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How insurtechs and insurers are helping to fight the pandemic

Written by Roger Peverelli and Reggy de Feniks - Founders The DIA Community on May 18, 2020

– UPDATE 18/05 – 

Did you know that you can help with finding a corona vaccine by solving a puzzle?
The online puzzle AnalysisMode encourages people to find patterns and configurations that will be used later to teach artificial intelligence to predict vaccine formulas. When players solve a puzzle they actually bring scientists closer to the goal of finding a vaccine to stop the pandemic. Since patters can be discovered it’s possible that with enough players a list of possible formulas can be generated and then submitted by the AI to predict a vaccine formula for SARS-CoV-2. Who could have thought that puzzling could save lives!

The Fourth Wave of Insurtech is swelling
In an earlier article, we mentioned the upcoming Fourth Wave of Insurtech: New technologies offer insurance carriers the opportunity to increase their social and economic impact, to reposition themselves as a Force for Good. New technologies not only lowered the entry barriers for new players, they also take away the hurdles that existed for insurance firms to play that bigger part – assisted by insurtechs.

More and more insurance carriers, insurtechs and other tech companies are lending their talent and technology to tackle important global challenges, like helping the world fight the pandemic.
Our analysis shows that each of these innovations solves very specific problems. We defined eight categories in which they provide new added value. Each tapping into real needs, proving the relevancy and social impact of the insurtech and insurance community.

1.  Educating what corona is exactly and how to know if you have it
Because of the scarcity in available COVID-19 tests, many people are insecure whether they are at risk of having the virus themselves. How do you know if you are at risk of being infected if you can’t get tested?
DIA Alumnus SDA SE (Germany) anchored a Corona-symptom-checker by DocYet in Alte Leipziger – Hallesche Group’s customer app “hallesche4u”. In this app, a chatbot either gives you current information about the virus, or takes a test by asking some multiple choice questions. The chatbot is based on the latest scientific publications as well as the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute. It also contains answers to the most frequently asked questions. This way end customers are ultimately reduced of their uncertainty as much as possible.

Even if you don’t feel unsecure, wouldn’t you like to have an early warning if you’re showing suspicious symptoms?
Wellmo (Finland) has launched an app platform for any public health authority, insurance company or care provider to create their own ‘Corona-app’. The platform of the DIA Alumnus offers a highly personalized environment based on generated data and questionnaires. Users are personally guided and can live chat with a professional if needed. The statistics and early warnings from the platform can be given to professionals as a tool to track the situation.

Parallel to the pandemic there’s an ‘infodemic’ happening as well. There is a hunger for information: What is corona exactly? How did it emerge? And could I possibly have it? Due to the internet the amount of available information is overwhelming and unfortunately, not always reliable. This varies from complot theories on Facebook to tips spread through WhatsApp which are well-meant but based on facts. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the infodemic is just as dangerous as the pandemic. When people do not know what to believe and who to trust, it becomes more difficult to have proven solutions and advice from scientific experts widely followed.

MyHealthDiary (Indonesia) is missioned to tackle the problem of misinformation by offering trustworthy medical information only. People who download the app have access to free webinars about topics like why social distancing is important, how to identify symptoms, is a rapid test kit effective and weeding out hoaxes about COVID-19 in the media. By providing this information, MyHealthDiary educates Indonesia about COVID-19.

The rising number of corona infections causes people to start thinking they might be infected as well. Call centers and healthcare facilities receive enormous amounts of phone calls of anxious people who think they have symptoms, even though 80% of them do not.
To lower anxiety and deliver fast and remote triage, Mediktor (Spain) designed a symptom checker able to identify what might be COVID-19 and provide a recommendation on what to do next. It differs from other symptom checkers because it provides a differential diagnosis, sharing a list of possible diseases ordered from highest to lowest probability. Mediktor’s symptom checker is also imbedded in Savia (Spain), a digital platform for health services that provides free online medical consults during the Covid-19 crisis. Both Mediktor and Savia are member of Barcelona Health Hub, just like DIA. 

There are a low number of quick assessments for people with COVID-19 symptoms that provide reliable recommendations and next steps. Consequently, medical professionals and health systems are overburdened by too many cases.
(Poland) provided a solution that cuts both ways. They developed a screening protocol based on the official guidelines by WHO. It’s free of charge, translated in 20 languages and can be used within minutes. This way, Infermedica hopes to help as many people as they can.

