We talk with MassMutual's Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer about where they're looking in digital health.
A month ago, we chatted with Elliott Wallace, VP of Life Insurance for LexisNexis Risk Solutions on new types of datasets that life insurers are looking at.
So far most life insurers have invested mostly in companies that can access and analyze patient records (Guardian Life Insurance investing in PokitDok), or tools for health benefits/insurance marketplaces (Securian Financial Group investing in Gravie).
But life insurers could become bigger players in the healthcare space, especially considering their incentive to take long-term health outcomes into account. This could mean providing services to their customers that make them more proactive about their health. Along these lines, MassMutual just announced a partnership with genomics company Human Longevity to offer customers access to Human Longevity’s whole genome sequencing project.
We chatted with Gareth Ross, MassMutual’s Chief Digital and Customer Experience Officer about the partnership and his thoughts on digital health more widely.
How did the partnership happen — from where the idea came from to the actual fruition of the partnership? What were the necessary steps and hurdles that you needed to get past?
We are continually looking for ways to provide additional value for our customers and policy-owners. Genetics is an area we’ve been watching but nothing previously made sense for us. However, we became aware of Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) and got connected to them to explore opportunities.
A goal of this partnership – the first of its kind in our industry – is to help support HLI’s overall goal of building a database of 1 million genotype and phenotype records, ultimately providing insights to revolutionize the future of health. With these genomes, researchers aim to identify information that could lead to finding cures and treatments for diseases that adversely impact people around the world. As we are really connecting eligible MassMutual customers, employees, and financial professionals to HLI and do not receive customer data from HLI, once we made the decision to partner, there were no material hurdles.
Why are life insurers interested in genomics? What is the ultimate promise of developments like the HL partnership for the industry?
I can’t speak for the entire industry but, for MassMutual, our involvement in this partnership is aimed at promoting further innovation and helping people get access to information that could potentially help them – and the broader community – live longer and healthier lives.
This is part of our commitment to overall well-being, and is a means of expanding our innovative offerings to our customers. Those who participate can potentially find out if they have genetic issues that predispose them to certain conditions. HLI won’t share this information with MassMutual but it will be communicated to the individual’s physician and it may be useful in treating / preventing disease.
Have you seen demand from MassMutual customers for this offering? Is this a solution customers asked for, or one that came from MassMutual internally?
While the partnership launched about two months ago and we don’t have specific data, I know it has generated some additional awareness and interest in HLI’s offerings. Genetics is something that consumers are increasingly interested in and, as a company that acts in the best interest of our policy-owners and customers, we saw this as an opportunity to provide them with access to additional value to benefit their overall well-being.
Are there other areas of digital health MassMutual is interested in?
We are considering a number of different groundbreaking, data-driven initiatives, including some utilizing wearable devices. Additionally, our venture capital arm, MassMutual Ventures, invests in technologies and businesses that will have an impact on the markets where MassMutual conducts business, including those with the potential to enhance the customer experience.
To that end, MassMutual Ventures has made significant investments in several digital health platforms, including:
- Picwell, an advanced predictive recommendation engine which enables consumers to better select the health plan that works for them.
- Limelight Health, a platform designed to simplify employee benefits quoting and decision-making.
- PolicyGenius, an online platform that provides users with insurance quotes; with respect to health, it enables users to search and compare Obamacare and private marketplace plans.
There’s recently been more activity in the early detection space with cancer diagnostics (Grail, Freenome, etc.). Are these kinds of diagnostic tests something MassMutual would want to offer their customers?
Potentially – if it made sense and would add value for our policy-owners and customers. The world is moving quickly and we are always looking for new opportunities.
Photo credit: Human Longevity Inc.