Blockchain is transforming health insurance in Emerging Markets

A five-week pregnant woman in Singapore today can take out a S$79 insurance policy with MetLife to cover gestational diabetes (GDM). If 12-weeks later her blood glucose tests comes back positive, her nurse can input that affirmative data on the system and the patient is immediately sent S$500 from her insurer.

This is the first B2C use of blockchain that MetLife has experimented with, the company’s chief innovation office Zia Zaman told a panel organised by Reuters at Davos this week, hinting that there were more in the pipeline. One fifth of all child-bearing women in Singapore are at risk of GDM and here blockchain allows them to claim their insurance coverage in real time, with no forms.

“New types of insurance are so much easier with a distributed ledger,” he said. Adding that increased simplicity and trust would encourage more people in emerging markets to take out official insurance policies. “People want to know ‘if something happens to me I’m going to get paid'”, he added.

Lata Varghese, head of blockchain at American IT solution giant Cognizant, agree that blockchain can provide “a very unique solution for an underserved population” and highlight that reduced admin is easier for patients, insurers and hospitals; 20% of an insurer’s time is spent on communication between stakeholders, she claims.

But what’s the benefit for healthcare providers? More people with healthcare insurance generally means higher volumes of patients, which in turn means higher returns. And the real healthcare insurance opportunity these days is in emerging Emerging Markets. This could benefit the large hospital groups – NMC, Aster DM, Mediclinic, among others – who all already have some presence in the MENA and beyond. It could also mean a need for more facilities in outpatient and primary care networks if policies reflect that need.



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