2.  Knowing what to do if you’re abroad
To stop the spread of COVID-19, almost all global travel is brought to a halt. As a result, many travellers have stranded on airports trying to get back home.
The German government reached out to SAP (Germany) to ask them for a web application to help coordinate the repatriation process from a logistical standpoint. They created a simple, safe, stable and scalable application for German citizens to submit their personal data in order to complete their repatriation as efficiently and quickly as possible. On the 26th of March already more than 80,000 German citizens registered using the new application.

Expats and travellers who are in countries abroad have difficulties finding general and country specific COVID-19 information. It can also be quite a challenge to get tested or to find medical help, if necessary. Every country has specific requirements and are not always able to offer assistance in English.
Air Doctor (Israel) created a comprehensive country-by-country guide that includes general information as well as details on where to find help. By using this guide, expats and travellers can comply with specific country requirements, limit exposure to others and help to flatten the curve.

3.  Preventing infection and spread of the virus
Royal Swinkels, the brewery of Bavaria beer, recalls their preserved beer, removes the alcohol and recycles that into ten thousands of litres of disinfecting hand soap, to be distributed to hundreds of hospitals, GP offices and nursing homes for free. In this time especially, it’s beautiful to see numerous new emerging, creative and especially heart-warming initiatives, also amongst the DIA Community members.

Since not everyone is able to work from their homes, companies need tools to help respect social distancing rules in their offices.
BeeSafe (Netherlands) is an app that tackles the biggest problems that arise when people have to work in (open) offices. When checking in the app, users can immediately see how many employees are in the office, where they are working and which workplaces are still available to work at safely. Even the amount of people in common spaces is shown. Users are anonymous to secure the privacy of employees.  

Returning workforces to the workplace can be a tricky situation. Human Resources and Crisis Management teams are looking for ways to safely manage this.
DIA Alumnus Appian (USA) designed a COVID-19 Response Management application, a command center for large organisations to secure the health and safety of their employees, facilities, and to facilitate peer-to-peer employee assistance. The application includes features such as individual employee health and risk screening, information on corporate policies and a place to report incidents. The command center also helps managers to consider whether an employee’s role can be efficiently done remotely.

How can we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our entire community from getting infected with COVID-19?
The government of Singapore came up with a community-driven contact tracing app called Trace Together (Singapore) to stop the spread of the virus. Trace Together is able to identify people who have been within 2 meters of coronavirus patients for at least 30 minutes, using wireless Bluetooth technology. Trace Together identifies phones with the app installed and can use the information, if need arises, to identify close contacts based on the proximity and the duration of an encounter between two users. Infected individuals can choose to allow the Ministry of Health to access the data in the app to identify those close contacts.
Such tech driven innovations can of course contribute to prevent the spread and limit the ongoing suffering the pandemic is causing. However, we do need to keep in mind that once we provide others with insights in our personal data, it’s often quite difficult to get the authorisation back in the long term.

We all know we should avoid touching our face to prevent the Corona virus from getting us sick. But this is easier said than done.
Slightly Robot (USA) redesigned their wearable that stops another type of harmful touching – trichotillomania, a disorder that compels people to pull out their hair to one that prevents you from touching your face. The Immutouch wristband senses your hand movement 10 times per second and will vibrate once you touch your face. This way Slightly Robot will support you in the fight against getting yourself infected with COVID-19.

4.  Offering relief to the overloaded GP offices
Hospitals’ main priority is of course treating the increasing amount of patients infected with COVID-19 which leaves less time to answer the increasing high demand of consultations.
MeetingDoctors (Spain) is a B2B digital medical consultation service that anticipates on this increasing high demand by bringing the doctor to the smartphone of your clients and employees. During the COVID-19 crisis MeetingDoctors is partnering with many corporates to provide free of charge medical orientation for the population at risk. Their medical chat services solve health queries, patients can receive electronic private medical prescriptions and all consultations are answered in less than 2 minutes. MeetingDoctors can absorb a high demand of consultations, making sure hospitals have more time to focus on critical patients. Just like DIA, MeetingDoctors is a member of Barcelona Health Hub.

Unusual circumstances like having to stay at home, not being able to see your loved ones or the fear of losing your job does not only affect your physical health but also your mental well-being. It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed, lonely, sad or worried in challenging times like these.
Instahelp (Germany), participant in the Innovation Programme of DIA-partner InsurTech Hub Munich, offers easy access to professional psychological online counselling. While staying at home, you can chat, audio- or videocall with experienced clinical and health psychologists. To give fast help, there are no waiting times and the psychologists are available immediately or at the latest within 24 hours. 

