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Impact of Genomics on Insurers - Part 8


New Insurance Products and Value-added Services Based on Genomics?

Progress in genomics creates new opportunities for products and value-added services that life and health could offer to their customers: products explicitly covering diagnostics or treatment on the level of the genome, and services helping customers create maximum value out of their genetic or genomic data.

Synpulse industry survey

Synpulse has assessed how insurers perceive the impact of genomics on their industry. As shown in our previous article[1] ,most of the experts polled see the biggest opportunities for both life and health insurers in the area of new products and services:

[1] Impact of Genomics on Insurers – Part 7: Synpulse Market Survey

New types of cover

Diagnostics at the genetic and genomic level has become more and more powerful over recent years[2]. Despite its growing potential for improving the success of both the treatment[3] and prevention[4] of many diseases by allowing a more personalized approach, adoption is still slow. There are several reasons for this. First, most care providers don’t have sufficient knowledge of the available methods and how to interpret the results. Second, the more advanced techniques in particular are often only available from rare, highly specialized providers. Third, payers are often reluctant to cover the costs, especially for the more advanced techniques.

These issues could at least partially be addressed by new insurance products that specifically cover gene diagnostics. Ideally, they would be offered in combination with guaranteed access to networks of experts in human genetics able to choose the optimal testing approach and provide the expertise to maximally leverage the data coming out of such approaches. Insurance industry experts polled in our market survey confirm this potential:

Interestingly, however, only around 20% of the participants surveyed see high potential for insurance products specifically covering genetherapy – even though the recent gene therapeutics brought to the market are horrendously expensive[5]. Our explanation of this finding is that gene therapy is still a field in its infancy: only very few off-the shelf gene therapies are currently available, they came to market only recently and target rare diseases. We believe that the perceived potential for specific insurance coverage will grow over the coming years when gene therapy becomes more established.

[2] Impact of Genomics on Insurers – Part 2: The Different Strains of Genetic Testing
[3] Impact of Genomics on Insurers – Part 4: Personalized Medicine
[4] Impact of Genomics on Insurers – Part 6: Genomics in Reproductive Medicine
[5] Impact of Genomics on Insurers – Part 5: Gene therapy

New value-added services

Once somebody has knowledge of their genetic variations, they immediately face the question of how to turn this data into meaningful information. The problem faced by patients (or consumers in the case of genetic testing offered directly to consumers) is basically threefold: First, the data needs to be mapped against the scientific corpus of knowledge about each variation. Second, meaningful or actionable insights needs to be derived from this mapping. Third, if sensible actions can be derived, these actions need to be sustainably and efficiently implemented. Insurers could help their customers by providing services along each of these steps.

Depending on the goal the customer wants to reach, we can distinguish between services that help them obtain a precise diagnosis and optimal treatment for a health problem that has already manifested itself, services designed to prevent health problems from developing in the first place, and services that optimize lifestyle and wellbeing (e.g. genetically tailored exercise regimens or nutrition plans). A large percentage of the survey participants see high potential for insurers to offer value-added services along these three value propositions:

Obstacles to new products and services

Various challenges may hinder insurers from implementing new insurance products or value-added services as discussed above. A clear majority of the experts polled in our survey see legal and regulatory constraints as a key hurdle to be overcome.

Our next articles will present findings of our market study for underwriting and portfolio management. Stay tuned!

Ingo Muschick
 Ingo Muschick
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