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From Strangers To Game-changers: Indian Healthcare And Tech Startups are harnessing the power of technology to offer extensive healthcare financing solutions bundled together in an easy-to-use app with customer-friendly packaging

By Aniruddha Sen

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A virus that brought the world to its knees also imparted valuable learnings for healthcare systems across the world. The pandemic served us a stark reminder about the uncertainties of life, leading to more serious efforts—from all sectors—towards addressing loopholes and strengthening our approach.

A clear impact of this was seen in the health coverage ecosystem, and in the emergence of "insurtech' startups. These startups harness the power of technology and offer extensive healthcare financing solutions bundled together in an easy-to-use app with customer-friendly packaging. They cut out the hassles of paperwork, third-party agents, complex jargon and delayed claim settlement.

The whole world moved lock, stock and barrel to the digital realm and insurtech startups were best prepared to make something good out of this exodus. As a logical consequence, the market penetration of the Indian insurtech industry has gone up by 11.70 per cent since the beginning of 2020.

Let's explore some key emerging trends that could define the road ahead for the healthcare industry in India.

New-age insurtech solutions

One of the most significant changes has been the much-needed rethinking of health coverage. For decades, the average Indian's perspective on health coverage could be summed up in one word: "inertia'. We simply didn't like to talk about potential illnesses, incidents or medical emergencies. Naturally, we didn't care about getting a cover for them.

Old insurance companies did manage to remedy this hesitation to some extent. But their complicated plans were bloated with terms and conditions that nobody really understood.

Traditional insurance companies risk extinction if they don't reinvent their approach to match their new-age competitors. Insurtech startups are already reimagining traditional insurance by bringing in consumer-driven and all-encompassing products that score high on convenience. You can now buy your cover, book tests and seek consultations, all at a click. Be it an emergency visit to the ward or routine tests, D2C platforms provide access to these services under one roof while helping you save tons of money.

Contactless care

Another silver lining has been contactless care. Many companies were already offering the same before COVID happened. But with the lockdowns, people's openness to online consultations, bookings and transactions has gone up considerably. Today, virtual care and prescription delivery have allowed for lower costs for healthcare providers and more ease and convenience for patients. It's a win-win situation.

The use of technology in healthcare solutions has also enabled easier collaboration between doctors. They can now share case histories and compare notes within seconds without any effort. Extremely convenient and useful, isn't it?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been a part of the healthcare conversation for some years now. Through increased data-processing capabilities and advancements in AI algorithms, paperwork has come down drastically, and tedious traditional insurance methods could soon become obsolete. AI/ML also allows for more accurate premium computations, which fall or rise according to each individual's health profile. With an increasing number of data points available for insurers, the future of health coverage lies in customisation of healthcare plans as per the individual's needs and profile.

AI and ML also improve the speed of processing proofs, allowing for automatic claim settlement. Indian insurtech firms are already showcasing solid success in fields like flight delay insurance, crop insurance and flood insurance. The same progress is bound to be witnessed in the health coverage space and, more broadly, in healthcare.

The burgeoning tier II and tier III markets

One of the pandemic's most significant impacts has been greater penetration of insurance, in particular health insurance, in the tier II and tier III markets. Cheap Internet packages, rising healthcare expenses and the growing presence of digital wallets have allowed new-age insurtech companies to take their affordable and accessible health packages to different regions.

Millennials had been indifferent to health covers so far due to the tedious processes and excessive documentation involved. But they are now warming up to health coverage like never before. Because, thanks to insurtech, all you need for an affordable health plan now is a mobile, a data pack, some good sense and not a lot of money.

The path ahead

More data, greater personalisation and ease of access.

The healthcare sector has seen several highs and lows over the past two decades. Be it an increase in personal health tracking through smart bands, cutting-edge medical breakthroughs, or a devastating pandemic that affected billions, the 21st century has triggered many rapid changes in the healthcare landscape.

But alongside the sheer pace of these changes has emerged a host of opportunities. The decade ahead could be defined by how successfully we can integrate the health data we are collecting into the insurance and healthcare services we offer. With a greater degree of personalisation and more accurate risk calculations, insurance costs could come down for millions of people. But more importantly, these very individuals could finally access medical services and coverage options that are genuinely affordable and accessible. And as billions more will need healthcare, the industry too will be ready to support them.

Aniruddha Sen

Co-founder, Kenko Health

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