As hospitals still have enormous amounts of tasks at hand, one of the many heard solutions to lower this is to reduce contamination risks.
DKV Seguros, one of the largest health insurers in Spain and also a member of Barcelona Health Hub, offers its telemedicine platform for free to connect patients and doctors through online medical consult. By downloading the app, a patient can go to a medical chat to do any type medical consult. In this way, patients can be helped while staying at home. This will help to minimise physical contact, relief the medical health care and to flatten the curve.

A lot of people with symptoms are in doubt if they have corona. Doctors appointments cause unnecessary movement and physical contact that increases the risk of further spread. Next to that, physical appointments are extremely time consuming and causes the first line of medical aid to be overloaded.
In order to help the people as well as the medical system, AXA Belgium developed a digital medical consult. Patients dial in, answer a few questions and receive an appointment with the doctor. A doctor calms, advices or refers a patient. With teleconsultation the risk of spreading the virus is reduced, while the first aid line is still available for those who need it.

5.  Lightening the workload in hospitals
What do you do when you are infected with COVID-19 and in need of medical care but you can’t go to the doctors office because of the risk of contaminating others?
Due to the current crisis HumanITcare (Spain) will provide its digital health monitoring platform for free to hospitals. This will enable them to administer care with reduced risk of transmission by remotely monitoring and treating patients with COVID-19 from home, along with the support of other IT companies. HumanITcare, member of Barcelona Health Hub, is an AI remote telemonitoring platform that delivers better and faster clinical decisions with real-life patient outcomes. The platform consists of an App for Android ad IOS, which automatically connects patients and health professionals.

Now that many elderly people are in self-isolation or quarantine, they need more help from their family than ever before. Taking care of relatives is massively impaired by the corona crisis.
To help families support their elderly loved ones, InsurTech Hub Munich Innovation Programme participant NUI Care (Germany) is providing free access to its care app for the next three months. Instead of to-do lists, shared calendars and group chats, everything is available at a glance. The NUI care app makes it possible to create, assign and discuss everyday tasks with all relatives involved in the care scenario.

To prevent misleading information to cause fear and confusion amongst communities and to support hospitals and doctors offices during this pandemic, DIA alumnus ekincare (India), a B2B2C health-tech company, opened up its on-roll doctor resources for 24×7 online doctor consultations for companies pan-India. Employees of these companies can download the ekincare app, register and chat with a doctor anytime about any queries. You will be connected to a doctor in just 45 seconds! eKincare’s platform also includes a Covid symptom analyser with the ability to follow through the government recommended next steps.

Every day we read about the patient flows resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, leading to increased scarcity of critical care capacity.
Philips provides healthcare institutions with telehealth solution to process healthcare requests via online screening. Patients infected with the virus can be remotely monitored through automated questionnaires about their home situation and state of health. The telehealth solution aims to prevent unnecessary visits to hospitals and enables the remote monitoring of the vast majority of COVID-19 patients that are in quarantine at home as an alternative point of care.

6.  Securing sufficient resources for medical aid 
What if we told you that your shoes can actually support healthcare workers in fighting this pandemic?
Nike’s innovation, manufacturing and product teams redesigned Nike’s materials to help those at the frontline during the pandemic. Full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses were crucially transformed from Nike’s well-known footwear to much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. Nike’s signature Air soles for example are altered to PAPR helmets. Because of the creative initiative of Nike healthcare workers retrieve some confidence and the support to carry out the important job they have to do.

The Competence Center Business Intelligence (ccBI) of the Erasmus MC academic hospital and ATOS Healthcare have developed a predictive model that enables accurate forecasts of the severity of care of COVID-19 patients.
Based on lab and admission data, insight is given into the probability that a patient will need to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and what the likely length of stay will be. Healthcare providers can be supported in their daily patient monitoring through an interactive dashboard in HiX, the e-health system of Erasmus MC. In addition, occupancy can be anticipated and proactive action can be taken with regard to upscaling and downscaling the IC capacity. 

What alternatives do we have when we run out of ventilators for corona virus patients?
Together with a group of 300-plus engineers, designers, tech founders and others, members of DIA media partner InsurTech Ireland are working on an open-source ventilator project. In just seven days the team built a prototype that will be validated as a solution to the shortage of ventilators globally. The Open Lung Low Resource Ventilator is composed of widely available materials and put together via simple fabrication processes. It can be manufactured anywhere from a 3D printer. All the volunteers of the Open Source Ventilator Group are working hard to help save lives and aid the recovery of COVID-19 patients.

