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Technology is transforming the Canadian health and life insurance industry, with organizations going beyond embracing digital platforms to look to natural language processing, bot technology and machine learning to gain further efficiencies and enhance services and products.

“The culture of insurance organizations is changing due to the realization that they have to innovate rapidly to stay competitive and serve their customers in a way they want to be served,” says Doug Grant, partner at, an organization that provides consumers and insurance professionals with independent information about the business of insurance and technology.

People – and especially younger generations – are drawn to across-the-board self-service functions, where they can submit and track claims, monitor benefits and programs, get updates on investments and more, he explains. “There is continued growth and competition to be technologically enabled to serve the digital natives who prefer engaging through digital tools and conduct transactions at their convenience rather than during call centre hours.”

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In addition to meeting consumer demand, technology can enable efficiencies, according to Mr. Grant. “As in any business with a large transaction volume, and particularly in the benefits space, there is a drive to focus on efficiencies as a way of cutting costs and improving customer service.”

To leverage new technology tools, insurance providers partner with startups to tap their innovative analytics and underlying servicing capabilities, he says.

The culture of insurance organizations is changing due to the realization that they have to innovate rapidly to stay competitive ...

— Doug Grant, partner at

An example is the partnership between Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and Rise People Inc., which offers an all-in-one HR, payroll and benefits administration solution. New digital connections and services help businesses to streamline the often complex group benefits and HR administration process and give administrators a once-and-done tool that enables greater cost savings and accuracy. “It also allows employees to manage their own details and create efficiencies in managing the resources for the benefits program,” says Mr. Grant.

Enhanced services and convenience are also outcomes of a partnership between Great-West Life and Dialogue Technologies Inc., which offers a technology tool that is available through web or a mobile app and allows employees in participating group benefits plans to chat with nurses and see physicians through secure video consultations. The platform can be accessed in any location, seven days a week, saving the time spent in waiting rooms for non-urgent care.

Another program designed to enhance health outcomes is Manulife Vitality, which aims to encourage consumers to pay attention to – and improve – lifestyle choices. It suggests steps for living a healthier life, such as eating well and exercising and undergoing regular health assessments, with each step contributing to points and rewards.

“These collaborations serve to extend the functionality well beyond what insurance would traditionally be thought of – they are the result of the industry looking for ways to expand the engagement with their customers,” says Mr. Grant. “Helping Canadians manage their health and improve their healthy habits and longevity also builds loyalty.”

Having access to detailed information about somebody’s health and wellness, for example from a history of claims or participation in health management programs, can enable insurance providers with data analytics and AI capabilities to predict health outcomes and help their customers better manage their health. But at the same time, Mr. Grant sees the need for responsible management and safeguarding of consumer data. “The increased automation of services also poses interesting challenges for managing privacy and security, and we are expecting further regulations that address relevant concerns.”

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And what’s next? Mr. Grant says the application of voice will play a larger role going forward. “We have already moved from written documents to digital files. With natural language processing and voice capabilities, insurance can enable a new communications channel with customers, partners and staff to enhance the user experience and quality of service.”

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

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