Many recent perspectives have declared that COVID-19 is a game-changer for all industries, and insurance is no exception. Our recent research on the Payback on Digital Innovation and our Insurance Consumer Study continue to highlight the drive to cloud, the importance of sustainability and customer demands for digital, personalized experiences.

Our Digital Payback piece in particular grouped innovations into five distinct categories. I will use those categories as a framework to take a closer look at how insurers’ focus on innovation changed in 2020 in response to COVID-19, both in terms of speed and digital strategy.

Digital Innovation: Products and Services

We developed a Digital Innovation Tracker for 2020, focused on COVID-19 related digital innovation case studies from leading, global insurance companies.

Looking into the data, more than 40% of digital innovations were a digital product or service—compared to about 25% of innovations by the same companies in previous years. This isn’t surprising, as COVID-19 drove an immediate need for digital channels, forcing many companies to speed up their digital plans.

Case Study: In September 2020, Allstate quickly advanced its touchless claims technology in response to the pandemic. It added satellite technology and high-speed internet to its Mobile Claim Centers, providing on-the-ground support so that customers can file claims quickly. Allstate also started using aerial imagery and other virtual tools to assess home damage and photos for virtual inspections of auto damage without face-to-face interaction. To round out its hands-free environment, customers can receive touchless digital payments.

Digital Innovation: Customer Experience

The pandemic forced dramatic changes in how insurers engage and interact with their customers, with an obvious drive towards digital, contactless interactions.

From a topic perspective, 55% of the digital innovations we analyzed were related to health insurance or healthcare. This is compared to only 15% from the years before the crisis. Again, this is not a surprise, as the pandemic put the health of customers and their families at top of mind.

Case Study: May 2020 was only a few months after the seriousness of COVID-19 became clear. Anthem quickly developed a free Coronavirus Assessment on its mobile app to help customers evaluate symptoms and assess their risk of COVID-19. Based on the results, Anthem would connect customers with a doctor via text or video calling. This is in addition to a number of policy changes, such as waiving copays, relaxing early prescription refill limits and waiving costs for telehealth visits. Anthem turned the pandemic into an opportunity to strengthen its commitment to societal good and deepen customer relationships.

Digital Innovation: Organizational Innovation DNA

Interestingly enough, we also saw that more than 40% of COVID-19 innovations were realized through partnerships. With speed and accuracy being crucial to respond to the pandemic, it makes sense that insurers would partner with companies who have already established digital offerings, rather than building something from scratch, which could take months or even years.

Case Study: While not technically a company, Lloyd’s of London added 10 insurtechs to its Lab innovation accelerator program in August 2020. Their focus was COVID-19: creating new types of insurance related to the pandemic, assessing COVID-19 risks and helping customers adapt to remote working.

Digital Innovation: Distribution

Insurance companies building ecosystems to benefit customers isn’t new, but it has been accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. The need to build relationships with stakeholders, not all of which are looking for commercial gain, became crucial as COVID-19 ravaged the world

Case Study: PZU in Poland developed and distributed “life bands” starting in May 2020. These devices remotely analyze the vitals of a patient (pulse, temperature, etc.). If these vitals reach a dangerous level, a noise is triggered and an alert is sent to medical personnel. This is an example of a crucial ecosystem between PZU, hospitals and patients, designed to combat the impact of COVID-19, especially for higher-risk patients.

Digital Innovation: Internal Processes and Capabilities

About one-fifth of the digital solutions launched by globally leading insurers in 2020 centered around the safety and needs of their employees. COVID-19 was not restricted to customers—it completely upended the way we work and engage with our employers.

Case Study: In April 2020, Aon launched an app for employers to help anticipate medical costs, absenteeism and identify a potential need to shift operations due to the spread of the coronavirus. The app uses demographic data on employee populations and other people covered by the employer’s health plan. Combined with geographic infection rates, employers can estimate the impact of COVID-19 on their employees, giving employers a chance to keep their employees safe and operations humming along.

These five case studies are only some examples of how the insurance industry has tackled the pandemic crisis. Covid-19 has pushed companies to digitally transform business models and operations while focusing on helping society and employees. We have seen companies of all sizes adapt at unprecedented speed and scale. Looking ahead to a post-COVID world, many of these activities will continue. We will find out if the speed and scale of these innovations remain at this all-time high, or if the industry slows down once the pandemic is behind us.

Thanks to Accenture Research for its contributions to this blog post. www.accenture.com/research

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