Everyday more people infected with COVID-19 are being hospitalized. To fight the pandemic we rely on amazing health staff to nurse these patients back to health. But what if all of a sudden multiple nurses get infected with the virus, what do we do then?
DIA Alumnus UiPath (Romania/USA) has set up a bot to keep track of the health status of the hospital’s employees. The bot logs details about infected employees, the ones that need quarantine and the ones that continue in good health. This all allows for an efficient distribution of resources and timely help for both the medical staff as well for the patients.

Worldwide hundreds of thousands of people are infected with COVID-19 and require tight monitoring of their clinical conditions. Late detection of deterioration can be lethal for patients with mild symptoms at home but that also goes for patients within the hospital.
Resmetrix (Israel) developed a novel wearable respiratory system, which monitors the respiratory pattern of respiratory disease patients (COVID-19, COPD, Asthma). When early signs of respiratory deterioration occurs, the patient itself and the medical team will be alerted. Resmetrix’ system is the only system that detects small changes in a patient’s breathing pattern, tidal volume and other vital signs (heart rate, temperature) and will provide immediate, early warning signs of deterioration in lung function (based on each patient respiratory pattern). Because of Resmetrix’ tele-monitoring system treatments can be provided early, hence avoiding lung failure and death.  

Where would we be right now if it wasn’t for our daily heroes: doctors, nurses, care helpers and everyone else involved in fighting against COVID-19. But even in times of crisis the mobility of our heroes could experience some complications.
That’s why Allianz Direct, the European online insurer of Allianz Group, wants to support those who are giving their best every day to help others by offering their ‘’CoronaMobilityGuarantee’ for free to everyone with system-relevant professions. Fast breakdown assistance is offered at any time, day or night, in case of a breakdown. Allianz Direct is making sure that when every minute counts they will assist our daily heroes in getting mobile again.

The regular procedure of diagnosing COVID-19 patients by using PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) takes a lot of time and resources.
Since medical professionals are now resorting to chest CT images for quicker COVID-19 diagnoses, DIA Alumnus Allm (Japan), with the cooperation of medical institutions in Japan, now provides the COVID-19 Image Set to share distinctive qualities when reading images – for free, worldwide and regularly updated. Through Allm’s communication platform, Join, medical professionals can access the COVID-19 Image Set in its DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) viewer feature. Join is provided for free as Allm hopes these efforts will help control the spread of COVID-19 around the world.

In many countries there is a genuine fear that the number of emergency ventilators and other equipment to treat COVID-19 patients is not enough, even leading to a run on equipment. But there are also new initiatives to produce more quickly and efficient.
To be able to save as many lives as possible, Munich Re and Frauenhofer Research Institute initiated the Give A Breath Challenge to find the best 3D-printable designs to enable immediate, decentralised production. A jury will decide on the best design and this design will eventually be produced. The challenge has funding (for prize purses and a realisation fund) of at least €1 million.

7.  Understanding COVID-19 better to predict and contain the virus
With many employees working remotely during this pandemic, it’s more important than ever for companies to make their knowledge easily accessible, especially for health institutions. However that is easier said than done.
Curiosity (Germany) tapped into this problem by providing a tool that helps medical professionals answer several high-priority research questions. Curiosity, participant in the Innovation Programme of DIA-partner InsurTech Hub Munich, built a CORD-19 research tool to help find papers related to the research questions and group them together, linking 45.000 medical research papers into a knowledge graph offering search, similarity and topic mining. Curiosity aims to support researchers and data scientists with answering high priority research questions during this pandemic.

Jonathan Larsen, Ping An’s Chief Innovation Officer, shared deeper insights into the paradigms of the digital data economy of Ping An as a keynote speaker at a previous DIA edition and in a double interview on the DIA website.  This is a nice example how they put this into practice to fight the pandemic:
The Wuhan Municipal Government instructed its local prevention personnel to screen suspected COVID-19 cases by making daily phone calls to gather information. Human operators have a maximum of 300 screenings a day making it impossible to accurately diagnose cases and to control its spread. That’s where AI comes in! By using artificial intelligence Ping An (China) is now able to handle 1.5 million auto call screenings per day. 580,000 screenings were completed within 47,000 households in 17 communities in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic. Ping An’s COVID-19 smart audio screening system has already identified more than 1,600 suspected cases of COVID-19. This way Ping An supports the goal of preventing the spread of the virus and of controlling the epidemic whilst making sure the epidemic prevention personnel can spend their time more efficiently.
Everyone knows that the global outbreak of COVID-19 should be stemmed but how can we do that when there is still so little to know about this new virus?

