Insurance innovation of the month – Genetics and Health Insurance
Ninety’s “Insurance Innovations of the Month” feature contains regular snapshots of real and recent insurance innovations, based on conversations with the innovators behind them. They are drawn from anywhere in the world, and from all categories of insurance. If you’ve got an innovation you’d like to highlight, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Insurer(s): Aetna International
- Market(s): Europe and Singapore
- Insurance type(s): B2B group benefits & corporate health insurance
In B2B corporate group benefits health insurance settings, end users (i.e. the employees), don’t engage as much as they could with the variety of health management tools and techniques available to them. In a world where everyone has a ‘health age’ and knows they should live healthier lives, the level of employee engagement in things like health assessments is remarkably low in the workplace. This means poorer health outcomes and impacts the return that employers get on their investment in employee health and wellbeing. Aetna was interested in finding more engaging ‘hooks’ for health assessments, in order to give their end-users a more unique, personalized set of insights, that should, in turn, lead to action for better health outcomes. Separately, in what can be a very non-differentiated space, Aetna wanted to facilitate a differentiated conversation with their corporate customers about health insurance. Could they launch something that was a much more effective approach than traditional marketing? Something that – even if it had limited sales- led to more engaging holistic health conversations with customers?
Through insights work and consumer research, Aetna identified the trend that they felt would create the necessary ‘hook’: genetics and DNA testing for group benefits employees. Aetna saw this as helping to complete the jigsaw for policyholders when it comes to their health; these are people who may know their basic markers like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and have an understanding of their health risks through traditional assessments and surveys, but don’t know their genetic predispositions. Through a new DNA testing and results consultation service, layered on top of health assessments, Aetna wanted to build a unique picture of someone’s health, via personalized health insights and health recommendations. And through soft integration with their own coaching support and telehealth solution vHealth, Aetna were able to add value for clear market differentiation.
As with many innovation projects, there was uncertainty around take-up levels and sales revenues. So Aetna’s approach was to take a white-labelled partner approach to ensure a route to market which was fast and low-cost. Through market scanning, desk research, and partner validation, they ended up choosing Prenetics as a partner. From there, Aetna were able to move into a really rapid deployment programme. In under 12 weeks, leading up to the summer of 2019, Aetna and Prenetics launched to market with not only a genetics test, but also a connected coaching service, providing DNA-personalized health actions for the customer. This rapid time to market was enabled by:
- Taking time in upfront research to source the right partner for a robust but agile white-labelled approach
- By parking full proposition ambitions for day 1 (full integration, SSO, etc.)
The value of such an MVP approach is clear in this example.
Aetna have perceived three key outcomes from this innovation.
Firstly, it had great internal impact. From the CEO downwards, there was a perception that this offering was unique. This applied not only to the substance of the innovation, but also the way it was brought to market – leveraging the partner’s core proposition capabilities but also adding value through integrations with aetna’s health services. It captured people’s imagination, and – as many insurance innovators will know from hard experience – you often need that to happen to get the acceleration and backing to take an idea to market with force.
Secondly, the market and broker sentiment. Historically, many briefing sessions for group benefits brokers are focused on technical product and regulatory updates. This innovation gave Aetna something different to talk about, and helped to enhance their perception in the market and with the brokers. Aetna’s sales teams enjoyed the newly-increased level of broker engagement off the back of the launch and award wins.
Thirdly, the client opportunities. A lot of group benefits clients didn’t have regular touchpoints directly with Aetna. This innovation gave Aetna a reason to engage mid-term for a totally different conversation.
A pipeline is now building for the new genetics product, with clients working through the necessary steps given the sensitivity of genetics data. Feedback is very strong and the product now forms a core staple of corporate pitches. Even if the client doesn’t buy the genetics service, it makes Aetna stand out, and is a proof point of Aetna’s determination to innovate and do things differently. Over the longer term, Aetna will study the value of users going through the health engagement process and getting better outcomes. In the short term, though, this is a good example of the PR value of innovation. We talk about the theatre of innovation, and the value of that. Such theatre is often criticized (and usually rightly so). In this case, though, what we have is an innovation of substance, with real economic benefits and a meaningful, intangible, PR-led benefit.
As a social, for-purpose business ourselves, Ninety is always looking for the social, human or environmental impact of new ideas in insurance. Here, the impact is clear: greater engagement in one’s health leads to better health outcomes. Aetna’s new DNA testing service is enabling that for their group benefits clients’ end users. The inclusion of the consultation and coaching services and the onward clinical support via vHealth, helps to deal in a responsible way with the potential challenges that can arise from unpleasant surprises in the DNA test results.
Tips to other innovators:
- Manage expectation on the new product’s sales pipeline.
Don’t over-promise immediate returns, and do try to build in an understanding of the other forms of value that may be reaped in the short-term. Returns often start internally, then in market sentiment, and the tipping point on sales revenue may come later down the line, after several pivots. Invest with that curve in mind, and judge success accordingly. Take an MVP approach in keeping with that. Don’t put the leadership team in a position where they need to see return inside 12 months. Scale investment realistically to investment return. Use white-labelled MVPs to help do that.
- Don’t underestimate the complexity of the ‘model office’ operations during an MVP test.
The need to set up operations for a new product may fly against a back-office strategy of simplification, automation, and reducing manual tasks. Things like pricing, invoicing, and despatching a physical product like the DNA testing packs are totally foreign concepts for an insurer. Whether you sell 1 unit or 1,000 units, you’ve still got to set up that process. Back-office workaround processes are tough in an organisation looking to automate and streamline. Unless you’ve got a full model office function, you have to resort to bootstrapping or apologising later.
Categorization for insurance innovation portfolio planning:
Ninety Ten Big Ideas: this is an example of Ninety’s “Personalised Products” and “Customer Interactivity” Big Ideas.
Ninety Ten Types of Insurance Innovation: this innovation combines the following Ten Types categories – 1) Product & Proposition, 2) Added-Value Services, 3) Customer Experience, and 4) Channel & Distribution.