving money on premiums, making new friends, and earning free meal kits, insurers are enjoying the considerable benefits of floods of data. Easily the most valuable commodity of our information age, with proper and ethical user release, companies can gather and analyze information from every step of their customers’ wellness journeys.

By encouraging the use of fitness tracking apps, providers can determine the overall health statistics of entire demographic groups, predict wellness trends, and spot rises or dips in population health, not to mention track social engagement and the effectiveness of rewards. No innovation has ever offered insurers so broad and deep a view of the overall health of their customers, allowing for much more precise actuarial models.

More and more financial, insurance, and wellness companies are looking to get into the biometric tracking industry. Smart technology lets consumers, and organizations alike, know so much about health both for individuals and groups. Insurers that find the right partner in biometrics will not only create a healthier user base but access data that will build powerful models of health and wellness throughout entire populations which lower costs and manage risk more effectively.