Google’s DeepMind shared AI-generated predictions of protein structures associated with COVID-19 that could help researchers stem the global outbreak. DeepMind’s predictions were drawn from their new deep learning system but have yet to be experimentally verified. Ordinarily DeepMind would wait for findings to be reviewed by an academic journal but given the ‘potential seriousness and time sensitivity of the situation’ that process has been skipped. The predictions are open-sourced, allowing any researcher to build on, adapt or share DeepMind’s findings. Google’s Deepmind is contributing to fight this pandemic by combining the work of many other labs and researchers across the globe together with Deepmind’s decades of basic research characterising this virus family.

The curve of COVID-19 cases can only be flattened once we monitor the amount of verified cases carefully and act accordingly.
Fusionbase (Germany) is a deep-tech startup that offers data science and analytics teams a central hub for external data like demographics, crime, natural disasters or terror attacks. They are also a participant in the Innovation Programme of DIA-partner InsurTech Hub Munich. During the pandemic, Fusionbase provides real-time and granular data on COVID-19 cases globally as well as government measures like border closings. Insurers and large corporations use this data to assess and monitor supply chain risks. This way Fusionbase contributes to flatten the curve!

The current pandemic asks for a speed up in processing test results for COVID-19. But how can you speed things up when test results need to be put into spreadsheets manually, taking several hours or longer to complete?
UiPath (Romania/USA) launched a pilot project with software robots that can sort and distribute test results from the hospital’s on-site lab in minutes, enabling staff to quickly put infection prevention and control measures in place where necessary. By automating the process, nurses and other specialists in the hospital’s infection control department are freed up to spend more time with patients.

8.  Maintaining personal well-being in pandemic times
Being stuck at home in isolation is tough. There are many things happening and changing at a very fast pace, which can leave you feeling restless. There have been a lot of guidelines to take care of your personal hygiene to reduce the risk of getting infected. But next to hygiene for your hands, hygiene for you mind is needed as well.
To keep you company and reduce stress and anxiety, Wanderble (New Zealand) offers a free Mindfulness in Isolation course. The course is spread over 28 days in which you receive a 10 minute audio recording daily. This includes mindfulness practices that can help to guide you through this difficult time.

Since people with these underlying conditions are more vulnerable to COVID-19 we need a solution that addresses the lifestyle risk factors and that is exactly what DIA Alumnus PAI Health (Canada) offers. Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) is a new health standard for physical activity that solves this problem. PAI is a heart rate-based score and personalized prescription for exercise scientifically proven to maximize protection from lifestyle disease. Studies proved that those who maintained 100 PAI or more (score that has been scientifically proven to provide maximum health benefits) had on average a 25% lower risk of cardio vascular disease mortality and this impact is intensified further for high-risk cohorts, including those with hypertension and type 2 diabetes. PAI Health is keeping an eye out for those that are more vulnerable during this pandemic.

The pandemic and all related measures can leave people who have to stay home feeling fragile, lonely, fearful and unsecure.
To resolve this, DIAmond Award winner BESTFIT (Israel) has created a special COVID-19 platform for insurers to reach out and engage with clients. With 12 indirect questions, behaviour science identifies the vulnerability profile of a person. Based on someone’s profile, the insurance company can provide customer care, advice and assistance on how to best cope with his/her situation. At the same time, the obtained emotional business intelligence can be used for solutions for post crisis times.

Maintaining healthy habits and personal well-being during a pandemic can be difficult.
Virgin Pulse (UK) offers their members a specific toolkit and integrated programs to track Covid-19 healthy habits To ensure people stay mentally, physically and financially fit. This self-service hub, available in 20 languages and present in 190 countries, serves as a ‘COVID-19 Homebase’. They teamed up with Aaptiv, Enrich, meQuilibrium, Monj, Whil and Zipongo to provide free access to health and wellbeing programs and resources for people to navigate this pandemic in a positive, healthy way. Examples include cardio classes, chef-led cooking demos and mindfulness audios put into a gamified app that offers challenges and rewards to track your healthy habits.

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