For centuries, healthcare capabilities all over the world have been evolving at a rapid pace. From the first medical thermometer invented around the 1500s to vaccines, anaesthesia, immunotherapy, and now artificial intelligence – every effort has been made to ensure that mankind has a fair shot at life. 

Yet, critical illnesses seem to be on the rise, burdening the lives of many. According to a report released by Zurich International Life, between 2020 and 2021, cancer, heart attack and stroke were the main causes of claims, among 66 per cent of men and 34 per cent of women in the Middle East.

These statistics underscore the need for insurers to look beyond reimbursements and profitability to focus on leveraging data and amplifying the prevention and protection dialogue. And in doing so, they have an opportunity to serve an underpenetrated market and help the masses prepare for life and its challenges. 

Thanks to improved technology and access to reliable data, the industry today is equipped with adequate tools to solve critical issues such as risk segmentation, operational expenses and pricing on a large scale. Insurers possess massive data sets that offer valuable insight into customer behaviours and health trends, enabling them to make more informed decisions when it comes to curating the right product mix and services. Wider use of data will most likely incite a collective shift in the industry’s core purpose and propel the global insurance space, creating immense value for all parties involved. 

While adopting technology and the application of data can be potentially challenging at an operational level, more often than not, it tends to be pretty straightforward. However, raising awareness around critical illnesses and the importance of planning is a whole new ball game. Naturally, talking about serious illnesses and their impact on one’s financial well-being is difficult. Most people are uncomfortable having these conversations, despite being aware of their importance. 

Insurers have a major role to play in rallying customers to financially protect themselves in the face of serious illnesses; illnesses come unannounced and having critical illness cover is a small investment considering the serious financial repercussions should anything happen. Another key aspect that insurers need to highlight is the importance of starting young to ensure that customers aren't paying higher premium rates.

One thing many insurers forget is that when it comes to serious illnesses, customers need expert advice. Offering easy access to advisers, who can provide solid guidance along the way and break down technical details and complex insurance jargon, can help customers in making sound decisions.  

In my view, going forward, educating the customer and building awareness has a bigger place in the customer experience ecosystem. Customer experience is no longer just about delivering a seamless customer journey, but also about increasingly embedding a robust knowledge-building drive that enables and empowers customers in the long run. 

With the uncertainty that surrounds us and the ensuing socio-economic changes, insurers have the chance, perhaps even the duty, to take a firmer hand in moving the needle to create a brighter future.