By Walking This Way, Can We Talk Our Way Towards Lower Health Insurance Premiums in The Foreseeable Future?

Wearable technology is everywhere these days, as increasing numbers of people subscribe to a healthier lifestyle. While being no bad thing, a question mark remains as to whether these heart rate-tracking, GPS-controlled wrist adornments can actually help us achieve lower health insurance premiums or if they are simply well-meaning fashion accessories which go some way to combating cholesterol and keeping us fit. Looking at the facts first and foremost and the majority of these wearable tech items – such as FitBit, Jawbone, Garmin, Tom-Tom – habitually capture an impressive array of metrics and inadvertently store them as part of the manufacturer’s product remit. Knowledge of which has piqued the interest of the insurance industry as a whole as many view these mobile fitness tracking devices as an indirect way to sell more premiums.

According to leading wearable technology website, www.wareable.com when it comes to the potential of fitness trackers as a brand new – and as yet largely untapped – means of shifting as many health and life insurance premiums as pounds of an altogether different type, the pulse rate of insurance industry movers and shakers quicken at the prospect. The results of a survey recently conducted also points to insurance execs working up a sweat about the commercial impact wearable tech could have in the foreseeable future in their industry, as some 63% believe that the presence of this emerging tech will be a boon in terms of policy sales and suggest that their use in premiums could be widespread within a couple of years.

So just how would this pan out? In theory the premise is grounded in realism, as the advocacy of a healthy lifestyle does bring about reduced mainstream insurance product reductions, not least in the arena of health and life insurance policies, whereby general fitness and wellbeing are pivotal. But then there’s two core areas with regards to fitness trackers and any precedent they may or may not play in having a minimising effect to personal insurance plans. By far the biggest issue would be the very topical and controversial subject of data privacy. With this possible wealth of new and up-to-the-minute health information about insurance policyholders at their fingertips, there’s always the risk that it imparts previously undisclosed/or then non-existent information which might compromise your current health policy. The second concern would be one of continuity, based on the wearer/policyholder not always been able to fulfil the tracker’s requirements (and therein the health insurance provider’s stipulations) consistently.

Some Life Insurance Providers Have Already Rolled-Out Wearable Tech-Collating Fitness Incentives

As it stands a couple of American insurers conducted some wearable tech-derived initiatives, one of which essentially incentivised policyholders to work (step up their fitness programmes) so as to activate Amazon money-off vouchers while the other rewarded those who achieved their targets with 15% knocked off their insurance premiums. This made a number of other health and life insurance providers sit up and take notice, one of which was the UK’s Prudential Insurance and its Vitality Health arm, which tempted its life insurance policyholders with promises of customer points that could be redeemed against cinema tickets and coffee shops, as well as reducing policy premiums. Long-established champions of pedometers, the Pru’s Vitality Health division has also broadened its health and fitness-motivating horizons with the advent of upselling the virtues of heart-rate monitors, cycling computers, swim monitors and step tracking apps amongst other healthy lifestyle/lower insurance premium-encouraging promotions. This incentivising has certainly paid both health and wealth dividends for Vitality Health policyholders, according to its head of Vitality Wellness, Nick Read, who says; “Members who use wearable devices in conjunction with Vitality are twice as likely to still be engaged with their device after a year”, adding; “The rewards help too – on average, Vitality members record 790 more steps per day, than those using wearables outside of the Vitality ecosystem”.

But before any detractors start to get a little too hot and bothered about the complexity of wearables, can-of-worms-opening privacy issues or marketeers/manufacturers taking something and running too far, and too fast with it, it’s perhaps worth remembering that we’re light years away from a dystopic vision of would-be health and life insurance policyholders being refused policies because your FitBit detected a heart-rate abnormality which had gone under the radar hitherto, just to quell any unjust hysteria.