Google firm's US insurance move seen as 'good news'

Tech giant's unit reportedly enters talks with insurers

Google firm's US insurance move seen as 'good news'

Insurance News

By Bethan Moorcraft

Technology juggernaut Google has made a nod towards the US health insurance industry via its sister-company Verily.

Healthcare unit Verily, formerly known as Google Life Sciences, has reportedly been in talks with insurers about jointly bidding for contracts that would involve taking on risk for hundreds of thousands of patients. The Alphabet-owned company has supposedly made a number of new hires and partnerships to promote its insurance venture.

Verily is planning to enter the ‘population health’ or ‘care management’ market, whereby it will use its extensive Google-driven data platform to identify best possible patient-centric health strategies.

But what does this mean for the health insurance markets in the US? Insurance Business caught up with Capgemini’s healthcare business leader and vice president, Aimee Sziklai, to get some insight on this latest disruption.

“Verily’s entrance into the US health insurance market could shine some light on how to improve healthcare outcomes at lower costs, which is good news all around,” commented Sziklai. “The trend of high deductible health plans in the US is here to stay. It has awoken a newly engaged consumer with a better understanding of cause and effect lifestyle choices.

“A data-driven approach, like the solution Verily brings, will enable more tailored insurance products to better meet individual needs. As a sister-company to Google, Verily will have access to enormous amounts of very granular data that it can use to improve customer service. If Verily can also figure out how to truly reach users as patients, it could use data to enable interventionist care, which will ultimately lead to lower cost of care and healthier lives.”

Verily is not a trailblazer in health data or insurance. The data has been available for healthcare professionals for some time, but nobody has yet translated it into a people-centric asset, Sziklai explained. This is the challenge Verily is likely to take on if its disruption of the US health insurance industry becomes a reality. 

To illustrate, Sziklai gave the example of Mary, who is known (by virtue of claims data) to live with diabetes but has not visited her doctor or touched base with her healthcare plan provider for some years. A data-driven company like Verily can flag up the anomaly in Mary’s behavior and check in with her to make sure she’s OK. If Mary’s not caring for her diabetes properly, the cost to treat it after a gap in care would be far more expensive than if the provider was managing Mary properly along the way.   

“From an insurance carrier or a payor perspective, people-centric data analysis [analyzing retrospective claims data to inform prospective issues] is very beneficial,” Sziklai told Insurance Business. “Verily is by no means a first mover in health data or insurance. Where the company differentiates itself is frankly by virtue of the sheer scale and size of the underpinnings of Google and the data they can and have collected. The granularity of that data also sets them apart.

“There’s certainly a demand among consumers for easier access to healthcare. There’s an expectation that care should be provided not only in a hospital or healthcare facility, but that it should be offered in the wider community and at home. Using health data in a meaningful way should enable more of that desired care management.”

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