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Insurance consumers can share data from wearable fitness devices to show healthy behaviours and, for some policies, that can translate to lower premiums.

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Technology advances in digital monitoring and connectivity are transforming relationships between Canadians and their insurance providers and enabling partnerships that not only benefit both parties but also tackle some of society’s biggest challenges.

One of those challenges is the surging cost of providing health care to Canada’s aging population – a problem that Manulife wants to help alleviate.

“Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases are fuelling higher health-care costs in Canada and globally, and we know that unhealthy behaviours such as poor diet and lack of exercise are contributing factors,” says Camille Stewart, Manulife’s VP Strategy and Digital Experience, Canadian Division.

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“The burden on our health-care system will likely reach unsustainable economic levels without action, and we recognize that governments alone can’t solve this problem. So, we looked at our insurance offerings to see how we can help Canadians improve their health by changing lifestyle behaviours.”

That examination led to an innovative, personalized approach to insurance. In 2016, Manulife became the first Canadian insurance company to launch life insurance that rewarded policyholders for demonstrating healthy behaviours. Manulife Vitality now includes health and dental insurance as well. Consumers who enroll in the program amass points for activities that promote health, such as exercise, healthy eating and regular dental visits. They can then receive rewards and discounts including lower premium costs.

“Traditionally, you purchased health insurance and hoped you wouldn’t get sick,” says Ms. Stewart. “This new approach makes us partners with our customers to help them build a healthier lifestyle and increase the likelihood they will remain healthy for the long term.”

Customers set personalized weekly goals and receive a weekly reward for reaching it. The program also encourages them to increase their goals as they progress.

“They can document their health-promoting activities in different ways including by sharing data from wearable fitness devices,” she says. “It’s a popular choice, as this technology is already integrated into the lives of many Canadians. A number of different wearables can be linked to the platform, while consumers who don’t have wearables can show progress in other ways, such as through health assessments or online quizzes.”

On average, those enrolled in the program are interacting with it 23 times a month, adds Ms. Stewart. “We are seeing that being accountable for healthy choices is a powerful motivator, and through this program we have unlocked a closer, more productive relationship with our customers.”

Another major issue affecting Canadian society is road safety. The World Health Organization reports that Canada has the third-highest number of road deaths per year (2,000) among developed nations. Annual road-related injuries number 165,000.

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Onlia, a digital insurance and mobile technology company, aims to motivate Canadians to develop safer driving behaviours – through tools and technologies, as well as partnerships with other safety advocates and its All for Safety awareness campaign.

“Our goal is to create a movement in Canada and build a community focused on safety,” says Pieter Louter, Onlia’s CEO. “We want to foster more road safety consciousness among Canadians – not in a negative way but through positive incentives.”

The company’s tech-driven safety app, Onlia Sense, gives drivers a view of their performance in areas such as braking, acceleration and instances of distracted driving, coaching and rewarding them for safer driving practices.

Onlia Sense is available to anyone who wants to use it, regardless of whether they purchase Onlia insurance. By mid-November, the app had 85,000 downloads, says Mr. Louter.

“We want to share the app as widely as possible. By supporting individual change, we believe we can help create a safer Canadian society.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s Editorial Department was not involved in its creation.

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